Personal branding isn’t just for influencers anymore.
Did you know that 70% of employers screen job applicants by looking through their social media profiles? Having a coherent, positive and engaging online presence can show hiring managers more about you than just your cover letter and resume.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic made abrupt changes to our ways of working, our lives are increasingly reliant on the internet. If you want to stand out from your competition when looking for a job, you need to be able to use that to your advantage. That means building a brand that showcases the best parts of who you are, while also showing off what makes you unique.
If that sounds like a tall order, we’re here to help! In this article, we’ll cover the following points:
Think about Nike footwear. What words or phrases come to mind?
You’re probably thinking ‘just do it’ – that sense of determination, perseverance and commitment that drives people to overcome their doubts and achieve amazing things. You’re thinking high-performance; you’re thinking power. But are you actually thinking about the shoes?
Yes, the sneakers are great – but what Nike is really selling is a set of shared values and feelings. They underpin the product, setting it apart from its competitors, by encouraging you to buy into them too. That’s a brand, and any good business has one of its own.
A personal brand is the same thing, but for you as an individual. It’s about how you and your work make people feel, which is a unique point of value that nobody else can replicate. It describes what you stand for and believe in as much as it describes what you do.
Try asking your friends, whether online or in person, what they think of when they think of you. While the answers might vary from person to person, it can give you a good sense for how you present yourself to others, and provide a good starting point as you develop your brand even further.
Online culture is – let’s face it – pretty shallow. If you spend any time on Twitter, you’ve definitely seen people lose their minds over a questionable take, then inevitably forget all about it in a day or two. You’ve definitely seen how ready people are to buy into the manicured personas of Instagram influencers, no matter how obviously inauthentic they are.
That’s why it’s important to be able to give people a clear, consistent picture of who you are and what you represent. People want an at-a-glance understanding of what they can expect from you. They’re looking for ways to connect – shared values, shared beliefs, shared feelings – and if you want to succeed in marketing yourself online, you need to be ready to provide that feeling of connection.
This is as true for would-be employers as it is for followers or fans online. A resume and a cover letter are great ways to showcase your skills, qualifications and work experience, but they tell hiring managers very little about who you are and what you represent as a person.
A strong personal brand can change that. If an employer searches your social media presence and finds that your values align with their company’s values, it stands to reason that you’ll be better-placed to make it through the first round of screening.
Of course, a personal brand is no substitute for the right qualifications and experience! But as part of the highly competitive hiring process, it might just tip the scales in your favor.
Your personal brand should be clear, positive and unique – but it also needs to be authentic and true to who you are. If that seems like a difficult balance to strike, don’t worry! Here are some tips to get you started as you work on your personal brand.
Knowing yourself is the first step to building your brand. To begin with, try asking yourself the following questions:
Your personal brand isn’t the place for the deep contradictions of your personality. It’s about how you want people to see you with the limited time and attention that they have. Your job is to show them the best, most compelling parts of yourself – so think about what they are, and make sure you put them front and center.
Whether you’re using your personal brand to job-search, network, or promote your content, it’s important to know what exactly you’re hoping to achieve. That means it’s time to think about your needs, your wants, and your goals.
Here are a few more questions to ask yourself as you think this through. Once you have the answers to these questions, you can work on building a brand that reflects them.
These answers might change over time – that’s natural. As you get older and your feelings shift, your personal brand might shift along with them. As long as you come from a place of authenticity, it will shine through no matter how you present yourself.
Remember, it’s a personal brand. It needs to reflect the things that you can do well – maybe even better than anyone. Whoever you are, your strengths, skills and core competencies should be prominent parts of your personal brand.
In marketing, this is known as a unique value proposition. It’s a short summary of what you can offer that other people can’t.
If you aren’t sure of your own strengths, think about the compliments other people have given you in the past. That includes positive appraisals at work, as well as feedback you’ve received from friends and family.
Figuring out what sets your strengths apart from others’ strengths can be a challenge, too. It’s common to the point of cliché for people to describe themselves as detail-oriented, passionate or hard-working in their cover letters! The last thing you want is to fall into that trap.
Instead, think about specific instances where your strengths enabled you to succeed. What made it possible for you, rather than other people with similar skills, to get the job done? If you can determine the unique combination of skills and personality traits that has led you to success in the past, it will be a rock-solid foundation for your personal brand.
Without a clear idea of who you want to appeal to, you won’t be able to define your brand. Trying to appeal to everyone is a serious mistake; the narrower and more specific your intended audience, the clearer your brand will become.
If you know the field you want to work in, that can be a great place to start. However, you will need to narrow it down even further if you want your personal brand to make an impact.
Let’s say you want to work in tech. That’s an incredibly broad field, and basing your personal brand around it will leave you with a wide audience and an unfocused message. Whereas a more specific personal brand would enable you to show expertise and build trust with your audience, an overly-broad brand will present you with serious challenges as you produce content to back it up.
Instead, you can think about the specific area of tech you want to work in – for this example, let’s go with user experience. You can then hone your audience even further by thinking about your ideal role in that field. Trust us: you will have a far easier time with a brand based around UX research in tech than with a brand that’s trying to encompass an entire industry.
Marketing yourself to a niche audience not only reduces the amount of competition you face. It shows that you know your specific area of expertise extremely well, and it proves to potential employers that you are focused and decisive. Those qualities are crucial elements of a personal brand in their own right!
Developing your personal brand is only half the job. The next step is to put it out there for everyone to see!
If you don’t have a personal website, this is the time to make one. You can use it to host any content you produce – more on that later – as well as information about you, your social profiles, and your work history. Make sure you foreground your unique value proposition as you write up everything you have to offer.
There are so many social media platforms out there that it’s hard to know where to start. Pick one or two platforms and concentrate your efforts there, so you don’t burn out early on social networking. Once you’ve made a profile, you can begin by following professionals, leaders and influencers in your chosen field.
Now it’s time to start engaging! There are no definitive tricks to getting noticed on social media – the best approach you can take is to leave genuine, insightful comments on conversations, and trust that people will recognize your expertise. Remember, people want to connect with one another: all you have to do is make it as easy as possible for them to connect with you.
Now that your personal brand is well-established, it’s time to think about what you can do with it. Here are some ways you can put your brand to work as you look for your dream job.
We’ve mentioned social media already, and it’s safe to say that if you’re job-searching, LinkedIn is the platform for you. While it used to be little more than an online copy of your resume, it’s transformed into a legitimate platform for career-based networking and community-building.
Fill out every section of your LinkedIn profile as thoroughly as possible, and back it all up with endorsements and recommendations from colleagues if you can. Use your profile to tell the story that forms the core of your personal brand. You want people to be able to see quickly and clearly who you are and what you stand for, so be strategic in how you present yourself.
Once you’ve built your profile, it’s time to start adding value. Don’t just stop at commenting on other people’s posts and conversations! Start making posts of your own, talking about your experience and expertise in a way that feels consistent with your brand.
High-quality posts will set you apart when potential employers check out your profile. You can use them to showcase what you know, who you are, and what you can add to a workplace or a team.
LinkedIn posts are just one type of content you can use to build your brand. You might think that producing content for free is misguided, when you could be getting paid for it instead – but it’s actually one of the best ways to grow your audience and show what you can do.
First, look into current topics of conversation within your field. If you’re following the right people on social media, this should be easy to do! Knowing what people are talking about will empower you to weigh in on the conversation yourself.
Second, think about the type of content you can produce. Text and video-based content are popular, but they can get old fast. If you have the means, consider recording a podcast, putting together an infographic, or even developing a free online course.
You should always aim to keep your content positive and helpful. Don’t stray too far outside your area of expertise – you need to build trust with your audience by sharing your own genuine insights into your field.
Lastly, make sure to share your content widely! Your personal website and social media profiles are great ways to showcase what you’ve made. You could also consider sharing your work via email lists, podcast directories, or through a guest post on someone else’s blog. Get Your Resume Ready Remember, this is just the first step in your search for your dream job. Having a strong personal brand is a brilliant way to stand out, but it won’t get you all the way there. You need to be ready for what comes next.
Luckily, you can put your brand to work when building your resume, too. All the work you’ve put into thinking about your strengths, goals and successes can be applied to constructing a strong, compelling resume. The same qualities that form the core of your brand should be front and center in your resume, as well.
Your brand tells a story about who you are and what you can do. Your resume is more fixed in its format and content, but ultimately, it should do the same.
If you’re stuck, why not check out some of our resume advice? From layout formatting to font, we’re here to steer you right.
Even if you aren’t sure what it is, you probably already have a personal brand.
It’s what springs to mind when your friends and colleagues think about you and your work. It’s the persona you present when speaking in public, or making a point in a discussion online. It’s the aspects of your personality that you know will paint you in the best light when you walk into a job interview.
While building a personal brand can seem daunting, it’s important to remember that you aren’t starting from zero. You’re just strategically refining what you already have – a winning personality and a unique set of skills that can take you wherever you want to go.
If you liked this post, we have plenty more guides to career growth to help you take your career to the next level. Good luck, and stay on-brand!
Content Writer + Resume Expert
Waverly is a freelance writer, former HR officer and current international traveller. They believe in doing your research, showing up prepared, and bringing your passions with you to work. They've helped countless job seekers create better resumes and cover letters to improve and grow their careers.
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