As a job hunter, I was a dime-a-dozen. Even though my education, experience and capabilities were far superior than many others that were in the job search (at least that's what I thought!), I was just another job hunter. I was worse than a commodity – I was a desperate commodity!
During the job search process I learned about something new to me – personal branding. Personal branding is simply the name describing all of the activities I could do to let others know who I was, what I was all about, and what I could do. It made sense to me, since branding was something I was familiar with. Branding presentations usually start off with "what comes to mind when I say Nike? Starbucks? McDonalds?" These are all questions to prove how powerful brands are, as they evoke emotions and impressions about something.
I thought I was a few months too late to develop my personal brand. In fact, I'm sure that if I were to have started earlier, my job search would have been different. One of my biggest challenges was succinctly describing what I was and what I was looking for to others. They just couldn't understand my professional breadth and depth, and I didn't have anything more than a resume to help them understand that.
A few months into my job search, that changed. I had decided to start a "side business" that I could keep even after I found a job (it is now my full-time business, but that's another story). It was a website, with a database backend, a decent layout, a freemium pricing model, etc. It was, in essence, an online business. An amazing and unexpected thing happened the week I launched the website. Instead of half-blank stares from my friends, I started to get calls from people saying "oh, now I know what you can do! You need to talk to my friend so-and-so!"
I had unknowingly figured out a way to share part of my personal brand with others. And once they could understand who I was and what I could do, they could help me by tapping into their network, for now they could describe me to their contacts! They understood my brand!
Personal branding is more than a buzz-phrase, and it is definitely not a fad. In fact, it's something that we've always had, even if we haven’t called it personal branding. I'll prove it to you.
Think of someone you know who always acts with the highest integrity in a professional setting. That person has a strong personal brand, even though they might not call it that.
Think of someone you know who always gets the job done, and is totally reliable. That person has a strong personal brand.
Think of someone you know who should get the award for "worst boss ever." I'm sure you aren't the only person who thinks that, which means that person has a strong personal brand.
You see, even though we may not have been calling it a personal brand before, there are emotions or thoughts we associate with certain people, just like we associate certain thoughts with product brands.
How can you develop a strong personal brand that will help in your job search and career management? Here are five easy ways to do it:
- Write and send thank you cards. You've heard it before, but no one does it. This means that any handwritten card that is actually sent really stands out, and helps brand you as thoughtful and thorough.
- Write an article and send it as a follow-up. You don't even have to have it published or distributed, but having your own article shows you are a thought leader in your space.
- Become searchable. What happens when someone Googles your name? If nothing happens, that's not good. Spend a few hours setting up accounts on sites like LinkedIn, Emurse, and others. When someone looks for you, make it easy to find you – there's no sense in playing hide-and-seek online.
- Leave footprints. Have you done anything outstanding in your industry lately? Write a press release. Have you read a good book lately? Leave an intelligent review on Amazon.com. Have you found a good blog in your industry or profession? Engage in discussion in the comments. There are many ways to create a footprint online, some of which will help build your online brand.
- Ask others to create buzz for you. This is a little tricky because you have to be tactful, and don't want to come across as self-serving. Many an influential blogger has written about someone else's merits, strengths, experiences or story. If you have something that might fit right into someone else's blog, send them an e-mail with a proposal (or, a pitch). Having them write about you is essentially getting an endorsement from them.