Ethics for Job Seekers

Employment Etiquette & Standards of Morality

Ethics is knowing the difference between what you have a right to do and what is right to do. – Potter Stewart from http://www.brainyquote.com

Definitions

Google defines ETHICS as “moral principles that govern a person’s or group’s behavior.”

For more detail and an analysis of the “essential questions” on ETHICS, check out the blog “What is Ethics?” from the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics: https://www.scu.edu/ethics/ethics-resources/ethical-decision-making/what-is-ethics/.

From another perspective, according to Investopedia, “BUSINESS ETHICS is the study of proper business policies and practices regarding potentially controversial issues, such as corporate governance, insider trading, bribery, discrimination, corporate social responsibility and fiduciary responsibilities.” The full article can be read at http://www.investopedia.com/terms/b/business-ethics.asp.

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Declining Standards of Behavior?

Jean Twenge, the author of the 2006 book Generation Me, considers Millennials (born between 1977 and 1994), along with younger members of Generation X, to be part of what she calls “Generation Me,” possessing a preponderance of the traits of confidence and tolerance, but also a strong sense of entitlement and narcissism. Wikipedia identifies the (older) “Me” generation in the United States, referring to “the baby boomer generation and the self-involved qualities that some people associated with it.”

According to Psychology Today in a blog-post The Truth About Lying by Allison Kornet (https://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/199705/the-truth-about-lying), “Deception is rampant—and sometimes we tell the biggest lies to those we love most.”

If, as the cliché has it, the 1980s was the decade of greed, then the quintessential sin of the 1990s might just have been lying. After all, think of the accusations of deceit leveled at politicians like Bob Packwood, Marion Barry, Dan Rostenkowski, Newt Gingrich, and Bill Clinton.

Regardless of these labels of societal trends, “generalizations about the generations,” and reflections on current social values and conscience in the media, how do you come to terms with the recent headlines of inconsistent (or “inconvenient”) ethics and morality?

  • State-sponsored doping of Russian athletes
  • Volkswagen emission cheating
  • Students saying, “If we don’t get caught” or “If they don’t find out,” it’s OK.
  • The rise of online plagiarism-checking programs such as turnitin.com.
  • The cynicism about “ethics in advertising: do we expect lies?”
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And yet, some of us still recite the Boy Scouts oath (“honesty”), “swear to tell the truth” (on a bible) in a court of law, and strive to maintain an atmosphere of honesty in the workplace (see http://www.businessinsider.com/3-essential-rules-to-workplace-honesty-2013-1  and http://smallbusiness.chron.com/create-atmosphere-honesty-workplace-10098.html).

So, are we “losing” our moral compass? Does “our word” mean anything? Do we take the easy way out and “fake a little” here and “wink a little” there? Is it affecting the way we interact with each other, in educational institutions, the marketplace, family life, and even presenting ourselves to be hired for a job?

Blame it on upbringing? Past experience? Perhaps it is safe to say one’s personal judgment may be affected by ethics. If a member of your family has a handicap parking placard, is it ever used when the handicapped individual is not riding in the car? In terms of judgment and feelings of entitlement, it is probably ill-advised to bring up anything to do with driving… fighting over parking places, cutting off someone, tooting horns at slow drivers, etc. Besides, who actually ever comes to a complete stop at a stop sign?

In the pre-employment planning stages, it is essential for you to make a honest personal and professional assessment, prepare to represent yourself accurately at interviews and on your resume and  e-portfolio, and model ethical personal branding. I would agree that “you cannot ‘fib’ and claim you are a ‘master’ of everything,” but if you are certified to teach music in grades K-12, not just band, or general music, or choir, or strings… you should state your proficiency to teach “the whole kit and caboodle.” At employment screenings, it’s more important to show you have learned the necessary 21st Century skills of critical thinking, problem-solving, collaboration, communications, creativity, and flexibility/adaptability… rather than whether you can play Paganini on the violin, sing a high “A,” improvise modern jazz styles, or piano accompany a musical production.

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Stretching Things a Bit?

The concept of a “stretched resume” is detailed online by “Employee’s Ethics: Getting a Job, Getting a Promotion, Leaving,” Chapter 6 from the book Business Ethics. The author tells the true story of Robert Irvine, who used to host the Food Network’s popular Dinner: Impossible. He was fired when he was caught “lying” or providing gross exaggerations on his resume. You should read the interesting full account at this site: http://2012books.lardbucket.org/books/business-ethics/s10-employee-s-ethics-getting-a-jo.html.

The kind of resume misrepresentations are categorized as the following:

  • False credentials
  • False experience
  • Embellished experience
  • False chronology
  • False references

The best quote from this reference suggests that the outcome of resume misrepresentation is not worth the chances you would take if/when you are caught:

Ethical egoism means your moral responsibility is to act in your own interest no matter what that may require. This provides a license for outright résumé invention… But, as is always the case with egoism, the question must be asked whether job seekers really serve their own interests when they claim things that may later be revealed to be false or when they land jobs they later won’t be able to perform because their qualifications were fake.

This source led me to the webpage http://fakeresume.com/ (aptly named) selling the book Fake Resume: The Machiavellian Guide to Getting a Job by Max Stirner (something I am not promoting!) You can peruse a segment of his work, “Five Reasons Why You Must Lie on Your Resume To Get a Job Today” at http://fakeresume.com/five-reasons-why-you-must-lie-on-your-resume.pdf. This excerpt is from his “Everyone Lies on Their Resume” section of his website:

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The firm Hire Right released some interesting statistics that show how rampant resume fraud is in the United States. The company’s numbers show that 80 percent of all resumes are misleading. They also show that 20 percent state fraudulent degrees and 30 percent show altered employment dates. As if those numbers are not shocking enough, 40 percent have inflated salary claims and 30 percent have inaccurate job descriptions. Furthermore, the study shows 25 percent of people listing companies that no longer exist, and 27 percent giving falsified references; and these are only the people they have caught!

Guides to Employment Ethics

Regardless of what others do or say they do, marketing exaggeration and even falsehoods will not be in your best interest.

Richard Fein, Director of Career Management, Isenberg School of Management, University of Massachusetts-Amherst via Monstertrak.com wrote an excellent career guide on this subject: “Etiquette and Ethics in Your Job Search. What Are They and Why Should You Care?” Download the following to review the definitions, distinctions, and job search scenarios involving the terms “etiquette” and “ethics.” http://www.bu.edu/hospitality/files/pdf/ETIQUETTEANDETHICSINYOURJOBSEARCH1.pdf.

Another excellent resource is the “Job Search Ethics Brochure” from the University of Pennsylvania: http://www.vpul.upenn.edu/careerservices/files/Job_Search_Ethics_Brochure.pdf. In this thoughtful publication, additional terms are defined, such as “professional,” “integrity,” and “honor.”

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In addition, it should be “worth your while” to access some of the Franklin College’s “Helpful Handouts” under the Career Service section of their website: http://franklincollege.edu/student-life/career-services/students-alumni/helpful-handouts/. In particular, what stood out to me was their document “Job Search Ethics and Protocol,” which Assistant Dean of Students & Director of Career Services Kirk Bixler has graciously granted me permission to reprint below. (This is an excellent summary of many of the topics/tips we have posted at this site. Click on the “Marketing Professionalism” link to the right to read past blog-posts.)

  • Do NOT give into the temptation of carelessly completing an application. Do NOT make statements on an application like “see attached résumé.” Never leave spaces blank.
  • Apply for a job only if you have some realistic level of interest.
  • Absolute honesty on your résumé is imperative. Don’t overstate or understate. Don’t downplay your skills because you haven’t been featured in Business Week.
  • Request permission to use a person as a reference. Be prepared to explain to your reference what your job search plans are. Provide the reference with examples of qualities you possess. Offer a copy of your résumé. When interviewing, have your list of references on hand.
  • Don’t take advantage of an expense account when traveling for job interviews.
  • Show up for your interview. If you are visiting a person’s place of work, make sure your appearance, including mode of dress, is appropriate for that environment. You are not a student going to class. Consider yourself a professional trying to make a positive impression. How you present yourself is a partial reflection on the person with whom you are meeting.
  • Be a bit early for your appointment. Be mindful of the other person’s time. Come in prepared with questions & knowledge of the business.
  • Ask “How would you like to be addressed?” Be on the safe side; few people are offended by “Mister” or “Ms.” Be courteous to everyone you meet.
  • Everything you say must be true. On the other hand, you don’t need to say everything.
  • 25957630814_ee6ff87fe5_oYou may be asked to say something about another student or applicant. Speak only of your abilities & strengths. It is acceptable for an interviewer to ask you about other interviews, job offers & salary offers. You are not under an obligation to give a direct answer.
  • Be aware of illegal inquires. Employers may not ask, “How much alcohol do you drink?” “Have you ever been treated for mental health problems?” “What prescription drugs do you currently take?”
  • Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank-you notes are a MUST in the job search process. They may be handwritten or typed. Address them to the person with whom you had the interview.
  • Be aware of drug screening requirements.
  • Call to inquire about your status in the employer’s hiring process. If a specific time has been communicated, wait until that time has passed before contacting the employer.
  • Let the employer be the first to mention salary. End it early if you are not interested. Let the employer know you are not interested in pursuing employment.
  • When offered the job, ask for time to think it over & ask for a formal offer letter.
  • You may receive one or more job offers you decide to reject. You should convey your decision to reject a job offer orally & in writing. The considerations here are speed & certainty of delivery. Call the person who signed your offer letter. Write a brief letter, also. Do both in a timely manner.
  • Only accept a job if you are really interested. Don’t settle. Once you accept a job offer, formally remove yourself from all other job searches. DO NOT continue looking.

These final bulleted items are echoed by another prestigious institution. “Ethical Internship and Job Search Policies” is posted on the University of Notre Dame’s Career Center webpage (http://careercenter.nd.edu/students/ethical-job-search-policies/):

When accepting an offer of full-time employment or an internship (either paid or unpaid), one must have every intention of honoring that commitment.  If a student accepts an offer of employment, admission to a graduate or professional school, or other post-graduate career opportunity, he/she must withdraw from the recruiting process immediately. This includes but is not limited to:

  • Not applying to future job postings.
  • Declining all future interview invitations.
  • Canceling any active applications.
  • Contacting all recruiters to inform them of your wish to be removed from the interviewing and recruitment process (this includes all scheduled interviews).

Ethics? It all boils down to two questions: “Who are you?” and “For what do you stand?” Besides the fear of “getting caught in lies” and being fired for misrepresentation (or doing an incompetent job because you did not have the qualities for which your employer was looking), it centers on “liking what you see” when you look at yourself in the mirror. Anyway, didn’t you mommy tell you your nose gets longer when you tell a fib?

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Ethics is nothing else than reverence for life.  – Albert Schweitzer
from http://www.brainyquote.com
PKF
© 2016 Paul K. Fox

Networking Niceties

The “How to Schmooze” Guide for Prospective Music Teachers

key-to-success-1307591Do you have a business card, e-portfolio, resume, and professional website?

There are three critical skills you need to foster searching for a school music position, marketing yourself, interviewing, and landing a job:

  • Personal branding (who are you, what makes you unique, and what do you have to offer?)
  • Story telling (anecdotes) of your positive attributes and personal brand, and
  • Networking (associating with other professionals and getting your stories “out there”).
In previous articles posted in this blog series, we have discussed the essential need for the development and constant revisions of a professional e-portfolio, resume, and website. If you have not read them, click on the following:

connected-people-1165937Merriam-Webster defines “networking” (noun) as “the exchange of information or services among individuals, groups, or institutions; the cultivation of productive relationships for employment or business.”

The concept of networking is two-way communications. Just like collective sets of nerve synapses, two-way connections are expected to fire repeatedly in all directions. That’s actually the science behind memory. For professional networking, it is your “charge” to create multiple pathways to/from school administrators, HR managers and secretaries, music supervisors and department heads, and music teachers… and you – your skills, accomplishments, unique qualities, experience, education, and personality traits.

Business Cards – One of the Earliest Known Methods of Networking

Do you know the history of the business card? How long ago was it introduced?

You might have guessed it was first “kicked-off” in the 1980s, the decade that corporations expanded on the adoption of the 3.5 by 2-inch rectangle business card format we know today.

However, according to Design Float Blog [Source: “A Brief History of Business Cards” posted at http://www.designfloat.com/blog/2012/04/02/history-business-cards/], its origin can be traced back to 15th century China. They were first known as “visiting cards” and used to announce one’s intention of meeting with another individual.

king-louis-at-versailles-1553663During the 17th century, especially during the reign of Louis the 14th, the “calling card” made its heyday in Europe. “…An individual’s success or failure in society often depended on the strength of their personal promotion.”

Etiquette was involved in the deployment of “acquaintance cards” in the 17-18th century.

“…A strict protocol existed to ensure that calling cards were employed correctly. If a gentleman wished to call on a lady, he had a lot to think about. On making a first call, he had to make sure there is a separate card for each lady of the household. Alternatively, he could fold his card down the middle to indicate it was meant for all members of the household. Cards had to be left with the servant; admission to the house would only be permitted after the hostess had examined the card. Calling cards were to be collected on a small tray kept in the hallway, which would be presented by a servant on the palm of his left hand. While a gentleman may carry his cards loose in his pocket, a lady should use a card case. If the gentleman received no acknowledgement of his card, he had to accept that there would be no continuation of the acquaintance. And on no account was it ever acceptable to sneak a peak at cards that had been left by other callers.”

Later in the 17th century, London merchants used “trade cards.” At a time when street numbers were not in popular use, these cards were crucial in promoting the business and hands-3-hand-holding-a-card-1440323informing customers of its location and services available.

So how do you collect and distribute your business cards? What methods do you use to record and store the contacts you meet on a daily basis? How is your contact information given out to every professional you meet, especially at conferences, mass employment screenings, or job fairs?

Business Card Basics

Today’s professionals still exchange this “old-fashioned invention” called a business card as part of employment and business networking. (Who knows? Maybe someday we will be doing this electronically. Perhaps, our new “super-smart phones” will automatically talk to one another and seamlessly pass on our contact information.)

According to Ivan Misner, contributor to the online Entrepreneur website (http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/159492), “The business card is the most powerful single business tool – dollar for dollar – you can invest in. It’s compact, energy-efficient, low-cost, low-tech, and keeps working for you hours, weeks and even years after it leaves your hands!”

He outlines what it does in support of person-to-person networking:

  • The business card tells people your name and the name of your business.
  • It provides prospects a way to contact you.
  • business-card-1525590It gives others a taste of your work, style and personality.
  • It can be so unusual or attractive or strange or charming or funny that it tends to stick in the memory of the prospective employer like a great radio or television ad.
  • It can be reused, passes from person to person, giving the same message to each person who comes in contact with it.

What data should be shared  on a business card? The quick (and obvious) answer is your name, mailing address (street, city, state, zip), cell phone (and if you still have a landline telephone number), email address, and extremely important – a link to your professional website (and password if needed).

Your Personal Brand Displayed on a Piece of Cardboard

Huffington Post provides some insightful recommendations on the design of business cards (see http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/11/12/designing-a-business-card_n_997449.html):

  1. Your card should look professional and project your image.
  2. Do not use clip art.
  3. Consider printing a QR code with direct access to your webpage.
  4. Resist a cluttered business card layout.
  5. Do not try to save money and buy cheap business cards.

Like it or not, your business card will convey (accurately or inaccurately) your image – possibly an instant snapshot of your professionalism, proficiency, and personality – to potential HR people and the decision-makers that hire future staff. What do you want to business-card-1237839display… traits of artistry, collaboration, commitment, discipline, even temperament, goal-minded, initiative, leadership, mastery of music and music education, organization, positive outlook, style, tact, and/or teamwork… or just the opposite?

Check out the unique examples and design elements (size, shape, color, style, materials, effects, printing methods, etc.) at http://www.webdesignerdepot.com/2010/06/how-to-design-your-business-card/. A wooden business card? How crazy do you want to be? Just remember, educational leaders are generally very “conservative” in the search for filling teaching positions in the public schools.

Readability and clarity are important (#4 above). After retirement, I had a lot of fun designing a new business card. Many retirees (myself included) lean towards putting more information than what is generally needed on their card. I was also guilty of printing a hodgepodge of all of my past school positions. Ironic, isn’t it? The business card is not really the device to archive past successes, especially for a retiree who is not trying to find PaulFox_Logoa new full-time job!

I even went as far as to hire a professional layout artist to create a new personal logo. Can you tell my focus areas and favorite composer from the image to the right?

The Act of Sharing

When you meet someone for the first time, the unspoken code/decorum of networking and professionalism directs you to flash your most charming smile, look the person in the eye, introduce yourself (“hi, my name is…”), and offer/give a firm handshake. Repeat his/her name (place it permanently in your memory), and use it to strike up a short conversation to familiarize/update each other about where he/she works, and where you have most recently graduated or been employed.

First impressions mean a lot. Experts say that early judgments about you are made in the business-man-modified-1241003first ten seconds, and after four minutes, it’s all over. For employment consideration, others have written that you are evaluated by 7% what you say, 38% by your vocal tone, and 55% by your facial expressions.

Be very positive and be sure to closely listen to the other professional, responding to his/her questions or topics. Be outgoing and energetic (but not pushy) and friendly (but not overly personal). My former superintendent commented on a music teacher interview he experienced that did not go very well. The potential candidate did not seem to show personal initiative or self-direction, and lacked any overt displays of excitement or energy. Administrators want to see that you are truly committed to making a music program successful (“will go that extra mile”), have creative ideas to help “grow the program,” and love to work with children.

Before you close your “network connection,” be sure to swap business cards (have yours handy – nothing slows things down more than fumbling in your wallet or coat pocket), and make a promise to touch base with him/her again.

Gathering Data from Your End

One of the most important concepts about networking is how you use the information you collect. You need to “tag” or catalog the names of individuals with whom you come in contact, to help sort and create an easy-access index of professional resources.

stocking-for-business-1240257After the opportunity presents itself to exchange business cards, you need to save and organize his/her data in a way to be able to place/find the acquaintance for future reference. Why was this professional important to you to remember his or her name? How, when, and where did you meet? Reference the subjects you may have discussed, school affiliation, title, and locality of the contact, so at some point, you can lay your fingers on the name in your file; just search on the “key” word or phrase like “choral director” or “XYZ School District.”

As soon as possible, copy the new contact’s name, information, and subject areas into your smartphone’s (and computer’s) contact app. If he/she was a potential administrator, department head, or teacher in the district, you are well within your rights to follow-up with an e-mail. “Do you know of any possible future music positions (or retirements) in your district?” “Should I send a letter to the superintendent for his consideration?”

Now Get Out There and “Meet and Greet!”

According to Devora Zack in her blog “Ten Tips for People Who Hate Networking” (a great read, see http://www.careerealism.com/hate-networking-tips/), “…Real networking is about establishing mutually beneficial, lasting connections, one person at a time… This new and improved definition of networking means being true to you, capitalizing on your strengths, and tossing aside ‘rules’ that don’t match your temperament.” She proposes several unique “rules for the road” for making positive peer connections from the book Networking for People Who Hate Networking (Berrett-Koehler 2010):

  1. Be true to you
  2. Realize less is more
  3. interview-607713_1920Plan your first impression
  4. Volunteer
  5. Get in line
  6. Set challenging yet achievable networking goals
  7. Show, don’t tell
  8. Research
  9. Listen
  10. Follow-up, or forget about it

Another good resource for quiet/unassuming personality types is the online article “Twelve Tips for Shy People” by Meredith Levinson: http://www.cio.com/article/2437488/relationship-building-networking/how-to-network–12-tips-for-shy-people.html.

Conclusion

Take advantage of any chance you have to present your personal brand, “sell yourself,” and connect with colleagues in the field of music education. Practice a few “schmoozing” techniques, but really try to be open, positive, true to yourself, and well-organized. The business card helps you to “call on” and make a lasting impression to potential employers. Good luck, and happy job hunting!

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Sources for this article and additional hints on the use of business cards and networking may be found at the following sites. Here’s YOUR homework for further reading!

PKF

© 2016 Paul K. Fox

Tips on Personal Branding

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Prospective Music Teachers: Why Personal Branding Might Help You Land a Job!

“A brand is anything—a symbol, design, name, sound, reputation, emotion, employees, tone, and much more—that separates one thing from another.”

– Neil Patel and Aaron Agius

optimism-1241418Quick – Who are you? Define yourself in three words!

This is one of the most common job interview questions. In my past blogs on the subject of getting a music teaching job (see https://paulkfoxusc.wordpress.com/category/marketing-professionalism/), we explored preparing for interviews, planning portfolios, developing stories/personal anecdotes of your strengths, defining criteria for the ideal music teacher candidate, and understanding the term “professionalism” as it applies to music education. Now to wrap-up your “marketing plan,” it is time to dive into “personal branding” as it is presented by quite a few experts in the field.

business-card-1238267What is Personal Branding? Google defines it as “essentially the ongoing process of establishing a prescribed image or impression in the mind of others about an individual, group or organization.”

Branding is critical to help you “stand above the rest,” showing you have what it takes and would be a major asset to a prospective employer, and marketing your own unique qualities that would make you “a good fit” for the specific job opening. But you don’t have to take my word on this… a quick search on the Internet yields numerous articles on branding and marketing yourself.

The question is no longer IF you have a personal brand, but whether you choose to guide and cultivate the brand or to let it be defined (or assumed) by others on your behalf.

According to Shama Hyder, bestselling author of The Zen of Social Media Marketing, “The term branding has long been relegated to companies, but today almost every individual has a personal brand. Not many of us have consciously cultivated these brands, but they exist nonetheless. A digital footprint in the sands of time and space crowd sourced by friends, colleagues, and bosses. According to an AVG study, 92 percent of children under the age of two already have a digital footprint.”

At http://www.forbes.com/sites/shamahyder/2014/08/18/7-things-you-can-do-to-build-an-awesome-personal-brand/, Hyder posted “7 Things You Can Do to Build an Awesome Personal Brand,” including the following outlined summary. (Take a look – you won’t be sorry!)
  1. A young caucasian woman outdoors in a meadow, working on her computerStart thinking of yourself as a brand
  2. Audit your online presence
  3. Secure a personal website
  4. Find ways to produce value
  5. Be purposeful in what you share
  6. Associate with other strong brands
  7. Reinvent

You can learn something about branding from an accountant. In “Five Tips on Branding Yourself” (by the American Institute of CPAs) at http://www.aicpa.org/InterestAreas/YoungCPANetwork/Resources/Career/Pages/FiveTipsToBrandingYourself.aspx, steps are offered to help build a positive image and promote your professionalism. Branding helps “to remain current in your field, opens doors for you, and creates a lasting impression…”

  1. Define your brand and become an expert.
  2. Establish a presence.
  3. Generate brand awareness through networking.
  4. Remember the 3 Cs of brandingclarity, consistency, constancy.
  5. Get feedback from those who know you best—at work, at home, anywhere.

marching-band-1440110-1For #1 above, hopefully you have already read my epistle (see https://paulkfoxusc.wordpress.com/2015/07/04/marketing-yourself-and-your-k-12-music-certification/) on not limiting your options or selling yourself short as a music specialist (e.g. band director or elementary vocal teacher). If you want a job with a Pennsylvania Music K-12 Instructional certificate or equivalent, you have to be “expert” on all types and grade levels of public school music.

The music curriculum leader/department chair/lead teacher involved in the employment screening will want to know your mastery of creating lessons in everything from the foundations of “steady beat” and “matching pitch” to developing advanced technique and musicianship in any/all instrumental and vocal ensembles, including jazz improvisation, a cappella singing, and string chamber music.

However, principals, HR staff, and other administrators will likely care more about your classroom management skills, ability to communicate and work with others, personal initiative and willingness to work after school and in the evenings, record of consistent attendance (low incidence of absenteeism or tardiness re: college classes and other work history), and other personality characteristics. Believe it or not, at more than one interview, I was asked, “Since you call yourself trained as a musician, are you temperamental?”

The single most comprehensive publication on branding (and it looks like it is provided as a free service!) is The Complete Guide to Building Your Personal Brand by Neil Patel and Aaron Agius” at https://www.quicksprout.com/the-complete-guide-to-building-your-personal-brand/.

According to them, the greatest rationale for building your personal brand is that it opens up more professional opportunities. “Creating a vision for your future and implementing that vision can lead to a better job…” You should take time to read the guide’s chapters in detail:
  • your-brand-new-website-1-1058679How to Create Your Personal Brand Vision
  • How to Define Your Target Audience
  • How to Build Up Your Online and Offline Assets
  • How to Build Your Brand Through Outreach
  • How to Get Free Press Coverage
  • How to Connect with Mentors
  • How to Monitor your Brand
  • Be Yourself Because Everyone Else Is Taken

After you peruse all of the above material on personal branding, here are my top ten “takeaways” specific to every budding music teacher.

  1. Your personal brand is everything about you – your values, attitudes, integrity, initiative, work ethic, skills, and personality traits.
  2. Remember, a career in public/private school education is based on very conservative values. Be cognizant of what you say, how you look and act, and the overall image you portray. “Everything you say and do (or have ever said or done) may be used against you…”
  3. In this profession, there’s no place for too much levity or a lack of respect for conformity, longstanding traditions, and the orthodox. At my first job interview, I carelessly made a crack about signing an outdated “loyalty” oath (“I promise I am not a communist and will not try to overthrow the government…”), the result of which the superintendent gave me a major tongue-lashing and a 20-minute lecture on patriotism (but, somehow I still got the job!).
  4. shame-1431469Clean up your social media sites (Facebook, etc.). A photo of you and your college buddies drinking “adult beverages” in bathing suits at a beach may be misinterpreted. Google your name to see what comes up. How would you define the content you see of yourself online?
  5. Create a personal website to warehouse the elements of your “professional brand,” including your philosophy of music education, mission, goals, and a digital resume of your education,  experience, and accomplishments. If your college/university does not set you up with a free online site, explore “doing-it-yourself” with WordPress, Wix, or Weebly.com.
  6. The only social medium I can recommend without reservation is LinkedIn. Create and optimize your professional identity on LinkedIn, everything from getting an excellent photo of yourself to providing copious samples of your references, writing, hands-on teaching experiences, etc.
  7. If you have personal essays on your educational philosophy and vision, share your priorities as they relate to music curriculum, lesson targets, concert programming, assertive discipline, collaborative projects, and professional development, and always be ready for the most commonly asked interview questions (beat them to the punch by posting in writing your thoughts): Why is music essential to a child’s education? Why did you choose to become a music educator? Who had the greatest influence on you and why? What are your greatest strengths and weaknesses in this field?
  8. PaulFox_LogoIf you have time, design a personal logo, a symbol of you wherever you go on websites, e-mail footer, digital and printed portfolios, business cards, etc. Although I retired in 2013, I created the illustration at the above right. It implies that I am “a happy fox” (my last name), involved in music, and especially love a certain Beethoven symphony, reinforcing that I am an orchestral musician.
  9. Better than providing quick one or two-sentence answers to the interviewers’ questions, try to assemble a collection of personal anecdotes that dramatically illustrate your musical and teaching skills, critical thinking and problem solving, personality traits like patience, compassion, self-control, and thoughtfulness, and past successes. (For more information on developing story-telling skills, go to https://paulkfoxusc.wordpress.com/2015/08/02/when-it-comes-to-getting-a-job-s-is-for-successful-storytelling/).
  10. Whenever possible, archive your student teaching and other field experiences. “A picture says a thousands words!” Post short online video, audio, and photo examples of your positive interactions in music and with students in all kinds of settings.

One final thought. The best advice I have learned about branding is that it is all about “work in progress.” According to Adii Pienaar in “How to Build Your Personal Brand: The Next Step to Anything” (http://thenextweb.com/entrepreneur/2013/08/18/your-personal-brand-the-next-step-to-anything/), “Your brand is a living organism just like you are as a human and it needs to mirror the same kind of progression, evolution and maturation that you experience in your own mac-stuff-4-1500018life. Whilst legacy is important (as it gives context to your brand), continuous improvement and change should be part of how you shape your brand over time.”

He adds, “Your brand should make mistakes and you should have the opportunity to learn from them.” Just like a model college-entrance essay relating how you have persevered and adapted to life’s challenges and solved problems, your online presence should reveal your dedication to and steps towards self-improvement.

Finally, I echo Pienaar’s conclusion that there is no time like the present to get to work on personal branding: “Start today and brand shamelessly.”

 

PKF

© 2015 Paul K. Fox