Over the past few years, many recruitment specialists have emphasized the need for everyone to build a personal brand. But what is a personal brand? How do you go about building one? And why is it important?
What is a personal brand?
A personal brand, in its simplest meaning, is the sense you have of yourself—what you’re good at, what you enjoy—that is relevant to the workplace and that you want to share with current and prospective employers. As the job market has become more competitive, having a personal brand to make you stand out from the competition has become extremely important, and it’s very difficult to convey your personal brand just through your resume or standard application materials.
Once you’ve started your career, you can build your personal brand by making sure you keep track of all your accomplishments. One of the best pieces of advice I received when I started my career as a college professor was the suggestion that I keep a record of all my contributions to the department and my field—committee service; publications; awards; workshop, convention, and conference participation; letters of thanks from students; and so forth—so that when the time came for me to write my annual report, I would have all that information at my fingertips. This type of record can also be useful if you have weekly or monthly team meetings or are required to write regular progress reports.
The record of your accomplishments can also be used to create a portfolio—online or on paper—that demonstrates your specific skills and strengths. The portfolio can be used when it’s time to ask for a raise or when it’s time to look for another job.
But how do you build your personal brand when you haven’t actually started your career yet? When you’re either still in school or are paying the bills with jobs that are outside your area of interest (or that are not taking advantage of your skills and education)? That gets a bit trickier, but it’s still possible … and still definitely worth doing. Here are a few ideas to get you started:
Even if you’re not working at your career yet, you are accomplishing things with your life, and you can still keep track of those accomplishments and use them to build a portfolio. Did you write a short story that was published in an online journal? Did you volunteer at an animal shelter and find a home for an injured dog? Did you earn an employee of the month award at the fast-food franchise where you work? Did you create an app that reminds you to keep track of your accomplishments?
Use your social media platforms to publicize your accomplishments as they happen. Start with the basics: Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter. And then expand to other platforms based on your own interests and those of the people who might follow and/or hire you.
Use those same platforms to share the things about which you are passionate. Think long and hard about what is really important to you, and then think of what you want to say about it. Consider creating a blog that allows you space to tell the world who you are, what you care about, what you’re good at, and what you’ve done. If you are passionate about more than one thing (and who isn’t?), create easily identifiable topics so that readers can follow the posts that are most interesting to them.
Build followers on all your social networks. Connect with family, friends, classmates (both college and high school), faculty, alumni, and people you know from your membership in various organizations. Build on that base by connecting with people in professional associations relevant to your career goals as well as the connections of your connections.
The important thing to remember is that you need to make regular additions to the information that you are publishing about yourself. If a prospective employer looks at your LinkedIn profile (and you can be sure that employers will look at your LinkedIn profile when considering your application) and sees that you haven’t added anything in several weeks, they may just think that you’re not motivated or interested, and they may take you off their list of potential employees, even if you’re fully qualified for a position.