My Dream Job Found Me (When I Was Not Looking)

This week, I celebrate my second year anniversary as a professor at William & Mary (W&M).  I tell my students that two of the most powerful words in the universe are “thank you.”  So I am sharing this post (my first W&M blog post) to express my appreciation to the Tribe that hired me and to provide personal branding tips to help you find your dream job too.

As part of my teaching responsibilities, I create courses that leverage digital marketing. One of my most popular assignments encourages students to develop a professional online presence. In particular, students are tasked with establishing a LinkedIn profile that reflects their personal brand promise. Students are expected to use best practices (outlined below) to ensure that their profiles are not simply an overview of their personal achievements but rather take the perspective of future employers and highlight how students will contribute value to those organizations. Of course, I need to practice what I preach, so I have worked to ensure that my LinkedIn profile sets a good example.

Every week, LinkedIn sends an email about “jobs you may be interested in” based on your individual profile. Honestly, in March 2014, I was not interested in any job other than the one that I had at Saint Vincent College, as a tenured associate professor of management and marketing. But when I glanced at my inbox one night, I noticed the weekly email from LinkedIn featured a position titled “Clinical Associate Professor of Marketing at the College of William & Mary.” And as I read the description, I realized it was not simply a job of interest to me, it was my dream job.

At this point my mind was racing. The odds were not in my favor that I would ever know about such an opportunity, let alone be considered for it. I knew nobody at W&M or anybody that even lived in the region. Bloomberg Businessweek had recently selected W&M’s undergraduate marketing program as #1 in the nation and, although I was a solid professor, that ranking was intimidating. Still, I took a leap of faith and hoped the algorithm that LinkedIn had used to determine that I was a good candidate for the job was a positive indicator.

I submitted my application on March 17 (I was definitely hoping the luck of the Irish would be with me). One month later, I received a call from Dr. Larry Ring, the head of the marketing area, asking if I would be interested in visiting the campus. I arrived for an intensive interview process on May 5 and was extended an offer to join the faculty later that week. This new position has truly been my dream job … and I hope these tips will help your dream job find you too.

  1. Personalize your LinkedIn URL (mine is by following the simple steps on LinkedIn. A personalized URL not only improves your personal branding, but also helps to ensure your LinkedIn profile is one of the first sites seen by others in search engine results.
  2. Feature a professional profile photo (it really is worth the investment). A recent Entrepreneur article noted that, “Facial appearance can affect judgments of attributes such as trustworthiness, aggressiveness and competence.” Look at the profiles of executives that you admire for examples of effective photos.
  3. Create a headline that reflects your value contribution to others. The headline does not necessarily need to be your current job title; however, it does need to be compelling and simple to understand. You have 120 characters … make them count!
  4. Develop a summary that clearly articulates your brand promise. Keep in mind that most individuals will only spend a few seconds reading your profile so consider a quality vs. quantity approach. Overall, your LinkedIn profile does not need to reflect everything that you have ever done. When developing your LinkedIn summary (and profile) adopt the perspective of potential employers. What would make them take the time to read further about your background?
  5. Leverage the power of keywords. Perhaps the single most critical success factor when developing your LinkedIn profile is the use of significant keywords. When I meet with job seekers and ask to view their LinkedIn profiles, and then ask to view their job descriptions of interest, 90% of these individuals have not used critical keywords mentioned in the job descriptions within their LinkedIn profiles or resumes. I have no doubt that my dream job would not have found me on LinkedIn had I not ensured that my profile contained keywords that are important in my discipline. For example, I had previously used the term “distance education” to describe my experience, but the current term used in the industry is “online learning.”  So I updated my profile … and now part of my role at W&M is to support the development of our new Online MBA program.

I would be glad to connect with you on LinkedIn; just mention this article in the LinkedIn invitation so I recognize that you are a part of our extended Tribe!

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