How you develop yourself as a ‘brand’ is an essential part of career development. It is not a cynical marketing exercise but how you establish your professional identity, telling the story of who you are, what you have achieved and where you want to go. It also shows recruiters why you are the one for the plum role: they can see that you are a leader in your field, someone with passion for what you do, and that you have a strong network of followers. So, how do you make sure your brand is saying what you want it to?
Get the basics right
If your CV has been sat on your computer for many years, don’t be tempted to simply email it off without so much as a second glance. Give it a thorough revamp. Does every word earn its place? Look at your personal statement – does it succinctly prove what you can bring to a business, and entice the reader to continue? Is it upbeat without sounding too good to be true? Do get someone else to proof-read your CV for you – it’s amazing how many typos and careless errors still slip through in what is often the ‘first impression’.
Who are you online?
Google yourself. This is an interesting exercise and lets you see what a recruiter will get when they look you up (it can also become time-wasting if you can’t resist nosing at your namesakes around the world!). Do you have a coherent online image? If your LinkedIn page portrays you as a suited and booted professional but Facebook shows you as a wild party animal, then alarm bells will ring. Your tongue lolling over a glass of Champagne is not a good look. People are entitled to a private life, but keep it private and use those privacy settings.
Does your professional story come across powerfully? Do you demonstrate a positive personality? It’s as well to refrain from extreme rants online or even churlish retorts in online discussions as they may come back to haunt you.
Create a digital portfolio
Having your own website is a useful way of keeping all your professional information in the same place and enables you to point recruiters towards further information without them having to dig all over the internet. They can then delve into as much or as little detail as they wish.
It doesn’t have to be some whizz-bang feat of technical accomplishment (unless that is the field you work in and are applying for) so long as it is smart, easy to read and navigate. Your website should include your CV, go into detail about your accomplishments, bring together any speeches or presentations you have done, and include awards you have won. Like any good brand, some glowing testimonials from existing customers – people you have worked with before – will add credibility to your story.
Build up your online following
Yes, you need to be on social media. But you don’t need to be on every single channel. Think about where you can best add value. If you give a large number of presentations, for example, look at putting them up on SlideShare – make sure you give yourself ample credit within the slides so it is obvious who the genius is behind them and direct viewers to your website.
Join relevant groups via the likes of LinkedIn and start adding insightful comments. In the same way you wouldn’t (hopefully) walk up to a group of strangers at a party and take over the conversation, listen first to what is being said, think about how you can provide something meaningful, then join in.
Demonstrate your expertise
Establish yourself as an expert – get listed on websites such as Expertsources where journalists look for people with relevant knowledge to quote in their stories. Conferences are also a good way to get out there and show the world what you know.
For some it comes naturally, others would rather have teeth pulled. If you are in the former camp, avoid arrogance and gloating. Think instead of demonstrating the problems you are solving rather than pure bragging. Always back up what you claim.
Shy wallflowers, meanwhile, can start by getting others to spread the word for them and by asking for testimonials.
Look at the whole package
Review your brand regularly to make sure it is reflecting the true professional you are. You can, and should, tailor certain aspects of your brand depending on the role and company you are applying to but always be authentic – like advertising is subject to the wrath of regulators, make sure the you that you are selling is genuine, and portrays you as accurately, albeit in the best light, as possible. You will have to deliver on your promise, and no one will go back to a brand that claims to be gold but turns out to be brass.