My neighbor retired this summer after 36 years with the same employer. This used to be a common occurrence, but not today. Now this gentleman is definitely the exception to the rule. It really got me thinking about what it takes today to be successful in a career and employable throughout your working life.
The world of work has changed forever. In this new world, there is little or no job security, so you need to begin to change the rules! Rather than being defined by your job or your employer, you need to become your own one-person enterprise – a personal brand. Instead of waiting for opportunities to come to you, you can attract opportunity by taking control of how you are perceived.
In fact, you already have a personal brand, whether you know it or not. Everyone does. Your brand has been formed over time based on your behavior, treatment of others, appearance, lifestyle, personality, friends and interests, as well as the quality of your work and the things you say. These things combine to create a clear perception of you by others; a reputation, a label, a brand.
Some people may wonder if branding yourself offline, as well as online, is going overboard for ordinary people in ordinary jobs. Not in today’s world! Not only does your brand affect you in ways you may not realize, you may need your online presence and network to help you find new opportunities. Your brand can affect you in the following ways:
- Whether you will be considered for a promotion, a job opening or other opportunities.
- Whether your ideas are respected or viewed as credible.
- Whether others are willing to help or hinder you.
- The perceived quality of the service or work product you provide.
- Gives you a sense of confidence and purpose.
Now that you are considering the merits of branding, how do you go about it? The first step is to define your “wow” factor! People with strong brands are clear about who they are. They know and maximize their strengths. Asking yourself some of these questions can help you define your strengths and come up with a personal brand statement:
- What are my three greatest passions?
- What are the qualities that others acknowledge in me?
- When working as a team, what role do I fill?
- What are my “go to” skills when faced with an obstacle?
- What skills do others seek me out for?
- What has been my most successful project or role?
Don’t be discouraged if it takes time, thought and lots of rewrites to distill all of your ideas into a brand statement. This is not easy!
Once you have your personal brand defined, take it online. It is time to review your current online presence or to create one. Seventy-five percent of jobs today are obtained by networking. A recent study by OfficeTeam shows that more than one-third of companies feel that online profiles replace traditional resumes. Most companies and recruiters are checking social media profiles before making hiring decisions or before deciding to interview you.
To create an effective online presence, you should, at a minimum, create a profile on LinkedIn. Headhunters, recruiters and employers actively use LinkedIn to find and research potential employees. Equally important, LinkedIn allows you to build a network of connections and relationships. Finally, LinkedIn allows you to post your experience, testimonials, recommendations and endorsements of your work and skills.
Other social media sites to consider are Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and Pinterest. There are benefits to all of them. Important things to consider when creating a profile on any of these sites:
- Use a photo of yourself smiling as your profile picture.
- Keep it “G” rated.
- Keep your brand consistent over all sites.
Finally, once you have defined your brand, online and offline – live it! Be your brand. Walk the walk. Think about your choices. If your brand is about being a buttoned-up professional, should you be spreading gossip about your co-workers? If your brand is about being outgoing and generous, should you be a wallflower at a networking event, refusing to connect with others? If your brand is about being positive and “can do,” should you be online complaining about your current project and that it will never succeed? If you find that you can’t consistently live your brand or if it feels fake, you need to go back to the drawing board! After all, the purpose is to find and market YOUR brand, not someone else’s.
Defining and communicating your personal brand is a process. It doesn’t happen overnight. Your genuine brand comes from within. The process of branding allows you to take control and to showcase your talent in order to stay competitive in today’s job market.