Personal branding is a vital part of a successful job search. It can have long-term effects on your career path as well as your earning potential. I can’t emphasize enough to my clients the importance of positive personal branding. Before you can build your own personal brand, you must understand what it is and how to wield it to your benefit in today’s career market.
What is Personal Branding?
Personal branding is the practice of people marketing themselves, their talents, and their careers as a brand. It is how you’re known or thought of by other people. We think of it mostly from a professional or career standpoint, but it spans across your career and personal life. It is an ongoing process where you establish a professional image, leaving an impression on others about who you are, what you can do, and why they should want to work with you. Personal branding is about what people know you for professionally, how people view you, and the value you bring to others.
Figure out your personal brand now if you haven’t already. Start by visiting Reach Personal Branding online and taking a few of the branding assessments. I recommend sitting down and mapping out what you believe you’re best known for and what you feel like your best brand attributes are. If you need help, Reach Personal Branding has a free brand attributes quiz to help you get started.
Utilize Your Resources
Once you’ve discovered your brand attributes, find out what those closest to you believe your brand is. Your personal brand is in the minds of those who know you best and they can help you uncover what it is so you can best market it for your career benefit. Reach Personal Branding also has a great 360-degree brand-assessment tool you can send out to your network to gather insights into your own brand image. I was very surprised at what my network had to say about my brand—and it helped me to recognize my strengths and better market those to my target audience. You’ll be able to see what does and does not resonate with those around you so you can make appropriate adjustments to your own personal branding.
Figure Out Why
Take some time to sit down and think about why you absolutely love doing what you do. Many people know what they do, but few know why they do it. Make a list of two or three things that drive the passions behind your work. This list will help you to define your personal brand and plan ahead for further career growth.
Be Authentic in All Communications
Most people aren’t expecting perfection. Be genuine about who you are and why you love what you do. Forget the idea of a 30-second elevator pitch. To me, that seems forced and too sales-like. Instead, just be very down-to-earth when talking to others about what you’re passionate about and why you love what you do. Just being yourself can go a long way.
Send a Consistent Message
Regardless of the platform, keep your message consistent. Whether you’re posting social media updates, writing your resume, or you’re sitting in an interview, carry the same message across all channels about your personal brand. Are you an eternal optimist who loves to inspire others to learn and grow? Great! Share an example during interviews of how you’ve done that, keep your LinkedIn status updates positive and inspiring, and share opportunities with others to help them learn and grow.
Be a Thought Leader
Share your expertise and thoughts with the world. Don’t worry about saying what everyone else is saying or what you think everyone wants to hear. Give people your advice and your thoughts on your industry and position. What has worked for you? Write articles or blogs to share tips with your network about what’s worked for you in your industry and what has not.
Learn and Grow
Continue investing in knowledge of your industry, new trends, what works, and what doesn’t. Never stop learning and growing. I advise clients to find subject matter experts and thought leaders they admire and follow them. Read their blog posts, sign up for their webinars, enroll in their online courses. Locate organizations thriving in your industry that are staying at the forefront of trends and learn from the best. This can mean taking classes, attending conferences, or earning a new certification or credential. Knowledge and wisdom gained from those who’ve walked the road before you is never a bad investment.
Managers love proactive employees who are always one step ahead and have a solution to a problem without being asked. When a promotion opportunity arises, these are the people who are offered promotions first. As an employer, my employees who are willing to learn and grow, graciously accept feedback, and who are proactive in resolving issues as they arise without being asked are the first ones I think of when new growth opportunities come up within my company. They are also the first ones I will create new roles for because I can trust them. I know they’re loyal—and I am more willing to invest in their ongoing training and development within the company.
Look back over your career in 2016 to assess your performance, growth, and goals. Are there any areas of weakness or opportunities for improvement? Pursue training in those exact areas. Invest in yourself and your long-term career growth by keeping a teachable mindset and being a lifelong learner. Employers will take note of your enthusiasm and effort to learn, grow, and improve.
The Do-Nots of Personal Branding
There are a few things you should avoid when building your personal brand. Keep the following in mind:
*Don’t stagnate. Keep learning, growing, and getting better at what you do.
*Keep it positive. Negativity will hurt you more than a lack of experience.
*Culture fit is king. People report higher levels of career satisfaction when there is a culture fit.
*People want to hire employees with a great attitude and terrific character. Prove you have those two qualities plus the experience and you have a golden ticket to success.
Help Is Available
If you need expert help, there are many certified personal branding experts who can help you discover, define, communicate, and market your personal brand for your career growth. For example, I completed the Certified Social Branding Analyst program through Reach Personal Branding where I was able to use all of the tools I recommended above to help me define my own brand attributes and tap into my network to gather insight.
The Changing Landscape of Social Media
When it comes to personal branding, the biggest changes are in the world of social media. Today, people feel like they must have a presence on every social media platform and should invest hours updating, reading, and networking. This can become all-consuming and overwhelming. It simply doesn’t have to be this way.
First, put your social media on auto-pilot using a platform such as SocialOomph® or Hootsuite®. Who says you have to be on LinkedIn all day? Invest 10 minutes a day catching up or touching base, then take a break. Don’t feel like you have to be everywhere all the time. You don’t. Choose one or two social media sites that support your brand, career goals, and industry and invest your time there.
When you’re online, focus on building your subject matter expertise. Write about what you know and share that insight with the world through your professional blog, LinkedIn®, or other medium.
I tell my clients that when it comes to job searching, personal branding, and networking, LinkedIn still rules the roost. It is the first place recruiters source top talent, which, coincidentally, is not where talent goes to find work. Surveys overwhelmingly reveal job seekers use Facebook® to find opportunities. If you are passively open to new opportunities, turn on the Open Candidate feature of your LinkedIn account, which will confidentially signal recruiters—without notifying your current company—that you are looking for a new position. Glassdoor® is another popular site for job seekers; you can learn about companies that are hiring, as well as their culture.
The Final Three
Overall, I believe there are three things that can help you to advance your personal brand and career—whether you’re staying where you are in 2017 or you’re ready for a career change. Become an expert at what you do, be kind to everyone (it matters more than you think in your career growth), and be others-centered. We often get so wrapped up in advancing our careers that we forget one of the best ways to advance is to focus on helping others, too.