Entering my name into Google brings up a lot of information. You’ll likely see my LinkedIn profile at the top, followed by my personal website and other social media of mine. All of those links tell a relatively consistent story even though they live in various places on the internet. The story they tell is my online brand.
A person’s brand is one of the first ways other people learn about you and your career. Defining and curating your brand can be an incredible tool when looking for work or seeking career opportunities.
My current brand is — hopefully — one that shows I’m a news editor at LinkedIn who uses journalistic practices to educate people about finding the jobs they want and about growing in their careers. I can easily say that taking care of my professional brand has led to many opportunities.
Unfortunately, about a third of LinkedIn members who responded to a poll said they are not actively crafting or managing a personal brand.
Dozens of our clients I interact with understand the need for a brand but actually have no idea how to get started. We’re going to talk about some of those simple strategies this week.
One of the most important points about a brand — or any aspect of job seeking — is that you need to be genuine. Trying to fake your way into opportunities will only get you so far. You need to be able to live up to the persona people see online.
During an interview, recruiters and hiring managers would easily be able to tell if someone is making too many claims about themselves or their abilities online. Also, if they ask people within your network about your brand, you’ll want what they say about you to align with what is online.
Find your brand
One of the first steps you should take when deciding to craft or curate your brand is to decide what story it should tell. Ultimately, it should show what differentiates you from everyone else who might have a similar background or set of experiences, wrote Ebony Joyce, who is a career coach.
“It is about knowing who you are (from your perspective and that of others), how you are different from your peers, [and] how those distinguishing factors add value for your audience,” wrote Marie Zimenoff, who is a career expert.
Is there something at work that you enjoy and do better than most of your colleagues? What’s the thing that people turn to you for at work? “Speak with ex-managers, colleagues, and team members to understand how others see you as a professional,” wrote Andy Agouridis, who is a career expert.
A person who works in customer service at a retail store may be especially good at conflict resolution with members of the public. If so, it can be part of their brand. Another person who works in an office may be good at project management, which can be part of their brand.
“Your personal brand should be based on multiple factors: your industry, your targeted audience, and what makes you unique in your niche,” wrote Wendi Weiner, who is a personal branding and career expert.
Tell people your brand
What you do with your brand may change depending on your goal, but the key is to keep it active. By “active,” I mean that it should be reflected in your social media profiles and in what you publicly post online.
In my case, you should get an idea of what I do whether you read my headline and description on LinkedIn, you read a biography of me elsewhere on the internet or you see one of my social media profiles.
Understanding what you want people to find when they navigate to your social media profiles can also help your overall job search, too.
“I’ve worked with so many job seekers and noticed that once they establish a brand for themselves, as simple as how they communicate in their LinkedIn profile’s About section, they gain clarity of what to say during interviews, while networking, and whenever someone asks ‘tell me about yourself,’” wrote Shireen Jaffer, who has experience helping people tell their stories.
Show people your brand
Publishing content is key to a successful personal brand, because it shows a person your expertise instead of telling them about it.
“Developing a personal brand and staying top of mind for people is one of the best ways to keep their attention,” wrote Adam Berguem, a growth and marketing consultant. He heard a recruiter recently say they noticed one of their connections posting about software development and they’ll be top-of-mind if a relevant position opens up.
Creating content doesn’t mean that you need to publish a newsletter like this one, write long articles or even post video after video (though, you can). Instead, it can be as simple as sharing articles about your industry or your field with your thoughts attached.
The key is to add value with your posts. Viral memes, jokes and random links may get you likes and reactions, but recruiters and hiring managers won’t see much value in those posts.
“Have a ‘value mindset,’” wrote Khatija Qureshi, who is a career expert. “Give value via your posts to empower your ideal companies by sharing expertise [and] experiences. You have a unique perspective that no one has. Your advice can help companies solve their challenges.”
Creating content is also a great way to own your brand when people search for you online.
“If the results aren’t the type of thing you want associated with your ‘brand,’ you can either create new content or try to remove yourself from the existing content,” wrote Caitlin Proctor, who is a career expert.
You can change your brand
The good news about any brand is that you’re not stuck with a specific one forever. Brands naturally change with time and experience. My personal brand has morphed dramatically since I graduated college as my work and jobs changed.
“Our personal brand should feel like the right reflection of us and we should nurture it weekly as we change and grow professionally,” wrote Staci Taustine, who is a career guide.
Sweta Regmi, who is a career consultant, wrote that she changed her brand when she was laid off. She ended up focusing on the non-profit industry and found work. “They actually said they saw my brand here [and] wanted to hire me.”
Simple is OK
Lastly, you should remember that your brand doesn’t have to be complicated or overwhelm you. Find what works for you and your needs. What’s important is that you pay your brand at least some attention from time to time.
“If you don’t take the time and effort to call out your unique talents, others will,” wrote Hannah Morgan, a job search strategist and a 2019 LinkedIn Top Voice.
How do you manage your personal brand? Join the conversation in the comment below.
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