You’ve finally decided that you’re going to future-proof your career by creating a personal brand.
The problem, however, is that knowing exactly where to start can be difficult. Do you need a personal website? A LinkedIn profile? A new professionally written resume? The options seem endless and before you know it, you’re overwhelmed.
It’s just too hard. You're wondering whether you should put the idea on hold for now.
Well, I wanted to make it easy for you. In this 3-part series I'll begin by showing you the 17 building blocks of a modern personal brand. I'll then give you step-by-step instructions on how to pick the the right ones for your career, personality and ambitions to create a highly unique mix of elements which will become your personal brand.
So, let's go. Here are the most common (and essential) branding elements.
1. Your Brain.
Contrary to what some personal branding “experts” will tell you, building your personal brand doesn’t begin with opening a Twitter or LinkedIn profile (or tinkering any other aspect of technology, for that matter).
Importantly, personal branding is not simply a vehicle for advancing your career. It’s also an opportunity to alter the context and/or direction of your career for the better. It can enable you to find more meaningful (not necessarily prestigious) work, allow yourself to express fully and find more satisfaction in what you do.
Before you start thinking about technology, resumes and websites, examine yourself. Your brand, distilled to the core, is a value declaration. Be clear on what value you bring before you move on.
2. Your Resume / CV.
Old school, I know. Do you even need a resume these days? Well, most likely. Even though digital technology is taking over the world, the humble resume is still likely to be part of the hiring process for another 3-5 years.
Ensure that your resume is not just a dry, bland list of tasks you’ve performed. Here's an example what you shouldn't to (yet, sadly, is what I find in resumes very often):
“Managed business banking excellence project.”
And here’s the same, expressed in more attention-grabbing form:
“Led 2013 Business Banking Excellence initiative for the Operations Support team, driving delivery of 10 distinct process improvement projects, resulting in cost and time benefits equivalent to 0.44 FTE saving.”
See the difference?
3. Business Cards.
Your current employer has probably provided you with business cards.
However, it’s important to note that there is a huge difference between your current job and your personal brand. The former is your current primary economic relationship while the latter is your stand.
One is prone to relatively frequent change while the other is enduring.
Your brand sets the context from which you decide which jobs to take.
In an increasingly mobile, transient and mobile workplace (40% of workers will be non-full time by 2020), the need for business cards which represent you as a brand - rather than your job - will only accelerate.
Expect to find yourself in more and more situations where you won’t want to represent yourself as “Senior Project Manager at ACME Company”.
4. Elevator Pitch.
You bump into an old client / boss / colleague. “What are you up to these days?” - he probes casually, but intently.
There may be a possible opportunity to explore here, but you’ll never know about it if you respond with the world’s most common, safe, generic response:
“Still in project management. Moved to ACME Company. Working on a huge telecommunications project. You?”
You just blew a potential job opportunity or a $100K deal. But you'll never know about it, which means you won't feel the burn of regret (and, as a consequence, won't have an incentive to improve your ability to pitch yourself to others).
Here’s a quick tip for creating an elevator pitch. Just follow the little-known Gaddy Pitch format:
You how how … [problem]?
Well, what I do is … [solution].
In fact, [memorable fact].
Let me show you an example:
“You know how you sometimes see a job that you really want? You want to put your best foot forward for it, but you don’t know how to best position yourself, your resume doesn’t do your experience justice and you don’t know where to begin when it comes to building an online presence?”
“Well, what I do is help executives and managers stand out head and shoulders above their competition in the modern job search market.”
“In fact, over 94% of my clients get a job interview within 30 days of contacting me.”
Well, that's what I do. What about you?
5. Interview Skills.
The job interview ranks highly as the place where most people take themselves out of the running for a job they want - because most people don't know how to sell themselves. Read my job interview guide before you attend another interview. Please.
6. LinkedIn Profile.
The biggest mistake people make with their LinkedIn profiles is this: they make it look exactly like their resume.
By doing so, they miss out on two opportunities:
Think of your LinkedIn profile as place where you share the story and purpose of your brand while providing an overview of your work history and achievements. It should feel more conversational and personable than a resume.
7. Personal Website.
A few years ago only freelancers and rock stars had websites.
Tomorrow, a personal website will be an essential professional item - much like a business suit.
Should you get one now?
Well, there are two main benefits from having one:
Whatever you do, don’t build a website yourself if you don’t have any experience with design. Either hire a professional to build one from ground up for you using WordPress or, if you’re on a tight budget, use template-based platform like SquareSpace.
8. Business Portrait (aka Headshot).
A top-notch photograph is essential for your LinkedIn profile (and your website, if you have one).
Do not, under any circumstances, settle for a snapshot which you cropped out of a photo that was taken in a social situation. Do not use a webcam, either.
Pro tip: a great business portrait must make you look confident and approachable.
When it comes to photography, you very much get what you pay for. A basic headshot will cost $150-200 in most countries, however if you want to invest in your career, look at photographers in the $300+ territory. They’ll be able to create a photograph which is not just an image of you, but is also a tool for communicating your brand.
To be continued in Part II.
Irene McConnell runs Arielle Careers, Australia's #1 executive personal branding agency.
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