Job search tips

personal branding

Personal Branding: Understanding why it matters

1200 900 Brenda Akinyi

Personal Branding is anything that distinguishes you from others. It’s your trademark — how people refer to you. It’s what people know about you. Your personal brand is how you get to tell your story. So beyond getting people to know you, think about what you want to be known for.

Understanding why our brand matters and how we benefit from having strong personal branding is the first step towards learning how to build one. A powerful personal brand is beneficial in various ways, which include:

  • Builds your confidence– This increases as you continue to harness your strengths and also allows you to meet goals more easily.
  • Gives you credibility — when you are known for a unique set of characteristics, you build your reputation around them.

Avoid trying to be too many things to too many people. You cannot be a master of everything.

  • Enables you to create and leave your mark — You leave your legacy by consistently delivering quality results which you can tap into years later.
  • Helps you to connect with your target audience — Honing your skills and showing a particular disposition enables you to relate to your target audience a lot faster.
  • Distinguishes you from the competition — It’s no longer about how good you look on paper. You need to show why you should be selected. To do this, you need to deliver on what makes you unique – through personal branding.
  • Helps you garner the support you need — Build “emotional bank accounts.” (When you help other people they will be willing to help you when you reach out to them).
  • Sells you — A powerful brand differentiates you and sets you apart from others. In turn, you lead more; you win more and eventually, you earn more.

Establishing your personal brand:

When trying to establish personal branding, ask yourself a couple of questions to understand where you currently stand:

  • What are you most passionate about?
  • What are your best skills/strongest attributes?
  • How would you summarize yourself in a 2-minute story?
  • How will someone describe you when they are referring you to an opportunity?
  • Think about how others would perceive you, seek feedback from colleagues, family, and friends. Note down the answers, start living them and keep building your brand.

As you begin to build your personal brand, selling yourself is key. Remember: It’s no good being the best-kept secret in the world.

How do you sell yourself?

  • Understand what is it about you that people cannot replicate – What’s your unique skill-set/superpower? Our strengths may not be visible to us! You might want to have this discussion with those who know you well and can speak about/tell your strengths.
  • Build a robust professional network – Build your personal brand with your network. Your most precious resources will always be in your richest resources.
  • Upgrade your profile Don’t be brilliant and anonymous. Find ways to put yourself out there -speak to people, write if you can and showcase your brilliance. (Speak and Write)
  • Be authentic – Trying to be someone else produces a hybrid of what you should be –If you talk like everyone else and sound like someone else you’ll never stand out.-

In conclusion, the key to building a powerful/remarkable brand is to start soon and consistently make progress. Let go the need to be perfect and instead, focus on continuous learning and improvement. Personal branding is a lifelong journey.

What are some of the tips that have worked for you when it comes to building your personal brand? Do share….

In the meantime, here’s a related article.

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job search networking - Shortlist

Job Search Networking 101: Basics you need to know

1200 900 Brenda Akinyi

Time and again we hear that building the right connections and job search networking is crucial to career advancement or scaling a business. But how do you actually build your network?

In this blog we’ll share key points on how to get started and maintain great relationships with your connections!

#1: Drop your personal agenda.

Successful people always look for opportunities to help others. Unsuccessful people always ask “What’s in it for me?”

  • At networking events, it can be tempting to jump on the opportunity to ask about job openings l or hand out tons of business cards. However, let this be the last thing on your mind.
  • Instead, come with an open mind. Seek out ways you can use your knowledge and skills to help out others. Most events will have an agenda or may be tailored to your industry, thus will give you an idea of what you can talk about. You can get helpful job search information at a networking event without asking for a job  – as in this example.
  • Don’t reach out to others only when you need something from them. Be generous and aim to provide a benefit to others before asking for a favor.

#2: Listening is everything — listen actively and intently.

Everyone you meet knows something you don’t.

  • Ask questions about what the other party is doing. You will be surprised that while you may work in the same industry, they have knowledge in areas you may not, and vice-versa.
  • Watch your body language! Face the speaker, smile, maintain eye contact and do not interrupt your partner.
  • Be present. Then you’ll notice when you start drifting from the conversation and be able to regain your focus.

#3: Stay in touch with your networks:

After the job search networking ends, staying in touch with contacts is just as important as getting them in the first place

  • Building meaningful relationships with others involves a high level of communication. Check in on your connections periodically. Send an email or text to say “hello” or connect on social media. For example, you could share or retweet your contacts’ posts with a thoughtful comment. Congratulate them on promotions or achievements.
  • This can also help in strengthening your more subtle relationships like former schoolmates or old colleagues.

#4: Diversify your job search networking efforts:

If your network is filled with people who are all the same, you’re limiting your room for growth.

  • Find ways to connect with people outside of your industry. Do this to avoid making your network “clumpy.”
  • A diverse job search networking effort opens up doors to help you meet people you otherwise would not and can be instrumental in your career or business growth.
  • Push yourself to engage in conversations about topics outside your usual context. Try attending an event outside of your industry or department. To make this less intimidating, start by reading some articles related to that field or sign up for an industry-focused email newsletter.
  • An easier way to start doing this is by starting in your own organization. Talk to people in different departments and get to know what a day in their professional life looks like. Get to learn about their interests outside of work and build on that.

#5: Get out there!

It’s not about who you know, it’s about who knows you!

  • Learning to manage job search networking is not easy, but with practice, you’ll get better. Attend events, reach out to people, ask questions, and seek advice and guidance on how to start and build strong networks.
  • Find out ways you can contribute to what others need. Build a reputation for being reliable. Follow through with any promises made and remember not to over-commit.
  • The only way people will remember you is by the impact you made. “If your presence does not make an impact, your absence won’t make a difference”

#6: Don’t forget the basics of job search networking:

Winning friends begins with friendliness.

  • Be on time.
  • Carry your business cards.
  • Be friendly!

Learning and understanding the art of job search networking is crucial to ensuring that we put ourselves out there and discover the of opportunities around us. In our next series, we’ll dive into how you can follow up after your meetup. Stay tuned!

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Improving a resume

Advice on How to Improve a Resume

800 400 Brenda Akinyi

At Shortlist, we help candidates demonstrate their skills to show that they’re a great fit for a job. Most employers are looking for a mix of ability, which you can show on our assessments, and experience, which is where the CV comes in. Candidates often come to us asking for guidance on how to improve a resume so we wrote this blog post to have all of our top tips in one place!

We’ve broken down the CV into its key parts, sharing both the essential must-haves for how to improve a resume and the extra bells and whistles!

1. Contact Information

The basics: This should appear at the top of your resume and include your name, address, phone number and e-mail address. Triple-check that your information is correct and up to date. If you are applying for a job outside the city you live in and are willing to relocate, indicate the same.

Extra insight: Avoid giving irrelevant information, like your date of birth and marital status, unless requested on the job profile.

2. Personal Statement

The basics: This is your opportunity to showcase your experience, achievements, as well as your career aspirations to your potential employer. The statement should answer three important questions:

  • Who are you?
  • What can you do for the organization?
  • What are you seeking in your next job?

If you’re wondering how to improve a resume, resist the urge to use a generalized statement to suit any application, instead make this specific to the role you are applying for. While it may take time to customize this statement for each role, it makes all the difference… Consider the key requirements for the role and use these to phrase your statement to show that you are perfectly suited for the position.

Extra insight: For a fresh graduate, since you may not have much experience to site, focus on your interests. Additionally, showcase the skills you have attained and how they are relevant to the job.

3. Skills and Qualifications

The basics: Remember to give the recruiter exactly what they want and in the easiest way possible and not have them struggle to find relevant information. While writing this particular section, it is important to keep in mind the industry keywords that are relevant to different roles.

For example:

  • Data Scientist roles often require programming skills in languages like Python and R.
  • Business Development requires critical skills like analytical thinking and communication skills, and sometimes financial modeling, among others.
  • Customer Service roles require skills in problem-solving, communication, attention to detail, and demonstrating empathy.

Extra insight: As your working on how to improve a resume, go through the job description and pick out the must-have skills and qualifications that you possess. Ensure that these are what the employer sees first while reviewing your resume. Some organizations use applicant tracking systems that will scan for keywords in your CV. Hence, it’s even more important to include words and phrases from the job description.

4. Experience

This being the meat of your resume, you want to ensure that you clearly and honestly present your employment history.

The essentials in this section include the company name, your title, years you were employed and a summary (preferably in bullet points) of your responsibilities and accomplishments.

More importantly, as much as possible, do try to quantify your achievements in terms of numbers or other concrete performance measures.



For sales roles, to improve a resume, you may choose to show your impact by using statements such as:

  • Increased customer engagement and online presence by…
  • Strengthened performance by…

For finance roles, showcase your knowledge of the industry and share achievements that demonstrate your ability to maximise the utilization of financial resources.

For managerial roles, leadership skills are essential.

  • Showcase how you have lead teams towards the achievements of organizational objectives.
  • Showcase how you have also contributed towards the professional development of your employees. For example, training programmes that have been implemented, mentoring team members into junior/mid-senior level managers are some of the things you can highlight.

For customer service roles, showcase how you have contributed to ensuring excellent customer experience to your clients:

  • Mention instances where you developed a program and/or implemented a system which increased the efficiency of a product or service offered by the organisation. Leading to Customer retention.

For more experienced professionals who have worked across different sectors, you do not need to include jobs that are not related to the one you are applying for.

Entry-level individuals who do not have on the job experience should include any temporary positions, internships or volunteer work that emphasise the skills related to the job.

5. Hobbies and Interests

The basics: If you are new in the job market or do not have a lot of experience, this can be the place to differentiate yourself. You never know when your side hustle, hobby or passion will connect with a hiring manager. For example, listing team sports or activities would indicate that you would be a good team player. Additionally, social hobbies, such as mentoring, suggest that you can communicate and connect well with others. These can help find a fit where otherwise the role may have been a stretch.

When figuring out how to improve a resume, don’t forget…

Proofread your resume. Make sure there are no spelling mistakes or grammatically incorrect sentences.

Your resume should be well organised, with uniform font, punctuation, and spacing. Use soft and easily readable fonts like Calibri, Garamond Cambria, Times New Roman or Trebuchet MS. Moreover, avoid the use of bold and weighty fonts such as Impact, and the same goes for unnecessary graphics, logos and pictures.

Have someone you trust to read and give you their honest opinion as well as suggest changes where necessary.

Check out these sample resumes that illustrate a majority of the points I covered above in this guide on how to improve a resume. I hope these tips will be helpful to as you chase your next big break!

We’d love to hear from you!

Share your tried-and-true resume-writing tips in the comments. Do let me know what other career-related topics you would like to learn about.

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Related: How To Tailor Your CV: Customize For Each New Role

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How to Ace Your Next Interview — Part 3: What to do post-interview to seal the deal

1200 900 Brenda Akinyi

Shortlist helps candidates find and apply to great jobs, and the best-fit candidates advance to interviews with employers. We’ve written a practical guide for job seekers like you, to make sure you put your best foot forward and feel prepared and confident for the big day! In this post, I’ll share tips for best practices during your interview. In case you missed them, check out the first two posts in this series — what to do before and during your interview.

So you just wrapped up your interview, and are feeling great about it! What can you do post-interview to seal the deal?

1. Take stock of your performance, and of your experience

Dedicate ten minutes to jotting down what you think went well, and what you could improve on the next time. If you were caught off-guard by any of their questions, take note so you can prepare an answer for future interviews.

Make sure you take time to reflect on how you felt about the experience, as well. Could you see yourself thriving in their office and working with the interviewers you met? If for some reason you feel you are no longer a fit, better to let them know now instead of at the end of the process.

2. Follow up promptly and persuasively

Be sure to send a personalized thank you note to each of the interviewers you met with, customizing the e-mail to include what you talked about and what you learned from each person. This is a crucial step — while sending thank you notes won’t ensure you get the job, failing to send them will cause the employer to doubt your interest and professionalism.

3. If you get a rejection

Even though you’re disappointed, be sure to respond promptly, thanking them for their consideration. Reflect on any feedback they shared about your performance, comparing this with your original post-interview notes.

Remember that the chosen candidate may eventually not accept the job offer and you could just be up next on the list. The employer may retain your information for consideration whenever there are other suitable openings in the future. They may also consider you for a different role altogether, if you’ve shown that you might be a better fit for a different position.

Regardless, if this is a company you really want to work for, try to maintain a positive relationship with the employer. You never know what could happen!

4. If you get the job🎉

Congratulations! No doubt your interviewing skills and etiquette helped you clinch the job offer. Way to go!

We hope this blog series helped you set yourself up for interviewing success. Even if you did not get the job offer, you can still have the comfort of knowing you fully prepared and tried your best. We would love to hear from you! What other career-related topics you would like to learn about in our next series? Let us know on our twitter handle.

Still looking for a new opportunity? take a look at our current openings with our partner organizations:


How to Ace Your Next Interview — Part 2: The Interview

1200 900 Brenda Akinyi

Shortlist helps candidates find and apply to great jobs, and the best-fit candidates advance to interviews with employers. We’ve written a practical guide for job seekers like you, to make sure you put your best foot forward and feel prepared and confident for the big day! In this post, I’ll share tips for best practices during your interview. In case you missed it, check out this post on how to prep for your interview. Up next in the series — what to do after your interview to seal the deal.

So you landed an interview, prepared thoroughly, and just walked in the door — what do you need to do next to make sure you leave a lasting impression?

  1. Make a good first impression

Greet the receptionist and warmly introduce yourself and explain your appointment. When you meet the interviewer(s) give them a firm handshake and thank them for seeing you for an interview.

There may be small talk, be sure to follow the employer’s lead and let them guide the conversation. They are busy and might want to get right to the interview questions!

2. Pay attention to your body language

We can communicate a lot without uttering a single word, even if it’s subconscious. The right body language can help you give the impression that you’re confident, personable, and extremely interested in the conversation you have with each interviewer. A few tips:

  • Sit up straight and display your neck and chest area to show that you are open.
  • When using hand gestures, keep your hands above the desk and below the collarbone — any higher can make you appear frantic.
  • Keep your arms and legs uncrossed, as doing so can make you appear defensive and guarded.
  • Try to avoid fidgeting, which can make you seem nervous.
  • Be sure to maintain regular but not overly persistent eye contact throughout the interview.
  • Most importantly — smile! It creates a positive environment for both you and the interviewer, and can actually make you feel better throughout the conversation.

3. Be concise, focused, and yourself!

When the interviewer asks a question, it’s perfectly fine to collect your thoughts for a few moments before you respond. Make sure to answer each question truthfully and completely, but without rambling on for too long. Keep your knowledge of the company and open position in the forefront of your mind as you answer, making connections between your background and skills and what they’re seeking in this role.

4. What to do with panel interviews

If you find yourself in a panel interview, make sure you briefly address each individual with your gaze and return your attention to the person who has asked you a question.

5. Remember, you’re interviewing them too!

Most interviewers will give you an opportunity to ask questions at the end of your session. Don’t let this opportunity pass you up — not only does it give you the chance to learn more information, but it can show that you’re a critical thinker.

Some questions will flow naturally from the interview, but we recommend preparing a few in advance, too (see other ways to prepare in this blog post!). Some example questions include

  • I was excited to read that [element of their work culture] is a major part of your company culture. How have you experienced that during your time here?
  • How could I grow and evolve in this role in a way that would support the organization?
  • What is the biggest priority for your department/company right now? Any challenges?

6. Get to know the next steps

You can directly ask the interviewer what the next steps of the process will be. Avoid settling for the common “We’ll get in touch with you” response that places you in a passive position.

Should the interviewer give you such a response, you may politely ask them to give you a timeline within which you can expect feedback or to follow up with them.

We hope these tips will be helpful for you to keep in mind when you walk in for your next interview — you got this!!

We would love to hear from you! Share your tried-and-true interview tips on our twitter handle, and please let us know what other career-related topics you would like to learn about.

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