UPDATED ON OCTOBER 12, 2017: Original article published on March 26, 2016.
The job market is more competitive than ever. It's essential to learn and implement marketing strategies to put you ahead of the other candidates applying for the same jobs as you are. Personal branding is the practice of marketing yourself and your career as a brand. The key to success is in how you present yourself.
What does this mean for job seekers? It means no more passive job search strategies. If you want that new and better job, you're going to have to stand out. By immersing yourself in this idea of personal branding, you're positioning yourself to be the candidate that employers seek rather than doing the seeking yourself.
If this sounds complicated, then calm yourself. I'm about to break down how to develop and launch your personal brand in only three days!
Day 1: Assessment Day
Before doing anything with your personal brand, you need to evaluate your situation. Do you have an online presence already? Have hiring managers complimented certain points on your resume before? Are you completely lost on where to get started when developing a personal brand?
ASSESS THE DAMAGE
Most employers admit to using Google and other search engines to look for information on candidates before calling them in for an interview. Have you ever searched for your name online? You may notice that your social media profiles are some of the first to be listed on a search. That means employers are likely looking at your social media profiles as well.
If possible, find the links that are hindering your personal brand and do what you can to remove them. For example, if you wrote a horrible blog post at the beginning of your freelance career and the link is still one of the first that appear then try to contact the site moderator. If you have private details of your life plastered all over Facebook and your profile is one of the first links that appear, it may be time to change your privacy settings.
LEARN WHAT YOU CAN
Use this first day to learn as much as you can about your industry, how to brand yourself as an expert in your field, and how to use the world wide web to get your name out there. In fact, social media is a great tool to curate or find information quickly. Using Twitter, you can search for great resources using hashtags. With Facebook's improvements with their Graph Search, you can find popular or trending articles that have been shared publicly on you industry's leaders' walls.
Pinterest is another great resource for finding articles and blogs that will help you develop your own personal brand. Many businesses use Pinterest to share their articles because of Pinterest's ties to Google. Have you ever noticed that Pinterest boards come up as Google search results too?
The key to day one is to assess the damage that the internet is already doing to your personal brand and learn as much as you can about how to leverage social media and other online channels to market yourself as an industry expert.
Day 2: Development Day
After spending a day learning more about your industry and how to market yourself, today is the day you learn more about yourself. During Development Day, you'll need to identify your strengths and how they will help you reach your goals. You'll also be developing the personal brand that you will launch.
ALL ABOUT YOU
One of the most important things you can develop is a solid bio that can be used consistently across social media and your online presence. You should have a short bio for character-limiting sites like Twitter, a 200-300 word bio for your resume or LinkedIn profile summary, and a long bio for an About Me page on a website or one-page professional bio.
Your bio should be a condensed version of your Branding Statement (Need help? Branding Statement Cheat Sheet is a great guide!). Here are the questions to consider when drafting your bios:
- What passions and values are driving your in your career?
- What are your top strengths and results that you've produced?
- What top personal and/or professional experiences define you?
- What emotion do you want others to feel when they see your strengths at work or interact with you?
Once you've developed your answers, tie it all together to tell your personal brand story. Include your career goals in your Branding Statement by addressing who your ideal employer is.
Once you have a solid bio ready, you will want to craft the content for your marketing materials. These include your resume, business cards, LinkedIn profile, Facebook profile or page, and portfolio or blog. When crafting your resume content, make sure the strengths and values you identified in your bio are consistent with the experiences and skills you highlight. Your resume will then serve as the foundation for the rest of your personal brand materials.
Use similar design elements for a business card design, and keep your business cards on hand for networking. Use these same design elements to create visual content such as LinkedIn profile and Facebook profile/page cover images. You can use free online programs like Canva to create business cards and social media photos with your contact information to be used as marketing tools.
If you are in digital, creative, or results-driven fields like sales, consider developing an online portfolio. You can take snapshots of your work, create graphs and infographics, or simply link to your published works in an organized portfolio that tells your story and highlights your value. Slideshare is a great and free tool where you can create an interactive portfolio that can be linked to your social profiles or embedded onto a website.
Another popular tactic that will help you stand out and be found easily online is to create an upload videos content that reflects your personal brand. If appropriate for your industry, you can create branded how-to videos that show off your skills. You could also create a video blog where you discuss industry trends or news to show your knowledge and passion for the field.
MAKE IT EASY TO CONTACT YOU
The final touch for your personal brand are perfecting the methods of communication. Having a professional or branded email address is essential to polishing your personal brand. It's completely free to get an email address through Gmail, Microsoft, and Yahoo. Keep the email address simple with your name, industry terminology, or location to keep it simple.
For example, John Doe is an recent graduate with a degree in accounting. He's studying for his CPA exam, looking for a job in Portland, and is developing his personal brand. His email address could appropriately be:
- firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com
- firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com
- firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com
- firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com
- firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com
- firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com
- firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com
- firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com
There is no reason for John Doe to have the same unprofessional email address that he had in high school. In other words, JohnIsDaMan@aol.com won't make the cut or get him the job.
Day 3: Launch Day
Today is the day you put it all together and get your name out there. Whether you're just uploading your resume to Monster or looking to expand your online presence, Launch Day doesn't have to be the most challenging day.
If you're looking to improve your online presence, start with a LinkedIn profile. It's free to create, and your profile can be searchable for all employers and recruiters. You already have content from your resume to copy-and-paste or upload, but take the time to rework your bio for a killer Summary. Yes, LinkedIn is for professionals but it's still social media. Make your Summary personal and approachable.
Once your LinkedIn profile is Google-ready, let's look at your Facebook profile. You really can't do much with your personal profile other than write a short introduction and fill out your About Me tab completely with your bio. You can add professional skills, but employers aren't using Facebook Graph Search to find candidates yet. What you can do is create a Facebook page. Yes, they are typically for businesses but you can create a Page for your personal brand.
Using your Facebook page, you can create ads and target them toward business owners or corporate executives leading your ideal company. You can promote yourself on Facebook for as little as $5 a day, and it's a guaranteed way you will stand out if you do this strategically. You can also promote yourself organically (or for free) by sharing links to industry trends and news, your own blog posts, or to your LinkedIn profile or online portfolio.
Employers are starting to use Pinterest, Instagram, and Twitter to advertise job openings. Be visible and consistent on these platforms so you don't miss out on any opportunities.
BE FOUND ONLINE ELSEWHERE
You can create simple 1-page websites (called Cover Pages) using Squarespace. You can create an online resume with a custom domain name for only $60 a year. In other words, when a big CPA firm is looking up John Doe they'll find www.johndoe.com as one of the top search results. They'll find his online resume, portfolio, and social media profiles that much easier.
Upload your portfolio to Slideshare and embed this in your LinkedIn profile. Using the right keywords, employers can also find this in the top 10 search results next to your LinkedIn profile.
The end goal (if you haven't figured it out yet) is to dominate the first page of Google search results with positive links that all consistently present your personal brand. Ideally, your results should look like this:
- John Doe, CPA | Accounting Teams Count On John Doe (www.johndoe.com)
- John Doe, CPA | LinkedIn (www.linkedin.com/in/johndoecpa)
- John Doe | Facebook (www.facebook.com/johndoe)
- John Doe, CPA - Facebook (www.facebook.com/johndoecpa)
- John Doe, CPA (@johndoecpa) | Twitter (www.twitter.com/johndoecpa)
- John Doe, Accounting Portfolio (www.slideshare.net/JohnDoe/John-Doe-Accounting-Portfolio
- John Doe - YouTube (www.youtube.com/channel/JohnDoeCPA)
- Posts by John Doe | Accounting Students Speak Out (www.accountingstudentspeakout.com/author/johndoe)
- John Doe - Profile - Disqus (www.discus.com/by/johndoecpa)
- John Doe - Quora (www.quora.com/profile/John-Doe)
Overwhelming? It doesn't have to be. It only takes three days to evaluate your online presence, develop your personal brand, and launch your brand as a job seeker.