Personal branding is the ongoing process of establishing a prescribed image or impression in the mind of others about yourself. Your personal brand encompasses who you believe yourself to be, but also how others think of you. It’s your reputation!
Why is it important to your next career move?
Studies show that it takes 3 seconds for someone to make a lasting and complete impression of you. In the past, that’s been based on how you dress, what you look like or the firmness of your handshake. Now, you make a first impression at the glance of a profile.
You have not only the ability but the need to manage your own reputation, both online and in real life. Employers will Google you before they even invite you to an interview. And when you interact with people, both online and offline, they’ll build up an image of who you are over time.
If you are intentional about the way you present yourself, and your engagement in your community, you will see results above and beyond your counterparts who aren’t. Don’t leave your professional reputation to chance.
1. Know your audience
If you are looking for opportunities, who is most likely to grant these to you? Whose attention do you need to gain in order to open your professional doors?
If you’re job searching, your target audience will be recruiters and hiring managers in your industry and companies you aspire to work in. You also need to be aware of who your competition in the marketplace is and what differentiates you from them?
What do the people competing for the same jobs as you typically have to offer? What is it about you that makes you the best hiring choice? What additional value do you bring to the table, that no one else does?
2. Understand your value
People with strong brands are clear about who they are. They know and maximize their strengths. When building out your brand goals, think about the value you bring to the table. Consider the following:
- What are your natural strengths?
- What do you do extremely well?
- What do people acknowledge you for?
3. Create your personal brand statement
In what functions and responsibilities do you excel? For what things are you the designated “go-to” person? What problems do you solve for your future employers based on your past achievements and "skills library" and what gap would your company be faced with if you left suddenly?
Your statement should communicate who you are, it should be simple and memorable, and it should feel inspiring to you.
Here’s mine as an example:
- "My name is Bec O’Connor. I am a consultant and mentor working in the career development industry, specializing in helping professionals and managers to secure their next perfect role. I love coaching and empowering clients in defining their goals, knowing their worth, and creating a professional brand that gives them confidence and lands them the role they deserve!"
Note: From my experience, you will probably tweak it 10,000 times over. That’s ok. Just get something down on paper to start building that confidence about what you do, why you do it and how well you do it.
4. Harness the power of LinkedIn
You can’t afford to skip LinkedIn in developing your personal brand. Almost 9 out of 10 hiring managers use the platform to look up applicants and potential interviewees. Your profile will likely show up in one of the top spots in Google search results. So, by default, like it or not, your LinkedIn profile is often going to be your first impression.
It is essential that you invest time and energy to make your profile complete, authentic, differentiated, and compelling. Does your LinkedIn qualify you for your dream job? Think about how each piece of information you provide could be perceived.
Profile Picture: Your profile headshot is the first thing people will see. Including a professional photo increases your profile views by up to a factor of 21.
Headline: Use this to describe what you do, who you help or what you’d like to be doing with your unique skill set.
Summary: Your summary is a key element of your ‘brand’ on LinkedIn. Make it clear how you can help your ideal audience and keep it future-focused and aspirational – demonstrating what results you can help them achieve, and supporting with key highlights and contributions from your career history.
Networking: Everything you do from liking a post, commenting on an article, curating (sharing and commenting) on others content, contributes to your online reputation. Be mindful and purposeful. Contribute to the dialogue in your industry. Write about what you know. Say thank you to those adding value to your learning. Don’t be derogatory in your comments regardless of how silly what you just read seems. Personalise connection requests, especially for those that potentially make decisions regarding your next career move. Be consistent.
Recommendations are social proof that you talk the talk and walk the walk. They’re a way to validate what you say about yourself with input from others. Offer and request recommendations from people who have witnessed your work to strengthen and support your work and credibility in the industry.
5. Consider a personal website
The personal website is a great way to further build and control your personal brand, presence and messaging in addition to your standard resume and LinkedIn profile (particularly if you’re in the technology and design fields where you can practically showcase your skills).
Personal Branding is not so much a tangible end goal or destination but a by-product of consistently adding value to your industry and community, being clear in your messaging and more importantly, integrity in what you say and do.