Today, I spoke to Lisa Johnson Mandell, who is an award-winning multi-media journalist, author and Career Image Specialist. She is the author of Career Comeback– Repackage yourself to get the job you want and blogs for AOL’s new Dime Crunch. In this interview, Lisa explains how to make a career comeback, how she’s made her own comeback, how she’s gotten a lot of press attention, and more.
There are myriad resources available to us today that didn’t exist even five years ago, so while the economy is flagging, technology and communications are racing, and a career comeback can be more successful now than ever before. For example, many headhunters and HR specialists begin by doing a LinkedIn search for likely candidates before they even post the job opening. But you have to know how to position, promote and brand yourself so that you catch the right people’s attention. And, since the internet never sleeps, these tools can work for you 24/7. I’ve been approached by many employers via my presence on specialty career sites and social networking sites. You can market yourself worldwide with a few strokes of the keyboard.
If it takes you fifteen years to figure out what you want to do, are you at a major disadvantage?
Not at all! You just have to know how to spin the invaluable experience, skills and knowledge you accumulated during those 15 years, so that they work to your advantage in your new-found field of choice. Almost everything you’ve done in the past has lead you to where you are currently–you just need to figure out how to connect the dots and promote this in a positive way. A teacher, for example, has developed all sorts of varied skills that would help him or her in just about any field. Same thing with a stay at home parent, by the way. No matter what your field, there’s probably an article somewhere online that will help you word your resume so that you can optimize the skills and experience you’ve developed up to this point. Also, these days, many people are changing fields, some involuntarily. No once looks askance at you for this. Point out the fact that it proves you are flexible and eager to learn.
You’ve received a lot of press in a very competitive field (careers). How have you managed to do it? What got you started?
To be honest, the fact that I was already a journalist and had many established media relationships was very helpful. This is one of the few areas where my age works to my advantage–I’ve been networking for years! Although a savvy social networker can develop great contacts in a matter of hours with the resources available these days. I also know how to give a good sound bite. I have a pretty good idea of what will be most useful to journalists, and I try to make their jobs easier by giving it to them as concisely and wittily as possible. That’s the true secret: Instead of coming at it from the perspective of “This is my message and you need to broadcast it,” come at it from a perspective of “How can I adapt my message so that it will help your readers/viewers and make you look like a genius for reporting it?” It just so happened that my own career comeback corresponded with unemployment making a mercurial rise. Suddenly, I had a message that was of value to everyone’s readers/viewers. Timing is just as critical as message.
There are so many! Education, specialty books, blogs (like this one), enewsletters, specialty websites– I’m a Lead Career Blogger for AOL now, and I constantly marvel at the usefulness and diversity of the articles my colleagues write — every day! It’s important to pay attention to the way you appear online, on paper, and in person. What does your resume really say about you? What does the picture you post on your online profiles and blog say about you? What do the written parts of your personal profiles say about you? What do your tweets, texts and comments on other people’s blogs and articles say about you? The answer to these questions is all a part of your package, and if your message is confused, inconsistent or nonexistent, you need to repackage yourself.
How did you make your own career comeback?
My own career comeback was three-fold:
- I took a look at my resume and “Botoxed” it, a term the Wall St. Journal coined for me. It had a lot of sagging age spots on it, and it needed to be firmed, tightened and freshened. Some of the methods I used to accomplish this involved removing dates of graduation and highlighting my latest and greatest accomplishments at the very top, rather than writing a boring and burdensome career summary. BTW, hiding your age like this can work at the other end of the spectrum. If you graduated recently you can also delete your year of graduation and put your career highlights at the top of your resume–you don’t have to mention right off the bat that they happened during an internship…or in high school, even.
- I created a fresh, hip image of myself by having some professional photos taken that presented me at my current best. This may sound frivolous and vacuous to some, but why not let a smile and successful, professional look tell potential employers that you’re at the top of your game and excited about it, things you can’t necessarily convey on a resume?
- I worked the internet like a maniac, starting a blog (posting that fresh, hip picture) and talking about the hottest happenings in my field. I started professionally-oriented pages (again with the picture) on Facebook, LinkedIn and other networking sites that were specific to my profession. I joined many online groups. Did it work? I started getting responses to my my new resumes within 20 minutes of sending them out. I started getting full time job offers within two weeks, and I sold that website at a remarkable profit within two months of launching it. If I can do this in Los Angeles, where you’re practically invisible if you’re over 24 and under 36DD, anyone can do it anywhere.
Lisa Johnson Mandell is an award-winning multi-media journalist, author and Career Image Specialist. She has been featured in The Wall St. Journal, as well as on Dr. Phil, Rachael Ray, Bravo, Forbes, the CBS Early Show, NBC Today, Fox News and many, many other media outlets. Lisa wrote Career Comeback– Repackage yourself to get the job you want (Springboard). She is currently blogging for AOL’s new Dime Crunch, where she receives millions of hits and thousands of comments, which she finds incredibly enlightening — some even in a good way. Lisa graduated cum laude with a degree in journalism, and has authored several books released by major publishers. She currently lives in Los Angeles with her husband James and their Golden Doodle, “KC.” When she is not helping people land jobs they love, she’s probably interviewing movie stars or sitting in a dark theater, preparing film reviews for radio stations in major markets, and for Filmazing.com.