It’s a “dog eat dog” world out there in the job market. Whatever profession you’re in, there seems to be a ready supply of smarter, more experienced, more relevant, and somehow more convincing people that you’re competing against. How do they do it and, more important, what can you learn from their success?
It all comes down to your personal brand. The concept of “personal branding” isn’t new—just take a look at celebrities and high-profile professionals to see how their images are meticulously managed. Today people in business are also getting in on the act, developing their own personal brand as part of a long-term career strategy.
If you’re not sure how to go about it, here’s a step-by-step approach to get started:
1. Find out your strengths and play to them.
What are you really good at? What are your professional skills? Every brand should be built on a strong foundation, so be honest about what you can offer to potential employers. Define one or two unique selling points about yourself and then put all your energies into reinforcing the message. Once you know what your talents and professional capabilities are, you can start building your story.
2. Work out what value you add to your industry.
Figuring out who you are, professionally speaking, is one thing, but showing that you are relevant to your industry is quite another. Why should someone hire you rather than the other 10 applicants with the same qualifications? What benefits can you deliver that the others can’t? What makes you stand out? It’s important that you know the value of what you can contribute so you can build your story around that specific narrative and show potential employers why they need you.
3. Develop your internet presence.
Resumes and CVs are, literally, yesterday’s news. If you’re looking for a powerful, flexible, easily updatable and, above all, global platform to showcase what you’re all about, you need to be online. Choose relevant social media networks such as LinkedIn, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, Google+, etc., and create professional profiles. Build up a network of industry contacts who can connect you to new opportunities. Set up a website or your own blog—easy to do with WordPress, even for non-techies—and use it as a shop window for your brand.
4. Fill your platforms with compelling content.
You have something to say and a voice, now it’s time to use it. Create great content that informs and engages, and share it across your platforms to show that you are an expert in your field. Content can take many forms, from regular blog posts to videos and webcasts, Twitter chats, to in-depth white papers, and joining relevant content communities and social media group discussion groups. You can quickly build your brand simply by being part of the conversation, engaging with people across your industry or chosen field.
5. Always keep your content and brand up-to-date.
Brand management is an ongoing process. Far from being a static “thing,” your personal brand should develop and evolve all the time to show that you are continually widening your horizons and growing professionally. It’s important not to let your content go stale; your profiles are only ever as relevant as your most recent updates! What do you think will impress a potential employer more—a candidate who actively interacts on, say LinkedIn, with relevant and informative posts and comments, or someone who publishes a lackluster blog update once in a blue moon?
6. Live your personal brand.
Here’s the thing: If you consider personal branding as nothing more than a useful tool to help with your job search, you’ve wildly underestimated its power. For your brand to be successful, you need to live it. Authenticity is key. Whether people meet you online or offline, you have to come across as the person your say you are. To attain maximum professional credibility, everything you do or say should reinforce your carefully created personal brand.
Clearly, this can affect your personal life too, especially if some of it is conducted online. Beware that potential employers are now very clued in about vetting candidates’ social media profiles. Make sure that you’re consistently true to your personal brand statement, not accidentally sabotaging what you’ve worked so hard to build up.