Finding the next step in your career is never an easy or fun process. You’re a slave to the job market, the economic climate, and often-outdated hiring practices. It’s time-consuming, with applications sometimes taking hours after tailoring CV’s and cover letters, and filling in lengthy questionnaires and forms. And after all of that, you have absolutely no idea who or how many people have applied, so there’s no guarantee you will even receive any feedback. In such a hot job market, it’s important to find ways of standing out amongst the crowd, getting noticed, and becoming a sought-after candidate. So what if rather than chasing that dream role (which can often be a soul-destroying exercise), you could have top companies & recruiters chasing YOU? By developing your personal brand and positioning yourself as a thought-leader and subject-matter expert in your field, you can suddenly become the prize everyone’s after.
Developing and maintaining a personal brand is more than just ‘posting a lot on LinkedIn’. You need to give a lot of thought as to how you want to be perceived and what you want to be known for, and strategically and purposefully create and share assets that reflect that. Below are 10 things you can do to build your own personal brand, and plant yourself firmly on the road to success.
1. Know your WHY.
If you’ve never watched Simon Sinek’s famous TED Talk, immediately go and do so now. It will be 20 minutes of your life well spent. Your WHY is so important because it is the reason for doing everything you do. By starting with your WHY, you will be able to develop your brand and career goals in line with your core beliefs, passion & mission. Your WHY is going to be extremely personal to you, and it should be as it will be the thing that gets you through the rough patches. Put aside some quiet time and get really honest with yourself about why you want to achieve the success you do, and this will give you a solid foundation for your personal brand.
2. Start thinking of yourself as a brand.
If you were building a business and needed to develop a brand from scratch, where would you start? Probably with identifying your target audience, understanding their problems and what you can do to solve them, and being honest with yourself about your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. Develop a vision for your career, define your Unique Selling Proposition (i.e. knowing why people would want to hire you over another candidate), and start making a plan that aligns with those goals.
3. Sort out your online presence.
In this day and age, recruiters, hiring managers and potential colleagues will always search for you online before offering you a job, or even an interview. In order to understand how they might perceive you, start by doing a Google search on your name, location and job title or industry. Only when you know where you stand online can you begin to shape your persona. Go through your socials and delete / edit anything that doesn’t fit with how you want to be perceived. Remember, this includes Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Tumblr, or any other social platform you use, not just LinkedIn. If you are active online, set up a Google Alert for your name so you know what people are saying about you. If you have a Wikipedia entry, make sure it aligns with your new persona. Be thorough and strategic, and this will pay dividends.
4. Secure a personal domain and set up a website.
This will go a long way to helping you stand out online, and give you an owned platform for delivering your content. It doesn’t need to be fancy, but it will help you rank higher in search results when people inevitably search for you. Include your resume, achievements, blogs and mission statement / values at a minimum. Flesh it out with examples of your work, case studies of projects you have led, and testimonials from past clients, managers & colleagues.
5. Instead of constantly promoting yourself, look for ways to add value.
If you’re not sure what’s valuable to your target audience, there are easy ways to identify this. Firstly, just ask. Seek out 5-10 key people in your field and simply ask them what their most common challenges are, or what major issues they consider the industry to be facing. Then use their answers to create a blog, video or tool that helps solves that problem for them. Alternatively, you can use an online tool like BuzzSumo to research what content is performing the best for your industry at that time, then create something that goes a step further.
6. Be purposeful in what you share.
Your brand is made up of every status update, tweet, and photo you share, so make sure that each one aligns with your values. Take care, be detail-oriented, and think through the reasons for sharing what you do. If it doesn’t add value, ladder up to your mission, or have some other specific outcome, perhaps consider not sharing it. Remember, an excellent content strategy is all about quality over quantity.
7. Align yourself with other strong brands.
Your brand can be elevated or destroyed by the company you keep. If you can align your name with organisations, groups & other individuals who already have a respected name, it creates what we in the Marketing biz call a ‘halo effect’. You will automatically be perceived as a respected and strong name, just by associating with them. Look out for groups to join and become involved with, or publications you can provide content to. Be strategic in this.
8. Keep reinventing yourself.
Your story is everything, so make sure you take people on a journey. While consistency is important, you don’t need to be completely rigid and closed off to ideas that don’t immediately align with your vision. It’s fine, great even, to evolve your character or persona as your story develops. You’re human after all, and people can, and often do, change. Just make sure you take your audience with you.
9. Be active in your industry.
You won’t get far operating in a silo. To ensure your brand and reputation is strong, you need to be visible within your industry. To do this you should consider joining online forums, offline networking groups, and industry associations. Participate in the conversations happening in your field, and contribute opinions and advice on current issues affecting your area. Develop relationships with other thought-leaders and find ways of collaborating with them. Volunteer to help out at industry functions so you get to know the key players, and they get to know you. Not much networking happening in your line of work? Consider starting a group that meets regularly for coffee or a drink. I guarantee if you’re looking to network with leaders and peers in your industry, others are too.
10. Inject some personality and HAVE FUN!
Most importantly, don’t get so stuck on the idea of crafting the ‘perfect brand’ that you forget to be you! Your personality is what makes you unique, and the best and most sustainable way of creating a lasting personal brand is by ensuring that your career goals and aspirations align with your personal ones. If your career and personal values are in sync, you won’t waste time worrying about what to say or share. You’ll just know what feels right. You’ll spend a lot less time auditing your socials, because your personal life will be fairly congruent with your business life. And people will be naturally drawn to you because you are authentic and real and relatable. You are your best asset, so show yourself off!
By following these guidelines, you will be well on your way to developing a personal brand that will help you stand out as a candidate and a leader in your industry. Remember to be detail-oriented and thoughtful with what you share, and craft everything with care – because that’s what turns any good brand into a great one.