Note: thank you to our friends at IABC Seattle for hosting “IABC Seattle Pro-Talk with Suzanne O’Brien.” O’Brien, a career coach and founder/CEO of LevelUp Careers, led a discussion on how to advance your communications career. The following is a recap of the event, and it recently appeared in Catalyst, the official publication of IABC. 

By: Mary Gable

You might think that communications pros would be naturals at the job search. After all, we write copy that draws readers in. We develop messaging strategies that help businesses get noticed. We prepare talking points that make leaders shine.

But sometimes the hardest product to sell is yourself — and even the savviest communicators aren’t immune from this challenge. Fortunately, even if you dread updating your resume or working your network, there are a few easy ways you can use your communication skills to help land your next job. 

That’s exactly what Suzanne OBrien shared during IABC’s Seattle’s latest ProTalk. Suzanne is a career coach and founder/CEO of Suzanne OBrien Careers and specializes in helping professionals define their value, build a professional brand and maximize results at each step of the job search. Here are a few of the top takeaways from the discussion. 

Don’t: Think of job descriptions as a list of requirements. 
Do: Consider them an employer’s wish list. 

Job descriptions often include a statement such as, “The ideal candidate will have…” Many job seekers, particularly women, tend to interpret this as a list of must-haves. However, the key word here is “ideal,” Suzanne says. “It might be that you haven’t done that exact thing, but have done something similar. Or have done it in your personal life. Or are passionate about the space. Whatever the situation, find a way to tell that story and bridge that gap.”

She points out that this is equally important to consider if you’re the hiring manager and want to be more inclusive. “If you would still hire a strong candidate who didn’t meet a particular requirement, take it out.”

Don’t: Focus on where you fall short.
Do: Share what you’ve accomplished. 

In resumes and cover letters, we tend to say things like, “I currently lead communications at a healthcare company, but I’d really like to lead communications at a tech company.” We lead with the differences and things we don’t currently do. This draws attention to where we’re unqualified. 

Instead, Suzanne says, “Imagine a Venn diagram with what you’ve done in one circle, and where you want to be in another. Build your story around where they intersect.” 

Don’t: Over-emphasize the job you already have. 
Do: Position yourself for the job you want. 

Use LinkedIn’s features to your advantage. While the headline of your profile could be [TITLE] at [COMPANY], if you’re looking for a new role, use that space to position yourself for where you want to go next. Your summary is another great place to articulate your personal brand and highlight what you can offer — even if it’s not exactly what you’re doing now. 

“A given task might only be 10% of the work you’re doing now. But if it’s 90% of what you want to be doing in the future, that’s where you should focus,” Suzanne says. And while the most challenging projects might be the ones you’re most proud of, “If you hated doing it, don’t put it on your resume.”

Don’t: Worry about being well-rounded. 
Do: Develop your personal brand. 

Recruiters and hiring managers are likely sorting through hundreds of applications for a position. One way to stand out is to send a clear and consistent message across your LinkedIn profile, resume, cover letter and interviews — and you can do this by determining your personal brand. 

Suzanne recommends that clients think about their personal brands in terms of three themes. “These could include the work you do, how you go about doing it, how you interact with others, or what you’d like to be doing,” she says. 

“If you’re stumped on an interview question, bring it back to one of your three themes. This will leave interviewers with a clear idea of what you have to offer and what sets you apart.”

Photo: Tima Miroshnichenko at