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Personal Branding and Your Career

Job hunting is increasingly competitive in a world dominated by technological advancements. A resume alone is not enough to get you the job of your dreams. Having a strong, effective personal brand will be an important factor in helping you secure a job role. In current job hiring practices, recruiters often look up a potential candidate online as part of their selection process. In a 2018 CareerBuilder survey, 70% of employers use social media to screen candidates. This means that, even before you walk into an interview, the personal brand you have created, will be the first impression employers form about you.

How is personal branding related to your career?

Originally a term borrowed from business marketing, branding is used by businesses to convince consumers that what they offer is a better choice than other firms. In the same way, your personal brand, if well-presented, will help you stand out amongst fellow job-seekers competing for the same role. After securing the job, investing time to improve your personal brand will build up your reputation, allowing you to develop a career path that may take on different transitions in the future.

A personal brand consists of an online and offline presence. Most of our personal branding is done online. However, we have to make sure that our offline presence is consistent with the message we communicate online.

What makes up your brand?

Unlike what many job seekers think, your personal brand is within your control. Your LinkedIn profile allows you to highlight your strengths, showcase projects that you have done (at work or outside of work), reflect your extensive professional network or draw attention to authentic recommendations by ex-colleagues or clients. Other social media profiles, on Instagram, for example, can paint a fuller picture of your personal life. These glimpses into your personality can sometimes influence a recruiter’s first impression of you. For example, an accountant may struggle to communicate his creative talent through his day-to-day operations. However, a post about his volunteering experience at a non-profit organisation and how his idea launched a community fund-raising event will reflect his ability to generate innovative ideas.

Developing your personal brand

Some important factors to consider in creating and developing your brand:

Tip #1 - Know yourself, understand what is unique about you.

Your personal brand reflects your personal and professional identity, hence it is important to spend some time to reflect on (a) what your values are (2) what motivates you (3) what characteristics have others complimented you on (4) what projects have you enjoyed doing (5) what roles are more draining for you and which roles energise you. Most importantly, ensure that your strengths are visible in your narrative. Note that your personal brand changes as your career progress, so it is important to return to this first step every time you decide to make a career change and rebrand yourself.

Tip #2 - Determine the message you want to convey.

As you identify your strengths and weaknesses, align them with the industry or job function in which you hope to work in. Note the areas where you can shine and make sure these are highlighted when you convey your brand to potential employers. For weaknesses, you may want to look at where you can compensate for the challenges or find ways to upskill and improve on them.

When communicating your brand, try to take a futuristic approach – where do you want to be in 3- 5 years? That goal will help you to craft a message that is going to support your career ambition. Focus on identifying transferable skills or personality traits that help to promote you as an ideal candidate for your future preferred job role.

Tip #3 - Define your audience (who you are speaking to)

Determine who you are reaching out to – is it a recruiter at a specific firm? Or an industry thought leader? Knowing your audience helps you to craft your story and decided where you need to tell it. For example, LinkedIn would be where recruiters will be reading about your brand story. But if you are a designer, trying to impress clients and potential customers, then a portfolio or a personal website/ blog, with images would be more effective in highlighting your talents.

Tip #4 - Research your industry of choice and follow the experts

Doing some research on the areas in which you hope to work in, will give you added knowledge required for your job interviews. Follow and engage with experts in those industries, as this will allow you to gain insights that help make you a stronger candidate when you apply for a job.

Tip #5 - Prepare a personal statement and a verbal elevator pitch (your brand pitch)

Spend time to craft a personal statement, as well as a 60-second elevator pitch. This is a short, concise summary of your story (which can include your strengths, your passion and the position you are looking for). The elevator pitch can be used at networking events and can also be weaved into your self-introduction at job interviews. The personal statement may be incorporated into the summary header of your LinkedIn profile. Always ask yourself “Why should an employer choose me over someone else?” and ensure that your personal statement has some answers for that question.

Tip #6 - Ask for recommendations

Endorsements from former and current colleagues and supervisors are essential to building credibility for your personal brand. Just as a product relies on customer’s testimonials to gain the buyer’s trust, recommendations on LinkedIn or in your job application forms or resume, can greatly add to your personal brand. You can also reach out to clients, vendors or other stakeholders whom you have worked with to endorse your capabilities or achievements in your past or current professional interactions with them.

Tip #7 - Grow your online presence

If you choose to use Linkedin, Instagram or a personal website to convey your brand, be sure to keep your online presence engaging and interesting for audience you hope to impress. Not every post needs to be self-promotional. You can share on topics you are passionate about, issues on which you would like to share an opinion or even something personal that reflects a part of your personality. Make sure your brand story matches across all the platforms you choose to use. In addition, adjust your privacy settings on your profiles, if you wish for certain information to be shared only with family and friends. This will ensure that potential employers do not stumble upon information that might jeopardise your chance of landing a job.

Source: Canva

Generally, LinkedIn is the most commonly used platform to build your professional brand. Websites or personal blogs are another good communication media used to promote your professional image.

Here are some specific tips when using these platforms:

LinkedIn - When creating your profile, try to

  • Quantify your accomplishment - validate them with actual numbers, pictures or specific details

  • Focus on your skills – as these are transferable and can allow you to career transit or change job functions. For example, highlighting ‘Problem-solving skills’ will increase your chances of being a suitable candidate for a wider range of roles than stating “resolve walk-in customer’s complaints”

  • Include a professional photograph in your profile

Personal website, portfolio or blog

Certain sectors and job function would require you to display your creative work. Create a site using website designers like Wix or WordPress, so that you can display your portfolio of completed project. For job functions, such as writing or designing, examples of your past work, displayed on your website are extremely useful in communicating your personal brand.

Tip #7 - Take it offline

IEnsure that your personal brand offline matches your online brand. How you carry yourself in the office, your overall manner of speaking, what you wear and how you introduce yourself – these all act to your overall brand. Make sure that there is consistency with what you have shared about yourself online. The story you tell, together with your everyday interactions shape up your personal brand.

As our career develops, our personal brand also changes. It is therefore necessary to constantly reassess where we are and what we hope to achieve in the future. This rebranding exercise is something that you should do annually as you take stock of your professional successes. There will be new skills learnt, unexpected challenges overcome, interesting projects started and other relevant updates which you should highlight as your career path revamps. This allows you to pitch yourself to an audience that is more aligned to your own updated career goals.

A personal brand grows with us. As our career path shifts shape, remember to constantly revamp and rebrand your professional brand, aligning it with your updated goals.

Found this useful?

Check our other article on Leveraging Linkedin to Start and Build Your Career.

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