This is the first part of “A PhD’s Guide to Getting a Consulting Job,” because personal branding and resume building can help you the most! Having a great resume and a powerful personal brand is necessary to get in the door, and if you do it right, you may have the job before you even start talking.

First I’ll talk about how to build your brand, then I’ll share my tips on resume writing.

Building Your Personal Brand

The first thing I do when I hear about a person is google them to see what they’ve done. The google search results for someone’s name tells a story, and you have the power to control your own story!

To shape the way new people (specifically interviewers) see you on the web you’ll need to think strategically about the story you want to tell and then go get famous for things you’re good at.

Thinking Strategically:

Think about the person that you would like to be and the person that the interviewers are dying to hire. Find where those two people overlap and start thinking strategically about how you can become that person.

It is best to get started early, but it is worth considering at any time. The biggest rewards come from lots of hard work, but you can also make big improvements by being strategic about presenting what you’ve already done.

Let’s say that your goal is to become an, “innovator with a keen business sense and powerful communication skills.” Well, let’s break that down:

  • Innovator → Show examples of things you created.
  • Business Sense → Have stories of business you’ve been involved in.
  • Communication Skills → Communicate well in lots of different mediums.

Read company websites. They’ll often tell you exactly what the company is looking for. If there’s a particular job or firm that you really like then find out what they want and include those things as part of your personal brand.

Find some examples. If you already have great examples of things you’ve created, business scenarios you thrived in, and your communication abilities, you might be done. Otherwise, come up with a plan to fill out those areas.

Get new experiences if you don’t already have them. To become an “innovator,” find where you can add some value by creating something new and get to it. To get “business sense,” take some classes or get involved a venture where you can gain experience and help out at the same time. To show what a great “communicator” you are, you might start a blog. Well… that leads us to getting famous.

Getting famous:

This gets us back to the google results for your name. The goal here is to have your google results page read like a resume. You can make this happen by:

  • Getting member pages on web sites for research and professional groups
  • Taking leading rolls in events and conferences with web presences
  • Contributing to scientific journals with high impact factors
  • Creating your own content and sharing it on a personal web-page

Tell a very compelling story about yourself, your accomplishments, and your worth to an employer by creating a blog or personal web-page filled with content that describes your research, solves problems for others, and describes other aspects of your professional life. That’s what I’ve done here, if you haven’t noticed : )

Clean up your facebook page and/or make it private. That should really go without saying, but… yeah. Also fill out your linkedin profile with relevant info and get some recommendations.

Once you have the right experience, and your google results tell your story for you, you’ll have a much easier job putting together a winning resume.

Making a “Wow” Resume

Clearly communicate your brand with your resume. Most of the resumes I see are hard to read, ugly to look at, and filled with jargon. This is sometimes acceptable for a scientific CV, but if you’re stepping out of academia it is time to step up the resume.

Here are some major things to consider:

  • Give ‘Em the Business. The types of projects that PhDs have on their resumes can be very specific and jargon-y. Re-write your experience to talk about the higher-level objectives and accomplishments.
  • Include the “So What.” If the reader doesn’t know your field, they may not care about the specifics of your projects. What most people can understand is the “so what.” After a SHORT description of a technical accomplishment, specify the specific result. “This work resulted a patent application,” or “This work resulted in 4 publications.”
  • Be Specific. You may think being vague about past projects makes them seem more impressive. It doesn’t. People often assume the worst. By sticking to the facts and being specific you’ll appear honest and accomplished.
  • Include numbers. Use numerals to add even more specificity and help readers find facts. “Led a group of 10 people.” or “Organized a conference with 30 participants.”
  • Use Bolding and Bullets. Just like writing for the web, it is important to make sure a resume is skim-able. If there are large blocks of simple text you can assume people won’t read them.
  • Typography and Whitespace. Make sure the typography looks attractive and has plenty of white space around it. Don’t be afraid to get a little artsy with the fonts, but don’t go crazy.
  • Mind Page Breaks. It is acceptable to have a 2-page resume, but make sure those page breaks fall at logical places. Don’t cut a section or sentence in the middle of a page.
  • Edit, Edit, Edit. Proof reading is a must, but revising your resume again and again (and again) will make the descriptions of things you’ve done clear, concise, and powerful. LOTS of editing transforms resumes from rambling messes to powerful marketing documents.

After you have drafted your resume, you should have it checked by as many different people as you can and take their criticisms to heart. The same goes for cover letters and application essays. Often times you will not recognize what a third party gets out of your writing until they tell you. Don’t let the only “third person” be the interviewer.

Leave your ideas about branding and resumes in the comments.

Next: Case Interview

Now that you’re famous with an awesome resume, check out:
Part 2: Preparing for Your Case Interview to Get Bulletproof, where I talk about how to approach a case interview and how to practice so that you can shine while others look dull. I also share some simple exercises that can improve the structure and creativity of the “case” portion of your interview.

One thought on “Part 1: Branding Yourself and Making Making a “Wow” Resume

  1. I comment when I especially enjoy a article on a website or if I have something to add to the discussion. It’s a result of the passion displayed in the post I read. And on this article Branding Yourself and Making a “Wow” Resume | Shawn Lankton Online. I was actually moved enough to post a thought ;) I actually do have a few questions for you if it’s allright. Is it only me or do a few of these remarks look as if they are coming from brain dead individuals? :-P And, if you are posting on additional places, I’d like to follow you. Could you make a list every one of all your social sites like your Facebook page, twitter feed, or linkedin profile?

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