How Building a Personal Brand Can Land You Your Dream Job
Experts warn you can't succeed in today's job market without a personal brand—and it's crucial to curate it carefully.
But what exactly is a personal brand? How do you create one? And what are you selling? After all, unlike the folks churning out today's big-name consumer products, you don't exactly have a marketing team at your disposal.
Luckily, personal branding isn't as challenging as it sounds.
A personal brand is just a fancy way of talking about something you already have: your professional reputation. "In short, it's what people say about you when you're not in the room," says Amanda Miller Littlejohn, a writer, communications consultant, branding adviser and the creator of The Branding Box personal branding toolkit. "Your personal brand is what others think of you and know about your capabilities, whether or not you are available to provide that information yourself."
The Internet Is Talking
In the past, your reputation was pretty much based on what people actually did say about you when you weren't in the room. But thanks to the Internet, there's a lot more information available today. "Having a personal brand has become more critical in recent years as we are now living in the digital age," says Miller Littlejohn. Before a hiring manager meets with you, they're probably going to do a search to see what they can find out about you online. A 2013 study by the Society for Human Resource Management found that 77 percent of companies that responded to the survey use social networking sites for recruitment purposes.
What they find will shape their views about you before they meet you in person. For example, your resume may say "polished professional," but your Facebook profile says, "party guy drinking from a beer funnel." You may talk about your attention to detail in your cover letter, but your LinkedIn page is fraught with spelling errors. And nothing sabotages your self-promoted image as a humanitarian and selfless volunteer than a Twitter feed that makes you look more like an Internet troll.
So, what's the lesson here? Make sure the image you're trying to project and the information that people can find out about you match each other.
This is where the curating comes in. Below are some tips to help you brand yourself so you can land the job you really want:
Create A Strong Personal Brand
Assess What's Out There. The first step in cleaning up your online presence is finding out what information is out there now. Search for yourself and see what pops up. This will let you know pretty quickly if there's a mismatch between the image you want to project and what your image online projects. Keep tabs on information about yourself by setting up search alerts, so you know immediately if something unflattering appears.
Figure Out Who You Are. Are you a natural leader? A team player? An innovator? To create a successful personal brand you need to do some thinking. Sit down and consider who you are, where you want to go and what skills and traits you need to get you there. Without a big-picture view it's hard to create a successful brand. Think about your personal traits just like an advertising agency would. For example, marketing for a running shoe might emphasize drive, competition and grit. Assign the traits that best suit you and your career goals. Make sure the messages you're putting out there emphasize those characteristics, goals and skills.
Create Your Own Story. If you want to project a certain image, it's not just important to prune away things that can detract from it, you must actively add to the sources of positive information that tell your professional story. You can do this through existing social media by creating a thorough and professional LinkedIn page that clearly outlines your professional achievements. You can also create your own website, showcasing information about who you are as a professional. Be certain to keep the information listed in different sources consistent, and stay true to your chosen message. Don't forget to include work samples and your achievements.
Update Your Headshot. Take the time to get a new professional headshot. A professional-looking image can help you project a professional image.
Dust Off the Cobwebs. You wouldn't want an outdated product—neither do recruiters and hiring managers. Keep your personal brand current by updating it regularly, adding new work experience and evidence that you keep up with industry trends and practices. If you took the time to update your profile five years ago, but haven't touched it since, it may be time for a refresh.
To Seem Professional, Be Professional. While you should pay attention to your online presence, don't forget your reputation is made up of more than what can be found on the web. While the Internet is a major source of information, people do still talk. If you want them to say you're a consummate professional with a strong work ethic, behave like one. Professional recommendations and endorsements from people you impress in the real world can also help build your online reputation.
Remember, whether or not you curate your personal brand, you already have one. Taking the time to revise and bolster it can help you be certain it's the one you want and give you a better chance of landing your dream job.