As a marketing manager, I spend my days immersed in content and social media. It might seem like I spend my entire day procrastinating but this is my actual job…for the most part. The nature of my role means that I can pick up news stories and follow trends in the digital and professional space days before mainstream media picks up on it- much to my smug delight. Recently I’ve noticed an influx of articles on branding. Personal branding. Employer branding. Cultural branding. None of these are new concepts by any means. Coming from a marketing background and prior to working for a digital recruitment company I had, and still have, a strong interest in employability skills, particularly in young people, so it should come as no surprise that I’ve spent a considerable amount of time, consuming as much information as I can about personal branding.
If you’re currently asking yourself what personal branding is and picturing your name and face as a logo and having a mini-meltdown because your design skills are limited to MS Paint then don’t worry, personal branding is a little more straightforward and a lot less technical than that; however, if you do happen to work in design or creative industries then actually a logo can be a pretty effective method of personal branding, though not essential. In reality, personal branding is everything that makes up the professional you. It requires a bit of thought, for sure, but ultimately, you’ll be reviewing your whole on and offline professional persona in order to build your personal brand.
Why does it matter?
Unless you have been extremely fortunate and walked straight out of education and into your dream job then more than likely you’ll need to spend time building your personal brand. It will ensure that you stand out from everyone else in a similar position to you and that will give you the edge in any of your future endeavours.
Nowadays it’s not sufficient to just have a stellar resume. Employers are smart. They will spend the time hunting down and reading through your online profiles. If you think that they don’t have the time for this then you are sorely mistaken. A bad hire costs a company valuable time and money that can’t be recouped, so if your CV is promising enough for an employer to offer you an interview they will be looking online to get a better picture of who you are as a potential future member of their business.
How can you be prepared?
Don’t panic. For the most part, a lot of personal branding is straightforward, costing an initial investment of dedicated time, followed by regular stints. Firstly, and most importantly, sort out your LinkedIn profile. If like me you have had LinkedIn since the beginning of your employment history and have added every job you have ever worked ever, then great! If, like everyone I went to university with, you’ve only had it since your lecturer mentioned it in first year, then here’s my suggestion for you; only add relevant employment positions you’ve had since secondary school. If you worked at Pepe’s Pizza for 2 months in Year 11 then maybe you could omit it from your LinkedIn profile. But if you’ve worked in Tesco’s doing stock since Year 9 until you left in Year 11 then you should add it.
Include jobs that show:
- Relevant transferable skills
- Commitment (where you have worked for a long period of time)
- Progression (like receiving a promotion)
- Industry experience, paid or unpaid internships that demonstrate your commitment to breaking into your chosen career path
- Somewhere you have been commended or received an award
I suggest that the way you present these jobs should follow the responsibilities/ achievements format (see our guide on how to do that here).
So now you have an online CV, that must be it?
I forewarned that there was going to be that investment of dedicated time. LinkedIn is only really the foundation of what you can do towards building a solid personal brand. The second part is focussed on your professional self.
As an exercise, I want you to imagine meeting your ideal manager for the first time. How do they greet you? What’s their body language like? Are they pulling a facial expression? Do they say anything?
Typically, people envision someone standing to greet them with a smile, firm handshake and some kind of ‘hello, nice to meet you. How are you?’. What makes someone feel comfortable is not only the person’s confidence but the sincerity of what’s being said.
Compare this to someone who comes into the room. Gives a stiff handshake, avoids eye contact and flatly greets you, pulling a tight-lipped smile for only a second; It doesn’t really give off this air of warmth, does it?
The reason I’m trying to get you to think about this is so that you become more aware of how important it is to be authentic and sincere. Stepping into the professional world from an educational environment is a huge leap. Yeah, you might be able to nail an interview but it’s a totally different ball-game keeping up that persona day in, day out. This is why you must mould yourself into your super-star-interview-self in your everyday. From personal experience, I wouldn’t say that educational environments teach you to be your professional self on an everyday basis. This leaves a lot of students with interview anxiety which could eventually lead to imposter syndrome further down the line. In short, completely forget the saying ‘fake it ‘til you make it’ because it’s simply not going to work.
Authenticity. Check. Sincerity. Check. Now how do you get people invested in you?
Did you ever play The Sims? In The Sims you can increase your character’s charisma by getting them to talk at themselves in the mirror. Hilarious! Then I started doing it myself. I’ve found this method to be one of the best ways to practise rehearsed dialogue. Presentations. Elevator pitches. The answer to the interview classic ‘tell me about yourself’. The more you practice the more confident you’ll be delivering it, which in turn makes the whole speech more engaging. Look at your hands, your body language, your face. When it comes to talking about yourself, something that can be one of the most enjoyable, yet nerve-wracking experiences, you want to tell a story, create a journey to your success rather than just focussing on your successes. Wouldn’t you rather hear an inspiring story of how someone ‘made it’, rather than just hearing of how someone rode off the back of someone else’s success?
I feel like I’ve given a lot of food for thought yet I’ve only really touched the tip of the iceberg. So over the course of the next month I will be sharing more of my personal branding tips (my particular favourite being one on content) with you. In the meantime, if you have any questions feel free to comment or message me directly.
So, remember, sort out your CV and LinkedIn profile and practice your greeting and answers to common questions about yourself.
Written by Kelly Newcomb, Marketing Manager
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