Guide to Improving Your Brand in Today's Job Market
A Crowded Field of Talent
Like most of us, I’m humbled by the amount of talented people that surround me every day. So many people have quite an impressive set of skills that have value. All too often, it is the people that have the most skills that are unemployed or underemployed. In a time not so long ago, searching for and landing a job meant going to school, doing an internship, searching newspaper want ads, mailing a resume, going on interviews and getting a job. Those days are long gone. In every career field we see today, the competition has increased dramatically. To some, this may seem like almost a hopeless situation. In reality, moving forward, what we call “the job market” presents a tremendous opportunity. It is possible like never before, to set yourself apart from the competition in a wide variety of ways. By taking a few simple steps, you can set yourself apart from the competition in today's super competitive job market. Let’s get started. Keep one thing in mind as you read. This will require hard work and dedication on your part. This is not a “get rich quick”, “Make a gajillion dollars online” fly-by-night scheme. If this were easy, everyone would be doing this. One of the challenges you'll find is not getting discouraged.
Why Brand Yourself?
When you get to the point that you are considered for an interview by a perspective employer, expect to be googled whether you like it or not. This is used as a precautionary measure by companies who want to know if anything sticks out in your digital footprint that could cause a potential problem down the road. Some companies have a designated person or department that focuses on this very activity. Whether your digital profile is pristine or has some issues, let the branding begin. We will first define exactly what we mean by the term branding and then examine why it is crucial to your career in the digital age. What exactly is branding? In her article Branding 101 which appeared in Forbes magazine, Lisa Quast describes personal branding this way. “The overall goal with branding is to differentiate yourself (the product) in the market so you can attain your objectives, be those landing your dream job or becoming a famous singer. The process includes defining your brand and brand attributes, positioning your brand in a different way than your competitors and then managing all aspects of your personal brand.”Here’s a clue. You’ve undoubtedly done branding without even knowing it. In fact, you’ve probably done a bit of branding of yourself. Branding is defined as differentiation. If you have ever been interviewed for a job, the whole point is to differentiate yourself from the other candidates. By doing so, differentiating, you have indeed branded yourself. We’ve already established that simply differentiating yourself in the interview isn’t nearly enough. One reason would be that the competition is so fierce that branding must begin well before the interview otherwise you won’t even make it that far. There needs to be a concentrated, focused effort to create a personal brand that is competitive. Let’s break it down. Step 1: Do a search on yourself. If anything comes up that suggests that casts you in a less than favorable light if an employer found it, address it head on. This could take the form of questionable pictures of you for example. It is highly recommended that you remove these whenever possible. Step 2: Starting from a clean slate, we’ll use the backwards design process to build your brand. Simply put, start with the end goal in mind. This first step is crucial. The idea is to have a clearly defined goal. Let’s look at an example. Rob Louis has just finished an Associates degree in Aviation Technology. His goal is to work for a company that builds charter jets. Rob did well in school. He graduated with a 3.5 gpa and he completed an internship with a local airline. In researching his chosen career field, Rob has found that while there are jobs in his field, the competition is intense. With careful building of his brand, Rob can make himself stand out among other candidates. As a recent graduate, Rob does the following:
Rob uses his knowledge he’s learned from his Aviation program and builds a website. Rob begins to write short blog posts on Aviation topics. After writing several quality posts, Rob decides to write an ebook on the topic of Charter Jets. He uses his knowledge and does research on his topic. Rob contacts his local library and offers to conduct free lectures on aircraft. At this point, Rob has built a website and continued to blog, written an ebook and given at least one lecture. When Rob gets an interview, he has concrete examples to show his dedication to his chosen field as well as his expertise. As stated earlier, branding takes work. Keep in mind that with careful personal branding, you not only begin to stand out among the competition, you also begin to leverage your knowledge in ways that would have otherwise go unexplored. Also, remember that here, we are distinguishing between building your brand thereby being more competitive rather than focusing on the actual job search itself. As we have seen, it is important to consider the following main points for personal branding.
- Clearly define your goal. What is your dream job?
- Know your field. Research, research, research. Remember that with building your personal brand, you raise your profile. Therefore, you want to make sure you know what you’re talking about. If you don’t research thoroughly, you could actually be hurting your brand instead of helping it.
Choosing a strategy that works for you will be crucial to your success. Take an honest inventory of what unique talents you possess. Never forget that the one asset that you can’t make more of is time. Use it wisely. That includes choosing a branding strategy that works for you. It does no good to try and juggle too many things at once and not do any of them well. For example, if writing an ebook on your chosen field seems overwhelming for you, utilizing a social media site and making short posts on your topic may be more appropriate and more effective.
Less is More
Hopefully at some point in your youth, some adult that you trust gave you a bit of sage advice. "If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all." This axiom applies here. What you write in cyberspace matters. If you don't think you can remain positive in your posts, ebooks, podcasts, or any other venue which you decide to use to improve your brand, you will be better of if you didn't post anything at all. You could end up having a negative rather than a positive effect on your brand. For example, there have been several inappropriate posts on LinkedIn, which is designated as a business networking site. Think before you press send!
In the final analysis, working on your brand, while it is hard work, can be very rewarding. With a little elbow grease, your brand will shine brighter than you ever imagined and you will be much more competitive in today's job market.