Why A Personal Career Brand Is Important - And How to Manage Your Brand
Why A Personal Career Brand Is Important - And How to Manage Your Brand

Let’s play Celebrity Name Game!

Are you familiar with Celebrity Name Game?

Craig Ferguson hosts it.

It’s kind of like “Name That Tune,” but for people, not for music.

Here’s how it works. I’m going to describe a person based on their personal brand, and I want you to identify who I’m talking about!

  • Current Leader of the Free World. Incumbent President of the United States. (Barack Obama)
  • Former queen of the talk show, she started the world’s most popular book club and now runs a media empire. (Oprah)
  • Jolly holiday operations specialist providing just-in-time package delivery to 526 million customers within a 24-hour timeframe. (Santa Claus)
  • Irish lead vocalist of a rock band famous for songs with religious or political themes — he’s known by one name. (Bono)

Fun game, huh?

That’s the power of a personal brand.

Why a Personal Career Brand is Important

You must find a way to stand out. If you stand for everything, you don’t stand for anything. The same is true when establishing your personal brand.

When you create your personal brand, it becomes a shorthand for you. Your personal brand is not your resume or your bio or your LinkedIn profile. It’s the essence of who you are. And it must be authentic to you.

You know how important Search Engine Optimization is for when you want to find something online. The keywords you type into Google help you find what you’re looking for, right? The same is true with your personal brand — when you want someone to find you, you want to make sure you’re easy to find. So it’s important to shape your personal brand. You can decide what you want to be known for.

Your personal brand is how you stand out online.

“Branding” is defined as “to make an indelible mark or impression on somebody or something.” It’s a valuable strategy because you are positioning yourself to be successful in your job search and career.

However you describe it, the good news is: You already have a brand — even if you don’t know what it is. You may have already positioned yourself — you may just not have articulated it yet.

Maybe you’re known as the PR person who can turn a crisis into a non-issue. Or the graphic designer who specializes in creating attention-getting, award-winning logos. That’s your personal brand. It’s what you’re known for. It’s not just your job title, although that can be part of it.

To have a strong brand, you must be clear about who you are and who you are not.

A successful career brand is authentic. It reflects your unique personal attributes or qualities.

To cultivate the brand that will help you reach your goals, you must understand and be able to communicate what makes you exceptional and compelling.

The most difficult part of crafting your online profile is sounding original. Be specific about what distinguishes you from other people with your same job title.

How to Identify (and/or Shape) Your Personal Brand

Who are you? What makes you different? How can you figure out what your brand is? The process begins with self-assessment.

Let’s start with a brainstorming exercise. Make a list of words and phrases — things you’ve worked with. Things you’ve accomplished. Specific training you have. What projects have you worked on? Life experience that you’ve had that would be valuable. Write down whatever comes to mind.

Consider these factors:

  1. Where you grew up
  2. Where you went to school
  3. Places you’ve lived
  4. Special talents / unusual skills
  5. Past misfortunes / things you’ve overcome
  6. Languages you speak fluently
  7. Special training
  8. Past careers
  9. Unique life experiences

Also, leverage the things that you enjoy and do well. Focusing on these areas enables you to get the most out of your career while differentiating you from others with the same job description.

Look at your performance reviews. What do other people say about you?

In your handouts, I gave you a list of questions to answer that can help you. You’re not going to be able to answer them now, but I encourage you to take the time to go through them later.

Identify your unique identity. What do you want to be known for? You need to express: “I am this.” Take some time to think through this. It usually takes me a couple of hours to distil my client’s essence. Give it time.

Your personal brand is not your job title. Also, if your personal branding statement could be said about almost anyone with your same job title, it needs work. You are not your job title.

The second piece of the puzzle is that it’s not enough to decide only what you want to be known for. Your personal brand must also align with something that prospective employers value. So the next question is: What do they want?

What problem is the company trying to solve? Solving the problem can be about saving time, or building customer relationships. Position yourself to solve a problem.

The question you want to answer for the employer is, “Why should you hire me?” When employers are hiring, they really want to know: “Why should I choose you instead of someone else?” Your personal brand is an important part of answering this question.

Employers hire for their reasons, not yours. There are 12 things employers generally hire employees to do. A colleague, Susan Whitcomb, identified these 12 “Employer Buying Motivators” in her book, Résumé Magic. These are 12 specific needs a company has. These include a company’s need to:

  • Make money.
  • Save money.
  • Save time.
  • Make work easier.
  • Solve a specific problem.
  • Be more competitive.
  • Build relationship / an image.
  • Expand business.
  • Attract new customers.
  • Retain existing customers.

How Having a Personal Brand Can Help You Advance In Your Current Job

(Or Find a New One)

When you think about personal branding and job search, there are two things that usually come to mind: Your resume and your LinkedIn profile.

Having an online presence on LinkedIn can be important in your job search. Your LinkedIn profile can present your credentials to prospective employers and hiring managers, increasing your chance of securing an interview. Your profile can help you be found.

Recruiters and hiring managers do searches on LinkedIn. A successful LinkedIn profile gives readers a snapshot of who you are and how you can contribute to their organization. You must understand and be able to articulate and communicate what makes you exceptional and compelling. That’s your personal brand in action.

Recruiters and hiring managers need help knowing what kind of position you’re focused on. It’s harder to find a job when you don’t know what kind of job you want. Conversely, it is easier to find a job if you know what kind of job you want.

Personal branding allows you to establish three things:

  • a clear message of who you are,
  • the experience you have, and
  • how you can be an asset to the employer.

Many jobseekers develop their personal branding when they are looking for a new job. But personal branding can also help you be more effective — and visible — in your current job.

Develop your own communications plan in your current position. Increase your personal visibility by speaking, writing, and participating in social media. Once you’ve identified your personal brand, see how you can incorporate it into your everyday work life. This will make you worth more to your current employer (remember, superstars stand out!) and make you more attractive as a job candidate when it is time for you to look for a new position.

So let’s talk about how you might express your brand, both online and offline — in the real world.

Practical Strategies for Expressing Your Personal Brand (Online & Offline)

Now, it’s time to actually articulate your personal brand. Your personal brand has two parts: A tagline (or Headline) and a full positioning statement.

Your personal branding tagline is one sentence — ideally, 5-10 words in length. It should be easily understandable and easy to remember. LinkedIn Headlines can be up to 120 characters. That’s a good target to use for your branding tagline.

The full positioning statement has an immediately clear focus supported by 3-5 main points that further emphasize that focus. This personal branding statement will be used throughout your resume, LinkedIn profile, and the job interview process.

Your personal brand should be authentic, relevant, compelling, and differentiate you from others.

When someone searches for you on LinkedIn, they will see three things: Your name, your LinkedIn Headline, and your location. In many cases, hiring managers and recruiters will make the decision to read your full LinkedIn profile based on just these three things. Consequently, the LinkedIn Headline acts like a newspaper or magazine title. It gives the reader an idea of what your profile will include (just like a newspaper headline previews a story). Being specific results in a much better headline. Great headlines attract attention, and the more people who view your LinkedIn profile, the better your chances of connecting with the right person who can lead you to your dream job.

Keywords also play an important part for you in being found by people who don’t know you on LinkedIn — this is particularly true for jobseekers who are hoping for contacts from prospective employers and recruiters. Keywords are a list of words and phrases that are related to your work — they are the words that a prospective employer would search for when trying to find someone like you. LinkedIn Headlines are searchable fields using the “People Search” function when someone is looking for particular skills, interests, qualifications, or credentials.

You can also incorporate keywords throughout your LinkedIn profile, including:

  • Your LinkedIn Headline
  • Current and former work experience
  • LinkedIn summary section
  • Specialties or Skills section

The keywords that you select for your profile must fit two criteria:

  • They must speak to what makes you unique and what you want to be known for.
  • They must align with what employers value — that is, what they want.

But don’t try to stuff too much information into the statement. The positioning statement is “overstuffed” if you have more than one conjunction per sentence, or more than two punctuation marks (commas or semicolons).

Also, don’t confuse big words with effective branding. Choose your words carefully. When possible, incorporate in keywords — nouns or phrases that can be picked up through online searches and are prominently used in applicant tracking systems.

You can learn a lot from online dating sites — because the concept is the same. You have to get someone’s attention.

Although you can create different targeted versions of your resume to target different types of positions, you’re limited to one LinkedIn profile.

On LinkedIn, don’t copy other profiles. Be original! Look at other profiles for ideas, but don’t copy someone else’s narrative. Remember — your profile must speak to what makes you unique.

Be specific and single out the training, experience, and/or results that set you apart. Someone who is reading your profile should be able to recognize YOU in it; if what you wrote could apply to anyone with your job title, go back to the drawing board.

You don’t have to come up with anything earth-shattering in your personal branding statement. The simple point of differentiating yourself will help you be found.

A couple of key things that will help you stand out on LinkedIn:

Write your Summary in the first person.

Profiles with pictures attract 50-70% more inquiries than profiles without pictures. Have a good headshot of yourself. (Remember we talked about how personal branding is important in the job search and in being found on online dating sites. With that in mind, owners of dating sites say those who post photos get eight times as many contact messages as those without photos.)

Consider a full body shot of you sitting or standing. At a minimum, your photo should include your head and shoulders, not just your face.

  • Smile! Radiate warmth and approachability in your photo.
  • Photos should be professionally done, if possible (but NOT Glamour Shots)
  • If possible, your hair and makeup should be professionally done (even if that’s by YOU — do your hair and makeup like you would if you were appearing on TV) — which is to say, a little heavier than you would on a normal day.
  • Wear your most complementary color.
  • Don’t have other people in your photos (and don’t crop other people out of your shot — there should not be any errant body parts.)
  • Make sure the background in the photo isn’t distracting.
  • Relax. Look directly at the camera.

Take multiple shots and then ask people their opinion on which one makes you seem most “approachable.” You can also use a photo rating website like PhotoFeeler.com.

Another way to claim your personal brand online is through your domain name — or what’s known as a “Vanity URL” or http://www.whatever.com. Your name is the most obvious choice. If your name isn’t available (Sorry, Chris Jones!), try alternatives. First name, middle initial, last name. First name, middle name, last name. First name, last initial. First initial, last name.

Consider publishing a blog (or Vlogging) — or use Twitter — to increase your profile and demonstrate your expertise. Offer your opinion and expertise on hot button issues, dissect obscure topics, and link to other articles and blogs of interest.

Your online profile/presence should complement your offline brand. Did you know how you dress can be part of your personal brand? All of us know someone who is known for how they dress.

When networking, your personal branding statement can be the answer to the question, “What do you do?” In an interview, your personal branding statement can be used when asked, “Tell me about yourself.”


So where do you go from here?

Spend some time completing the exercises we talked about today. Your handouts will give you guidance on developing your brand. Once you’ve come up with your brand, make sure it’s expressed across your career communication documents — your resume, your LinkedIn profile, and in your 10-second or 30-second introduction you respond with, “So what do you do?”

If you’re struggling with developing your personal brand, you’re not alone. It can be hard to take an objective look at yourself without feeling like you’re bragging. If you want help crafting your personal brand, I can help! (Make your specific offer. You can also offer attendees a gift.)