What my city, L.A., is famous for is as a place for people to reinvent themselves. It’s here where people come to realize their dreams. Here, to Hollywood, is where all the young dreamers from America’s small towns come to become movie stars.
Now it’s time for you to reinvent yourself, from student, to up-and-coming young professional. To do this, you can learn from the experience of Hollywood. Because now in the 21st century, reinventing yourself is all about creating for yourself a new image, and then turning perception into reality.
Let me explain.
To employers, you’re invisible
When it comes to finding a job, the biggest problem facing you now is your lack of visibility.
Most likely, you have one single item which represents your image, and that is your resume. Problem is, your resume looks like the resume of every other student out there, which is to say, unimpressive. Less than a year or two of full-time work, no real contributions to any company or industry.
To make matters worse, all those job fairs sponsored by your school render you even more invisible, as employers focus their attention on the Americans with their stronger English skills.
You need to change the game
What no one else is telling us is that, as you transition from student to professional, the path to success has changed radically. No longer will success accrue from just working hard, taking tests, getting good grades. Instead, your success will come from your Performance, Image and Exposure (PIE). If you’re not familiar with the PIE framework, check out my blog post “Hard Work Alone Will Get You Nowhere.”
With their cultural advantage, sure the 老美 (Americans) can make a better first impression. Orally. But what you have going for you is who you are, the way you think, and the special contributions that only you can make to the world.
What YOU need is a platform on which to shine.
That platform is online.
Find the top online networks of industry leaders – and invite yourself in
Your resume is about your past. Your online brand is all about your future. It’s how you demonstrate that you are not just one of hundreds of nameless, faceless students who show up a job fair to clamor for a few seconds of attention.
Start by researching the most influential blogs, magazines, celebrities, Twitter streams, online forums in an industry you’d like to explore. Spend a couple weeks just soaking it all in, observing what are the most important trends, and how people are talking about them.
Then, crash the party! Start making online comments. Don’t just write “Great post!” Rather, praise specific points. Use your real name. Your goal is to establish yourself as a fellow thinker and colleague with the leading professionals in that industry. At first people won’t even know you’re a student.
Start slow. You’re a newbie in an industry with senior leaders, so don’t be arrogant. Offer a few new insights and see how they’re received. When a blog post particularly strikes you, write a personal email to the blogger. Impress these leaders with how you think and who you are as a person. Later when you establish a personal relationship and they discover you’re a student, they’ll be even more impressed.
Your online brand: Create your professional future
Your online brand is your platform to:
1. Overcome your language deficit in spoken English
2. Learn from the personal insights of your industry’s best thinkers
3. Gain direct personal exposure with them
4. Start to develop personal relationships which you later can take offline
5. Establish yourself as interesting and engaging, the kind of person everyone wants to meet
6. Expand your professional network across the world
Through the Internet, you now have the opportunity to position yourself in a way that was unimaginable when I was starting out in my career. By taking advantage of that opportunity to brand yourself online, you’ll be starting the process of reinventing yourself as the new, professional you.
I welcome your comments, in Chinese or English, on the Chinese version of this blog post, which is here.