• Put a Brand on Your Job Search

    December 23, 2013 by
    The words Personal Brand in all capital letters

    The words Personal Brand in all capital letters. Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.

    When you think of branding, you may automatically think of the messages companies put out there to create certain impressions among consumers. But you also have an individual brand, and you send out messages that give other people positive or negative impressions about you. When you’re looking for a job and trying to land those important job interviews, these messages can either help or hurt your chances of landing the position you want.

    How to incorporate branding into your job search

    The first step to branding, says Linda Pophal, Owner and CEO of Strategic Communications, LLC, is knowing what image you want to project to others and then determining how successful you are in communicating that image.

    “Just as with businesses, the key is to make sure that the image is consistent and aligned with how you wish to be perceived,” she said. “For individuals, there can be opportunities to get feedback from peers, colleagues, or a professional job coach. Just ask people you trust to give you feedback on how you are currently perceived, and how to align that with the way you wish to be perceived. Then you have to close whatever gaps may exist between the two.”

    Once you’ve bridged those gaps, your job is to get your brand out there so potential employers know who you are. There are a number of effective ways of doing this.

    LinkedIn. Some people erroneously believe that when it comes to LinkedIn, all they have to do is create a profile and forget it. But building your brand on LinkedIn is an ongoing process, so you should always be posting information that is relevant and interesting to your followers, finding new people to connect with, and communicating with other professionals in LinkedIn groups.

    Blogging. Writing a blog is an excellent way to show off your expertise and highlight your personality. In addition, your blog will showcase your written communication skills in ways other branding efforts cannot.

    “A blog is where your brand comes to life,” said Bill Corbett of Corbett Public Relations, Inc. “A blog is a living, breathing thing because you’re providing content that comes from what you’re passionate about and interested in.”

    Social networking. Social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter can expand the reach of your brand and allow people to get to know more about you. Also, you can use these platforms to share information about your field and build a rapport with your audience. This can go a long way toward helping you find a job because when you have an existing connection with someone, it puts you ahead of the pack when competing for a position at their company.

    Videos. “If you’re a job seeker and you don’t have videos online, you’re at a significant disadvantage because people get to see who you are, what you’re passionate about, what you’re interested in, and whether or not you’re even able to articulate what you want to talk about,” said Corbett.

    Dos and Don’ts of personal branding

    Just as with any part of your job search, you have to be careful when you’re creating a brand so you don’t turn off potential employers. The following dos and don’ts can help.

    Do keep your profession in mind when branding. According to Pophal, your profession should play a key role in how you present your personality to the public. Some professions lend themselves to being a little bit more casual and creative, while in other fields, those kinds of personal statements may not leave a good impression.

    “If you’re an attorney looking for a legal job, it’s a totally different kind of scenario than if you’re a graphic designer or a musician,” she said. “The more creative the profession, the more creative you can probably be in how you present yourself. But it’s still a professional venue, so you have to exercise a little bit of caution.”

    Don’t get too controversial. It’s very easy to get sucked into heated debates on social media, but it may make it harder for your audience to take you seriously as a professional when you do. Just as your mother may have warned you to avoid discussing politics and religion on a first date, it’s always best to err on the side of caution and avoid these topics when you’re trying to establish a professional brand. However, if you’re in a profession related to politics, religion, or other hot-button issues, your audience will give you a little bit more latitude in discussing these topics — and they may even think it’s odd if you’re not vocal about your beliefs.

    Do choose your photos wisely. The old adage tells us that a picture is worth a thousand words, so you want to choose a photo that ensures those words describe you in a positive and professional way. The best photos, especially for LinkedIn, are the ones showing you in business attire. And when you post personal photos online, use caution and avoid the ones that will have your audience scratching their head and questioning your judgment.

    Don’t try to sell. “Selling is probably the biggest taboo when it comes to personal branding,” Corbett said. “Personal branding is developing the relationship, it’s not selling. Anybody who uses social media to sell, particularly to hard sell, is making a big mistake. You’re going to repel people instead of attract people.”

    By Kenya McCullum

    About the Author:

    Kenya McCullum is a freelance writer based in California. She is a contributor to several print publications and websites including OnlineColleges.com.

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