We often hear the phrase “personal branding” in the mix of marketing lingo. But it’s hardly another prod by marketers to push goods and services in your face. Conversely, personal branding is all about you: who you are as a professional, as a job seeker, perhaps even as an entrepreneur. It’s a powerful tool for creating and building visibility and credibility in your field, and it thrives and exists among both online and offline marketing channels.
A well-crafted personal brand revolves around a descriptive message that communicates the unique value you can bring to the table in terms of your skills and experience, and how that value can benefit potential employers or customers. Whether it’s your resume, your website or blog, or any other promotional materials, that message must be clear, direct, and relevant to effectively reach your target audience.
The Challenge for Career Changers
Part of seeking out a new career path is reinventing yourself as a professional, and as a qualified and credible candidate in your new field. It’s hard enough to navigate the job market within a field which you have tangible experience. But when you’re changing career fields, you’re faced with the additional challenge of marketing yourself despite the lack of hands-on industry experience.
To do so, you must call upon your transferable skills to demonstrate your value – the areas of knowledge and expertise that you built up in your current career – and how you want to apply such skills to a new role. The difficult part is convincing employers that your skills can speak for your lack of experience, and that you will be able to do the job effectively and transition smoothly. Hiring is a large investment for employers, and they want as much tangible proof as possible that their investment will pay off.
Communicating Your Personal Brand
Communicating your brand is a two-part undertaking: First, you must construct an excellent personal brand that highlights your strengths; second, you must clearly and concisely communicate your message.
Who Do You Want to Listen to You?
Start by focusing on who you’re trying to target and get your message to hit. What kinds of companies or industries are you targeting? What types of skills, experience, and traits do those companies value?
For example, if you’re targeting a start-up marketing agency, perhaps they value someone who brings unique ideas for promoting new brands on a strict budget to the table. Visit LinkedIn and research current and past employees who have worked at those companies, and get a feel for their backgrounds and skill-sets.
Once you have an idea of who you’re trying to target and how you might start to appeal to them, then you can begin digging into your own background to identify and communicate the skills and experiences that match up with the values and interests of the types of companies you want to work for.
Perfecting the Message Behind Your Personal Brand
Having an idea of what a company values is a great starting point – however, it’s not about copying someone’s resume you found on LinkedIn in hopes of positioning yourself as a carbon-copy candidate. You want to identify your additional skills and experience, and what makes you unique.
You may think that communicating the fact that you are a hard worker will impress potential employers. While this is true, it can be said for nearly any job candidate. Find the traits and qualities that differentiate you from others in your field. This will allow you to develop a clear understanding of the value you bring, and your brand will start to take shape. After all, if you aren’t sold on your own value, you can bet a prospective employer won’t be either.
The Strategy Behind Your Personal Brand
So what does a truly well-crafted personal branding message sound like? Imagine this or a similar conversations taking place during an interview:
Hiring Manager: “You haven’t worked for a marketing agency before. What do you think makes you a strong candidate for this role?”
Candidate: “I have an excellent track record when it comes to being an effective account manager and relationship builder. I’ve done this very successfully for 10 years in the financial industry, and I believe that this combined with my knowledge and interest in green marketing will position me for success in this role just as quickly.”
Hiring Manager: “What do you think makes you unique versus other candidates applying for this position?”
Candidate: “Customer service and retention is of utmost importance to me. I value my client relationships above all else, and I will always work with the customers to ensure that their user experience is positive and rewarding, and that they’re receiving value and quality from our products.”
There a few key things to recognize in this conversation. First, the job seeker clearly communicates what he brings to the table – in this case it’s his transferable skills as an effective relationship builder. He identifies the connection between the skills and experience he offers and the role he’s interested in by pointing to his existing knowledge and interest in green marketing. And finally, he describes the unique value that he can bring to the role by prioritizing excellent customer service, which will help the organization retain their customers.
Personal Branding Etiquette
Resumes, online communities, and social media platforms are all vehicles for promoting your brand. Blogging and thought leadership are also effective tools to increase your visibility within a new industry or field.
“Thought leadership” refers to the sharing of relevant content among others within a particular topic group, field, or industry. Blogging falls under this larger umbrella, and a few other examples of places where you can utilize this include content-sharing sites like Reddit, LinkedIn discussion groups, and feedback and comment forums on relevant blogs and industry news feeds.
Several other thought leadership platforms include Q&A site Quora, group message board site Ning, and even Pinterest, which is taking hold in the visual realm for sharing products and artwork. Utilizing such sites is a great way to build credibility in a new field by sharing your knowledge and interests, and building relationships with potential colleagues and employers. It may take some time to find the right platforms to best market your brand, but having a quality LinkedIn profile and an great resume are the best places to start.
Internalize Your Brand and Communicate It Well
It is important to take a hard, critical look at your interviewing skills. One of the biggest mistakes I frequently see job seekers make is holding back information about their accomplishments or qualifications so as to avoid sounding like they’re bragging. The job interview is not the time to be modest, and you can still sound professional while singing your own praises.
The key when interviewing is to be 100% confident with the message you’re conveying through your brand. You might be positioning yourself as the best marketer who ever lived, but are you going to be confident backing that up in the interview? Become comfortable advertising yourself. Praising yourself can feel a bit awkward, so practice going through the process of introducing yourself and talking about what you bring to the table with a friend or colleague. Practice makes perfect, and you only get one shot in an interview.
Remember, any information you put out there becomes part of your personal brand, and you want to keep it professional. Always foster a positive reputation with other online networkers, and do your best to not burn bridges or bad-mouth previous employers, colleagues, or supervisors. Your brand should paint a professional, credible, and positive image of you.
Some of the best commercial brands in the world suffer from poor marketing presentation. Don’t make the same mistake – go out there with confidence, conviction, and pride in what you have to offer a company. With a little practice and strategic execution, a well-crafted and focused personal brand will position you for success at any level in your career.
What other tips do you have for developing a personal brand?