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Skipping the career queue

09/11/2020

How developing your personal brand can help propel your career.

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How would you describe your personal brand? Are you cheeky, professional, bold, or relatable? Maybe you’re even a little controversial.

If you’re coming up with crickets and struggling to think of even one word that defines your personal brand, don’t worry! We’ve got a few essential tips you can use to build a personal brand that creates career opportunities. 

It can feel self-indulgent and even painfully awkward to talk about yourself at the best of times. So it’s no surprise that most people cringe when they think about personal brand.  Talking about your personal brand like a marketer talks about selling the latest lash-lengthening mascara or the perfect family car can feel a little weird. 

But, whether we like it or not, we all have a brand. If we’re not intentional about how we craft that brand, others will define it for us. And this isn’t always a good thing.  The way others perceive us may not be the best representation of who we really are or what we want to be known for in the workplace.

Personal brand, reputation, how other people think of you, whatever you want to call it, matters. Taking control of your brand can propel your career. It can create exciting new opportunities or open doors for your next promotion or big change (because who doesn’t want more options?)

But if you’re still not sold, we’re here to unpack what personal brand is, explain why it is important, and give you our four essentials for defining your brand and achieving your next career goal.

What is a personal brand?

“I know exactly who you need to talk to!” That’s the sign of a strong personal brand if we’ve ever heard one.

It’s when people know you are the go-to for this type of job, or you’re guru and brains trust for advice on that topic.

Your personal brand is your personality shining through. An outward reflection of your uniqueness and competitive advantage. We like to think of it as you at your best. It’s made up of how you speak, what you say, the way you act, and what you wear. Every interaction, every commitment, and even every first impression that you leave people with reinforces your personal brand.

It’s when your reputation proceeds you (ideally in a good way). It’s also about the consistency in how people experience you. Think about how you show up in person, over email, through the work you deliver, and on LinkedIn. We want these interactions and experiences to be congruent and consistent. Again, and again, and again.

How can it help your career?

When you go searching for a new job, our bet is you first assess the job advertisement. Then you take a look around the company website, suss out the leadership team on LinkedIn, and target the opportunities that scream ‘this is a place you want to work’.

But what if you could skip the queue and have those opportunities chasing you instead?

Well, roll out the red carpet because we are here to turn the tables.

When you have a strong personal brand, it means that your identity (the way you see yourself) very closely, matches your reputation (the way you are perceived by others). When there is alignment between your identity and reputation, others will trust you more wholeheartedly. This builds your credibility and with it comes increased influence, opportunity and impact.

When you nail your personal brand, you are taking your personality, experience and strengths and packaging them up to position yourself in the eyes of others in an intentional way. A way that clearly says, “this is what I am good at, this is what I value, and if you work with me, this is who you are going to get”.

The stronger your brand, the more likely you are to be sought out by employers and businesses who need what you’ve got. This is what we like to call the hidden job market and it is growing. Increasingly employers are looking for you on LinkedIn instead of just advertising a vacancy and hoping you will see it (you and 400 other people…).

The connection between what you offer and how that fits the employer’s problem will be obvious, and that’s when they will be driven to approach you. Straight to the front of the queue you go.

But keep in mind, personal brand doesn’t only exist when you are looking for a new job in the market. It is just as valuable when you are navigating projects, promotions and persuasive conversations within your current company.

So how can you curate a personal brand that has companies lining up out the door to offer you a job?

Here are our four essentials.

1. Start with your end goal in mind

Imagine yourself in five years. What are you doing? Who are you surrounded by?  How are you creating value for others? And most importantly, what are you known for?

This is not about making up a new persona. It’s about articulating and defining clearly who you are (yes, designing your brand is that simple!) If you get stuck, ask others how they describe you when you’re at your best. What do they go to you for? What do they say about you when you aren’t in the room?

Capture this future you by writing a story, drawing a mind map or picture or creating a vision board. However you feel most comfortable.

2. Mind the gap

If there’s a gap between your future vision and current reality, it’s time to close it.

Identify any gaps and inconsistencies between your vision and how people currently experience you. Ask yourself, how does this picture of myself in the future fit with where you are now? Is it consistently reflected across all mediums and interactions that others experience of me, be that online or in person?

3. Just start writing

Your personal brand shows up in many ways through what we say and what we do. In a career context, so much of how we sell ourselves is in the written form – cover letters, LinkedIn profiles, and email, just to name a few. The best content always comes when the author has a really clear personal brand.

If you’re a sucker with writer’s block, try speaking aloud as you type. This will help you to become more conversational in your written tone, which better reflects who you are and creates consistency in your brand.

4. Finally, keep checking back in against your goals

A personal brand or reputation isn’t a tick and flick exercise. Like any brand it evolves, grows and changes over time.

It’s important that you regularly check back in to assess the alignment between your brand and career goals. Does your brand require attention? Does it need a refresh or realignment?

As you find your way here to step four, return cyclically to step one and keep asking yourself: Who are you, what are you known for, and is the world’s experience of me consistent with this?

Creating a personal brand that aligns to who we really are is a powerful and very achievable way to own your career. If you don’t define your brand, build it and manage it, then others will do it for you. 

So take control of how you show up in the world and skip the career opportunity queue.

Emily Bowen and Shelley Johnson are HR professionals and host the my millennial career podcast. For more on building your personal brand, check out their episodes ‘Personal Brand’ and ‘The Secret to a Winning Cover Letter & LinkedIn Profile’.

This article is intended to provide general information of an educational nature only. Information in this article is current as at the date of publication.

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