Posted by Doug White on Wednesday, January 7, 2015 - 00:00 | Follow me
The start of the year is a natural time to reflect upon your career. And if, like many, finding a new job is a top goal, it’s smart to give some significant thought to how you can set yourself apart from your competition.
This requires more than just freshening up your resume and cover letter. It’s about thinking strategically and drilling down on how you can best package and present your story to prospective employers. One strategy is to develop a personal brand identity: Brand You.
True, you are an individual and not a business like Chipotle or Nike, but like them, you can create a distinctive brand story that highlights your strengths, mission and point of view.
Here are tips on getting started:
For your personal brand to be effective, it must be relevant, compelling and authentic. Coming up with a flashy but hollow pitch is unlikely to resonate with hiring managers. Instead, get introspective and take a detailed inventory of your skills, work style, experience and personality.
A good way to nail down your personal brand is to write a brief about yourself. List everything you have to offer an employer on some sheets of paper. Don't edit yourself; jot down anything that comes to mind. Once you think you’ve captured all potentially valuable skills, abilities and traits, begin weeding the list down to your five greatest professional assets.
Prioritize your greatest strengths
Next, work on your priority of communication around those core selling points. Keep it short and simple. Aim for a dozen words or so for each item. Your list might look something like this:
- I excel at distilling and explaining complex financial information to colleagues and clients.
- I’m resourceful and have a history of quickly learning and mastering new technologies.
- I’m highly knowledgeable in tax accounting.
- I’ve been praised at every job for my outstanding work ethic.
- I’m a highly creative thinker and problem solver.
If you’re struggling to get started, imagine that you randomly met the CFO of a company where you’ve always wanted to work. What’s your story? What are the most important messages you’d want to get across? What impression would you want to leave?
Be clear and consistent
Once you’ve developed your list and your personal brand starts to take shape, the next task is to make sure your messaging is consistent. Think about how your personal brief translates into the look, feel and content of all your brand elements.
Does your resume clearly spotlight your core attributes and aspirations? If you feel key information is getting lost, consider leading off with a professional summary section. In addition, make sure your LinkedIn bio reinforces your resume and cover letter content. Don’t forget to extend your brand to other social media accounts you use for professional purposes. Your Twitter bio and Facebook profile should include basic professional information that matches up as well. (And, of course, delete any questionable content that could give a hiring manager or recruiter pause.)
You’ll also want to prepare for a job interview with all the points from your personal brief being top of mind. Your body language, attire and attitude should support what you’ve written about yourself.
It’s also smart to put together a compelling and pithy elevator pitch — a short description of who you are and what you do — that aligns with your application materials and digital persona. (This is essential for conferences and other networking events.) Read your elevator pitch out loud to ensure that it sounds both genuine and conversational.
When it comes to selecting references, choose people who will speak to the points you most want to highlight. Provide all job references with your current resume, an overview of the main points you hope to convey, and a description of the job you’re seeking.
Keep at it
The best brands continually fine-tune and evolve. Make it a practice to regularly reassess your personal brand (both your materials and approach). As you continue in your job search, you’ll get a sense of what’s resonating. While this may sound like a lot of work, developing a personal brand gives you a framework to follow as you develop or refine any one element in your job-hunting toolbox.