This is how you secure your personal brand in a tight job market
If you asked a CEO five years ago if he or she wanted or needed personal branding services, you would have received a raised eyebrow and a polite but emphatic no.
When I started my career as a branding consultant, most of my clients were ambitious entrepreneurs or young professionals willing to invest time and money in building their personal brands. However, top-level executives were often reluctant to argue that they were busy and already as prominent in their industry as they needed to be.
But in a constantly tightening job market, even top executives – I’m talking about triple A talents – have called.
The truth is that nobody’s job is completely safe. It doesn’t matter whether you are the freshest intern or the most firmly entrenched CEO, there is always a chance that you will be fired, replaced, or fired.
According to the Department of Labor, nearly 8.7 million Americans will have lost their jobs by the end of 2021, and many of those roles will be gone permanently. Such a labor market constraint means laid-off workers will either have to turn their careers or compete for a much fewer number of available roles.
The competition for jobs is fierce. Research shows that the average job search takes five months and only 5% of applicants are interviewed. The candidates must put themselves above the pack. Otherwise, they might stop purging and stare at a pile of polite rejection emails.
But how can they attract attention?
The answer lies in developing a great personal brand.
Personal branding is the narrative that we tell others about ourselves and that others accept. A good personal brand increases the perceived worth a person has. When looking for a job, your brand will increase your chances of getting selected. If you already have a position, your chances of keeping it will increase.
Personal branding leads to significantly higher career satisfaction and perceived employability, research shows, and encourages professionals towards positive career outcomes such as social capital, financial rewards and job opportunities.
Each person’s personal brand is by definition unique. There is no generic formula for making a perfect one. However, the following three guides will help you to take the first steps towards a market-proof personal brand.
1. Make your personal brand about you, not your last appearance or employer
Not so long ago, one of my clients – a seasoned corporate professional who had an immaculate, decades-long track record with a multinational brand prior to being fired – came to me frustrated with the lack of feedback she had received from potential employers.
When she explained her situation to me, I saw the problem: she had spent so much time with her previous employer and so focused on what she had achieved for this company that she had built her personal brand around the company. The company was so big it overshadowed it.
Naming a formidable former employer by name may give you a second look. If you make this company the foundation of your professional identity, hiring managers will fear that you will not be able to adapt to a new organization. It also undermines the point of personal branding:
A personal brand is a relationship with you, someone separate from your company. The process of personal branding is finding your uniqueness, building a reputation on the things you want to be known for, and then making yourself known for them. Ultimately, the goal is to create something that can convey a message and monetize it. (Michael Stelzner, Social Media Examiner)
Don’t build your personal brand around your employer. You need to highlight your skills, interests, and skills. Otherwise, hiring managers will never see enough of you to fairly determine your potential.
2. Think about what you are selling
What do you offer and why is it valuable? Your personal brand should answer these questions. Otherwise, it doesn’t matter how long your résumé is: you’re out of luck.
Not so long ago, a former sales manager with more than 15 years of professional experience asked me to help her get into consulting. She wanted to focus on developing tools for what she called “prospective communication”.
The problem was that customers who might have benefited from their services didn’t call because they didn’t know what that term meant. Ambiguity kills personal brands. Ambiguous brand names can negatively affect a person’s reaction and perception of the brand’s products, according to psychological research.
If you want to sell something – including your skills – people need to know what they are paying for and why their business is better for the investment. If people in your area of expertise don’t believe that they can make more money or become more relevant from your service, they’re not going to buy. Your brand should make the commercial case for investing clear from the start.
3. Incorporate successes into your personal brand
A lot of talented people just don’t want to get into personal branding. They may spend an hour updating LinkedIn or getting good headshots, but not thinking critically about how to stand out from the competition.
I have often had conversations with clients who are reluctant to mention getting involved in an amazing project or massive business initiative. When I ask them why it’s not on their résumé, they invariably say, Oh, I didn’t think anyone would find it interesting.
Think about all of your accomplishments. Go beyond the basics to find out what you are offering to others, then make that distinction clear in your branding narrative.
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A good personal brand gives you credibility and visibility. These factors, in turn, create more and better opportunity and accelerate the decisions others make about you, your products, and your services.
What could be more critical in our current job market?
More resources on personal branding
Now is the time to develop your personal brand: 26 tips
The Art and Science of Personal Branding Online [Infographic]
Build your personal brand and expand your success