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With the global economy having off-loaded countless jobs in the wake of the Coronavirus pandemic, the hunt for work opportunities has more than intensified.
And in a fiercely competitive job market, misrepresenting a few details on your CV, during an interview, or even on your social media profiles might be tempting. Especially when you feel as though you don’t adequately measure up to competing applicants.
There is something else to think about. The new National Qualifications Framework Amendment Act 2019, signed into law by President Cyril Ramaphosa, means that prospective students and job applicants might be prosecuted, given up to five years in jail for misrepresenting their credentials.
It’s an illegal offense for any person to falsely claim to hold a qualification that’s registered on the NQF database or awarded by an accredited institution. This means even if you only publish the information online (and not on any transmitted documents), it’s still measured as an offense.
If sentenced in a court of law, the offender might get a fine or imprisonment of up to five years, or both, depending on the type of case being litigated.
And since we live in the digital-led/information overload age, it’s doubly important to learn how to share and effectively manage the information you share about yourself.
Now, let’s take a look into personal branding, to help you think about how to cultivate, tell and live an authentic story as you shape your career.
Your personal brand, in a nutshell, is the way in which you position and promote yourself and your work. It’s the essence of the person you are, all of your history, education attained, your skills and their commercial value, your worldview, and what direction you want to take your career.
It’s also a narrative that speaks about how you dress, how you move, speak, your personality traits/quirks, and your ability to build healthy/enduring relationships with other people.
To begin constructing your personal brand narrative, you need to…
- Identify your unique characteristics that carry commercial value.
- Learn how they connect with your work and then intentionally build a reputation around those qualities.
- Continue learning and refining what sets you apart from other professionals.
- Once you’ve fairly figured it out, develop a working system that works for you on order to replicate efficient and consistent results.
In many instances, people find it difficult to evaluate and effectively pitch the value of their skills.
To mitigate that, take a bit of time and think about these three things…
- What is your personal story?
- What is the one thing you want another person to remember about you after a meeting with you?
- What noticeable value do you want other people to take away from spending time with you?
Ultimately, the goal is to create a strong intersection of skills that convey a specific message about you.
Play the long game
As you begin to sell your skills and knowledge, ask yourself tough questions about your intentions. Sure, you apply for work opportunities mainly because there’s money to be made. But it’s also important to think about long-term career goals.
For example, imagine this scenario: What type of projects do you see yourself working on in the next ten to fifteen years?
And while you think about that: Does working at that level of your industry naturally come with strict protocols and background/reputational checks?
The point is that it’s relatively easy to make compromising professional decisions in the current moment. And those decisions might eventually box you in and jeopardize the availability of future work.
The nature of professional dishonesty
Lying can range from excluding key facts, timelines, all the way to blatant fraud.
The most typical cases of professional dishonesty generally revolve around the following five:
- Academic qualifications: misrepresenting these by claiming ownership of a degree you have never achieved, or falsely claiming higher grades.
- Dishonest reasons for leaving previous jobs. Example: hiding that you were fired from a previous job and the accompanying reasons.
- The exaggeration of previous salaries or level of responsibility.
- Providing bogus references and points of contact.
- Falsely upselling previous work experiences, skill sets, age, etc.
And aside from the references that you provide, recruiters have the option to write to your current and previous employers. They might even contact your high school, college or university, with a request to confirm your employment or educational qualification(s).
Potential employers may also hire specialist security businesses to perform background checks on your story and documents before processing any agreement with you.
Ultimately, you need to always keep in mind two things…
- There is a difference between presenting yourself in the best possible way and deliberate misrepresentation.
- Building a career is a long-term job. (Even if you change career at some point, the name and reputation remain.)