It started when I saw the recent banner headlines about the government’s crackdown on hedge funds for insider trading. “Oh, my. Here are a bunch of innocent people that work inside of the company who will be branded as unethical even though any potential problems probably stem from just a few bad apples.”
Bonuses and bailouts
This reminded me of holiday parties last year when anyone who worked on Wall Street was attacked for their excessive compensation and bonus, regardless of whether or not it was relevant. Good people are affected by bad company brands, regardless of whether or not it’s fair.
You own your company’s brand
How does your company’s brand affect you? Companies and products had brands long before we realized that we do, too, so any time someone looks at your resume or asks you, “Where do you work?” you’re surrounded by the halo or dark cloud of the company you keep.
What to do if your most recent company isn’t helping you build the brand you’d like to create? Four strategies can help:
1. Change your resume format.
Employers are skimming resumes. They don’t bother with the small print unless the big picture catches their eye. Make the name of your company plain text, and put it under your title, which is boldfaced. An example from a resume format in The New Job Security is:
Director of Public Relations
Kitchen, Etc., Dedham, MA, 2006-present
My client was changing industries so she used this format to downplay the industry she had been in and play up the transferable part (her title). The re-formatting works if you want to downplay your company name as well.
2. Describe your industry.
When talking about your work to others, you don’t have to mention the actual name of your company, but can describe the industry instead. “Where do you work?” can be answered with “A large, international oil company. What about you?” You didn’t say “British Petroleum,” but could choose to go there later. You also deflected the topic by asking an immediate follow-on question.
3. Bury it.
Let’s say that your current company isn’t helping you in your job search. It’s at the top of your resume, however, and you don’t want to quit your day job before you have your next income stream coming in. You’ve already re-formatted your resume, per the first strategy, but want to take extra precautions such as “refreshing” yourself.
What can you volunteer for, do on the side, initiate over the internet, consult for, enroll in, etc. that gives you an additional identity? Warning: the answer shouldn’t go against any company non-compete policies or be in a field that isn’t related to where you’d like your next job to be. Either one will just get you into more trouble with your current or your future employer.
Put your more recent activity at the top of your “Experience” section on your resume, then bold face anything in it that you want to catch the employer’s eye.
4. Make it irrelevant.
David Kochanek, now publisher of jobsearchdigest.com, worked for 8+ years for Arthur Andersen as a Business Consulting Manager. “It used to be quite a feather in your cap to work for Andersen,” David reported, “prior to its downfall due to its work with Enron. Thousands of talented people, 99% of the firm, had nothing to do with Enron.” Although David had left the firm prior to the debacle, its name was still on the first page of his resume. “What was once a great asset turned into a negative conversation.” David took a different tack.
David became an entrepreneur. He took his marketing and recruiting expertise and started an online service to help professionals in the private equity, investment banking, and hedge fund industries find work. Arthur Andersen’s name on his resume became irrelevant because he took control.
Above all else, protect your brand
You now have your best defensive strategies. The best proactive one is to anticipate when there might be problems and start identifying alternative companies immediately if you can’t reverse what’s happening. Your brand is too precious to waste with a company that might hurt it (and you) by virtue of association.
Pam Lassiter is author of the award winning The New Job Security and Principal of Lassiter Consulting, a career coaching firm doing outplacement or internal growth programs for companies or individuals.