First a walk down memory lane…In the not-so-distant past, businesses advertised jobs in the classified section of the Sunday paper or posted signs in their offices. Job seekers submitted resumes and applications in the mail or even in person. Back in the late 1990s (way back then), Wednesdays were easily the heaviest volume days for mail carriers in Chicago’s downtown business district, known as The Loop. Turned out that people did their job hunting using Sunday’s classified ads, produced their cover letters and resumes, and dropped them in the mail to have the bulk of them arrive downtown on Wednesday!!!
Google, Facebook, LinkedIn, and social media didn’t exist. If your resume was professional, you most likely got a review by a human and then came the interviews. Maybe it was simple then, but the timeframe to find the right opportunity, get the call and make an impression could take weeks or longer.
Oh boy, how times have changed.
The utilization of a resume and the United States Postal Service as the core tools to land a new job o-v-e-r. While a strong resume remains essential, many factors determine which candidates get selected.
Recruiters and hiring entities are research savvy and they use the information they uncover to evaluate your entire professional brand. They don’t stop at your resume—they’re Googling you, viewing Facebook posts, and visiting your LinkedIn profile and activities. Don’t let your online reputation take on a life of its own. A hiring manager’s initial impression of you is no longer made solely in the interview room: it’s also made online.
What is Personal Branding?
Your personal brand is your calling card, a synonym for your reputation. And in our interconnected global economy, reputation is everything. As Jeff Bezos once said, “Your brand is what people say about you when you’re not in the room.” Since people are already talking about you, can you take control over what is being said to position things in a positive light to influence the discussion?
Personal branding is the process of creating and showcasing your value. It involves crafting an image that represents what you’re offering to the world, whether it’s a product or service, experience, mindset, expertise, talent, ability to solve problems – anything you have to offer!
Your brand is more than mere self-promotion; it is how you define yourself and market your value to others. So, whether you actively seek to shape and define your brand, you have a brand that’s already out there. You want to frame the story and dictate the narrative. The question isn’t if you have/need a brand; the question is whether you’re investing the time and energy needed to build and control your brand and then performing the needed reputation management as a follow-up?
The concept of personal branding has been around for ages. Executives, authors, politicians, and celebrities have always crafted their image to increase the value of what they were offering.
You have to tell a compelling story and look the part. You need to leverage your strengths to accurately demonstrate your unique value in a way that feels authentic. Your brand signals to people how you want to be treated while also selling you and differentiating you from the crowd. Does your current brand do that?
Why is Branding Important?
Your professional brand is critical because it helps you distinguish yourself from other candidates and build credibility with potential employers. A strong personal brand can also lead to additional opportunities like board memberships, speaking engagements, and networking events.
If you or someone in your network left their job recently, you’re in good company. Since March 2020, the Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates that over 50 million people have decided to leave their jobs, causing the ‘great resignation’ we hear about today. This pattern has impacted businesses all over the country.
This expanded talent pool means job market competition has intensified. To ensure a successful career transition, you must cultivate a professional brand to differentiate yourself within your peer group, as most recruiters use social media and other online resources to assess your candidacy.
What Does Personal Branding Do for You?
People are no longer judged by their job titles or qualifications when it comes to deciding whether or not to work with them. We all want to work with people we’re inspired by. Personal branding allows you to communicate what you have to offer and who you are so that those around you can determine if they want to support your endeavors.
Your professional brand incorporates your past experiences, who you are, what you do, your attitudes, habits, beliefs, and intentions. Your brand can be broken down into skills and competence, talents and core values, and passions.
Just as every company has a brand that either contributes to or hinders its success; every person has a professional brand. Yours either elevates your career success or doesn’t. We can start by recognizing some oft-made errors.
Let’s get out in front of some common mistakes made in developing a personal brand.
You don’t know what you’re doing. – If you’re not focused and your branding statement is reactive rather than a proactive tool, your message will be inconsistent and possibly self-defeating. ECP helps you avoid that via concentration on Positioning and Targeting.
You don’t realize what makes you unique. – What do you offer in your claim to be among the best at what you do? What are your differentiators? ECP will help you with this, too, as we focus on your achievements and the storytelling needed to articulate your value proposition.
You don’t ask for help. – ECP clients overcome this tendency by entering into a partnership with their career strategist who will coordinate the input of our support professionals as well as advise you on how to involve key members of your network.
Let’s discuss how to craft a positive professional brand to help you rise above the pack.
Make your Passions, Skills, and Experience Stand Out
The initial step here involves passion! Ask yourself what you’re passionate about and what your obvious significant attributes are. Do others know this? Would these items come out in another person’s summary of your reputation? Most importantly, are you connecting who you are to what you do best? Your personal brand must communicate that to your target audience.
You need to be intentional here. Think along these lines: In 10 years, what would you like to be known for? At that time, if an emcee was to introduce you at a gathering, what would that person say about you? What are the components of your Value-Added Proposition? Here’s where to start:
Passions – This can seem cliché to some. Look at it this way: If you walked into a library, what section would you head to first? What topics appeal to you? What are you interested in? How should you introduce your passions? If someone is interested in something, they get as much experience and exposure as they can. Beyond basic requirements, what have you done that demonstrates that you are passionate about and dedicated to your profession? For example, “When I’m not advocating for exceptional candidate experience or teaching my coworkers the ins and outs of LinkedIn, I’m volunteering for veterans’ groups sharing professional insight on transitioning into the civilian environment.”
Natural Talents & Core Values – How do you determine what your talents are? Recognize what comes easily to you. What things seem natural to you? Writing, public speaking, leading people, and problem-solving are examples of talents. Core values are the individual standards and beliefs you hold that guide your conduct. These values include the ethics, standards, and practices you uphold within the work environment. Examples of professional values include accountability, integrity, collaboration, transparency, and continued learning.
Skills – Another step includes when creating or updating your resume and/or social media profiles, analyzing your skills and past experiences. Scrutinize the required preferred skills and experience of your target jobs. Demonstrate why you are the ideal candidate for your ideal job painting an all-inclusive picture. Skills are housed and promoted in your resume. Things you’ve learned along the way through experience and education. Project management, operational efficiencies, and budgeting come to mind here.
Building Your Statement
Here’s a basic framework to follow when building your initial branding statement: “I use my _________ talent and my __________ skills to make an impact in the __________ industry.”
Using myself to elaborate on this point, I might say “I use my talents of empathy, enthusiasm and connecting with others, and my coaching and communication skills to make an impact in the career management industry.” You and your career strategist will collaborate to develop this foundation.
Successfully Presenting Your Personal Brand
Now that you have developed a strong personal brand, use it to show potential hiring managers you possess the skills and values they desire in a new employee.
It’s not all about your resume.
Recruiters don’t hire resumes; they hire humans. Think beyond the substance of your resume and view your brand as a singular, unique entity. Recruiters are assessing your fit for their company culture, your potential to advance the company’s objectives, and how well-rounded you are—not just on the job, but also outside of work. They’re looking for qualities, experience, and proficiencies that you cannot convey on a resume alone.
In closing, personal branding is important because it allows you to present who you are and what you have to offer clearly and concisely. Building your brand can help people understand how your values, skills, and experience match up with their needs so that they know where to look when the time comes for them to hire someone who will make a difference. By concentrating on building a personal brand now, you can reap the rewards for years to come.
Written By: Michael Schumacher, Senior Career Strategist
Michael is one of our accomplished Senior Career Strategists who brings over two decades of experience in the career transition industry to ECP.
He is known for motivating and coaching clients while never losing sight of their individualism, personal situations, or specific objectives.
In addition to coaching clients toward success during their job search, Michael is also a talented writer who is knowledgeable about today’s industry trends.