In today’s highly competitive job market, the age-old adage of who you know rather than what you know, still remains somewhat relevant. The professional and personal relationships we foster and the benefits they yield, through direct or indirect connections to a potential employer, play an important role in career progression and development.
However, having another professional vouch for you and your abilities will only take you so far in the process. To add weight and substance to a referral, as well as gain attention independently of it, candidates should develop a personal brand.
Personal branding is about creating a brand that packages together the most attractive, practical, and relevant aspects of your career, personal interests and attributes, and transforms it into a public persona. Something that is appealing and accessible to potential employers. It’s about utilising engaging content through appropriate channels, and positioning yourself so that you can be noticed for the right opportunities. Essentially differentiating yourself from your competitors.
First impressions count
The best place to start developing your personal brand is through social media as it plays a vital role in today’s recruitment process. Often, hiring managers will go online and research prospective candidates – both passive and active, prior to making contact. Online platforms such as LinkedIn, Facebook and even company pages, offer potential employers a snapshot of you as an individual, and importantly your perceived potential. In most cases it will be their first impression of you, so you need it to make it count.
These profiles don’t need to be completely centred around your career, they should also contain elements that display aspects of your personality and interests outside of your profession. Remember that as well as seeking a candidate with the right skill-set, an employer will also be focused on finding someone who will be a good cultural fit.
Networking – professional development and industry context
An important area to explore that will add context and relevancy to your brand, is the pursuit of continued professional development through education. Almost every industry either requires or encourages its professionals to continue developing their skills. This is an ideal opportunity to build/expand your network with other professionals within and outside of your profession.
Another aspect to keep in mind, is the importance of networking around your personal interests. For example, attending a seminar or gala held by a charity you support, or attending a talk by a professional that you admire. These can be great forums to interact with others, as it allows you to put yourself front and centre of your peers, and make personal connections based on mutual interests. Even though someone may be from a different industry, their connections and expertise’s could prove to be invaluable in the future.
How to effectively use your chosen platforms
Social media profiles and networking are two powerful and easily accessible tools that can be used to create and promote your own personal brand. In order to find success with them, there are a few things to keep in mind.
1. Have a clear vision – Put some time and thought into where it is that you see yourself in the short and long-term? What are your career aspirations and objectives? Are you looking to make an impactful and long-lasting contribution to your industry, or are you satisfied with just being known within it? i.e. what are you hoping to achieve?
2. Appeal to the right audience – Once you have a clear vision, you can use it to define your audience. Are you looking to mass market yourself or is there a particular segment that you want to appeal to? Remember that everything you do needs to be seen in context and must be aligned with the objectives defined in your vision.
3. Customise your content – The next stage is to create content that is specific to your target audience. You want the content that you put out to be relevant, engaging and informative. There are few different vehicles through which you can do this – your resume, LinkedIn profile, blogs, contributions to industry panels/articles etc. The aim is to be active, and for your peers and potential employers to see your passion, intelligence and commitment to your industry, and issues that you care about.
Taking the time to invest in your own personal brand, ensures that you remain proactive in your journey for a new career and development opportunities. Being strategic and increasing your visibility in your chosen field/industry, will contribute to, and have a significant impact on your overall progression. So, take that next step, put yourself out there, and grab the opportunity to differentiate yourself from your peers.