Perfect your own brand, land a job

To get a job in the fashion industry, Elizabeth Ragone created her own personal blog and brand.

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By Jessica Dickler, CNNMoney.com staff writer

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Creating a blog was part of Elizabeth Ragone's personal branding strategy.
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NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- Image is everything in fashion, even when it comes to finding a job.

When Elizabeth Ragone perfected her image and marketed her online brand, landing a great job in retail was a snap.

Ragone knows plenty about branding. After co-founding a clothing store two years ago out of Madison Wis., Ragone, 39, thought she had made it in the fashion world. But when the recession brought the business to a standstill, she had no choice but to let herself go.

For the sake of the company, several of its founders had to leave. Ragone was one of them. "I had to lay myself off," she explained, "there was no other way."

With only a modest buyout, Ragone left voluntarily so that the store could survive. That left Ragone's family in a difficult position. "I was the sole breadwinner with a stay-at-home-dad/husband, a preschooler and new baby and I'd put everything into that company."

"First, I cried a lot," she said. "Then I figured out my plan of attack."

Ragone says she made two decisions at the outset: "I wasn't going to be proud," she said. "I was going to do everything I could." Ragone went on a spree -- and not the shopping kind. "I contacted every single person I knew with the news, asking to be kept in mind for any opportunity they may encounter."

Ragone also put more emphasis on social networking and created a blog with her résumé and experience on the job hunt "to establish a personal brand."

In the meantime, Ragone started a small consulting business to help pay the bills. "It was the best of both worlds: openly looking but employed and therefore more desirable," Ragone said. "I wasn't desperate." She chronicled her activities on her blog.

When a former colleague gave her a tip on an upcoming opening as a merchandising manager for women's clothing company Chico's, Ragone was ready. Even though the job was located in Florida, Ragone wanted to apply. "We decided we really did need to be open to anything," she said.

By March the position was posted and Ragone's in at the company helped her land an interview with the team. She pointed them to her blog which elaborated on her knowledge of e-commerce and business. By April she was hired, and in May she relocated with her family and started her new career.

"I feel extremely grateful to feel so secure right now, especially after the horrible feeling of having to leave a job I loved in November," Ragone said.

Maintain your online image

Our career experts agree that starting a blog and using social networking tools can be a great way to build your "brand" and is an effective job search strategy.

"It gives employers more information about the job seeker," said Cheryl Palmer, an executive career coach at Call To Career in Silver Spring, Md. Palmer recommends that job seekers use social media and blogs as a way of demonstrating their skills, awareness of new trends in the industry and current projects.

"Especially for someone who doesn't have a traditional employment background, writing a blog can be such a great way to establish expertise," echoed Kathy Robinson, the founder of TurningPoint, a career consulting firm in greater Boston.

"An employer can see you are conversant on a number of different topics, even if they aren't listed on your résumé," she said.

But be selective about what you put out there, advises Palmer. "Those are not the places to gripe," she cautioned. "You don't want to give a negative impression on yourself," she said.

If you are going to use it to brand yourself from a job search standpoint, "where you went to dinner and party pictures are not appropriate," added Robinson. "Keep it professional and industry specific."

Read updates on the people previously profiled in Hired! Join the Hired! group on Facebook.

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