You may have heard the buzz lately about the importance of having a personal brand and how it’s critical to your professional success. Your ‘brand’ is the sum of your personality, interests, skills, values, and behaviours. Your ‘brand’ is what people think and feel about you, and allows them to predict how you’ll act. Personal branding is a process that helps us see the ‘big picture’ so that we’re more clear on the importance of the smaller steps we’re taking and in how they work together to help us find or create work we love. You can create an effective personal brand by taking simple steps in the following three main areas.
Develop Your Networks
It’s all about who you know. This is not wrong, nor is it something new. Understanding and building your personal and professional networks is a key component of the personal branding process, and of your personal and professional success.
Consider this: an estimated 65–85 percent of jobs are never posted. If your only job search strategy is to comb the online and ‘in real life’ job boards, you’re only accessing 15–35 percent of available jobs—not an effective strategy. How do you access the vast majority of potential jobs? The jobs that are most suited to you?
Through your networks.
Don’t Panic! You don’t need to be a raving extrovert to build successful networks. Just like there are different roles in an effective team, there are different ways to be involved in a network. It’s important that you understand the types of personal and professional networks and take steps now to make sure you are involved in each type.
A network is not built overnight, but you already have personal and professional networks. Your task from today forward is to understand the importance of networks and to make informed and conscious decisions on building more robust and effective networks.
Expand Your Brand
In today’s world having no online presence reflects just as badly on you as having all of those questionable party pictures on your facebook profile. Knowing this gives you power only if you act accordingly, so it’s imperative that you provide positive and compelling online content for people to find. To be proactive, it’s critical that you provide online content and then direct people to it.
Create an online ‘hub’ where you will direct people. If you don’t want to create a website or blog, at least set up a LinkedIn.com profile. Use this web address:
• on your resume and cover letter header
• on your business card, and
• in your email signature
Once you’ve set this up, it looks after itself. You’re free to make updates to your website or LinkedIn profile as required.
Your task from here-on-in is to remain aware of how your online activities reflect on you, and to remember that anything you post online can and will be found by a potential employer. Give them something compelling to find and make it easy to find it!
Friend Yourself First
An effective personal brand isn’t a fiction you create.
An effective personal brand is an accurate professional reflection of who you are. It’s most effective when it reflects back to people what they already think and feel about you. Truth, though, can be more difficult than fiction. Pulling together an effective personal brand means knowing your unique combination of personality type, interests, skills and values—and putting them into words!
Many of us remain in the dark about our greatest strengths and in how other people see us. By far the greatest struggle most of us have in pulling together our personal brand is in getting crystal clear about our strengths and in knowing what we have to offer. And worse, we often minimize them.“You can’t spell ‘barista’ without ‘B.A’.”
The only positive I can pull from this barista quote is in its efficiency of language. In six (or seven) short words, the work of two major groups of people has been minimized and mocked. How often have you heard people minimize their work, or describe their previous work using the word ‘just’ or ‘only’? And then use it as a reason they can’t move toward their goals?
How often have you done it to yourself?
Pulling together an effective personal brand means making a conscious decision to focus on your strengths and skills, and not to be pulled down by limiting thinking. We all have transferable skills that we can build on regardless of our career direction.
Writing your Personal Brand Statement is a great way to get you to start focussing on your strengths and how they fit with the needs of your communities. An effective Personal Brand Statement answers these three questions:
• What are you best at? Think about what you love to do—and why you do it. What makes it fun? When you can answer ‘why’ you do what you love, you’re on your way to defining your ‘superpower’.
• Who do you serve? (Or who is your audience?) Are you looking for a corporate position? Or would you be more effective in the not-for-profit sector? Who are the people you’ll be working with and helping?
• How do you want to be seen in your community(ies)? Professional? Laid-back? Honest? Funny? Are people seeing you in a way you’d like to be seen? Is your reputation helping you or holding you back?
By writing your Personal Brand Statement you’re taking on the responsibility of personal leadership. Don’t worry if you need to take a few kicks at writing this, it will take some revision.
Your task from now on is to remember to focus on your strengths. It’s absolutely critical to your personal and professional success that you have a clear handle on your strengths and skills. Of course you’ll find some areas for improvement—but when you’re truly aware of your strengths you will address these areas of ‘weakness’ with higher self-esteem and personal understanding.
Finding Work You Love
The average job hunt is currently estimated to be on the order of 10 months. If you wait until next Apr. to start searching the job boards, I hope you can predict why most students have difficulty finding any work—let alone work they love.
But if you take on-board some of the ideas here, you’ll put yourself in a significantly better position when you begin looking for work. Take some time to think about your Personal Brand Statement, your online footprint and how robust your networks are. What is one simple step you can take this week to tweak your personal brand? Find me on facebook and let me know!
Beth Campbell Duke keeps quitting ‘perfectly good jobs’ (ask her mother) and now provides Personal Branding consultations and workshops for job hunters, career changers, and ‘intrapreneur’. She writes a weekly blog about branding and the ever-changing world of work. ‘TRANSFORM Your Work Life’ can be found at <CampbellDuke.com>.
Types of Networks
Networks that exist for the sole purpose of assisting you with finding business or a job. A job club or business networking group is considered a close-contact network.
What professional groups do you belong to that help you keep current in your area? Many professional organizations welcome students and have special student rates.
These are now considered important enough to have their own category. Social media can be used for far more than updating your relationship status.
These are the networks that often result in job offers. A friend of a friend of that guy in your soccer league heard about an opening.