Unless you have a talent or skill unique only to you, one that no one else possesses, then you are competing for every opportunity with thousands of other people that are equally if not more skilled and qualified than you.
What is Career Branding?
Whether you know it or not, you already have a career brand, everyone does. Some people are unaware of what their brand says about them. Most people do not even know they have a brand, they still think brands are reserved for products and/or companies. Very few people invest in their brands or understand how to leverage them to enhance their careers. If you have a professional or online presence your brand exists whether you like it or not, it is, therefore, important you take time and effort to manage it effectively.
Everything you post online and every interaction you have with people contribute towards building or tainting your career brand. Your social profiles are a huge part of your career brand because people see who you are, what you stand for, and get a glimpse of your accomplishments and competencies. It is however just a portion of the package, not the entire deal.
How much care do you put into your appearance? How long do you take to respond to your professional emails? Are you helpful or a hindrance to your colleagues? What are people saying about you professionally? Do you over-promise and under-deliver or under-promise and over-deliver? Do you get more complaints than compliments? All of these are good indicators of your career brand.
The good news is, just because you may not necessarily have a great brand right now does not mean it has to stay that way, you can certainly build up your career brand to what you want it to be.
Your career brand is how you are perceived professionally, and building your career brand is shaping that perception.
Keep in mind that career branding is also about consistently delivering on your promises and not just about differentiation.
Who needs Career Branding?
Think of career branding as your career reputation as well as your unique promise of value. So, essentially all professionally active individuals need career branding. It will come in very handy when job hunting or seeking career advancement.
If you are going to stand out and successfully build your career, you need to build a brand that is aligned with where you want to go. Building your brand is a non-ending journey as your brand will consistently grow as you do.
How do you build a great Career Brand?
There are many tools and methods of career branding ranging from a great CV, to a well-thought-out LinkedIn page or even a personal website. Here are some ideas to help you get started.
Dig deep and start formulating all the qualities that differentiate you from others in your field of work. Think of your strong points and valuable qualities. Consider your peer’s feedback, this will assist you when it comes to your blind spots.
Include your brand statement in the “About me” section of your professional CV and on your Cover Letter.
Here is an example of a brand statement;
“An influencer, innovator, and team-builder, I amplify business in quantum leaps by identifying and exploiting strategic points of leverage; creating strategies to capitalize on emerging market opportunities; and translating complex concepts into actionable client-driven solutions. To sharpen teamwork, I enroll people in a common vision for individual, team, and client success. I turn things upside down and around to create strategies that capture market share – and propel triple-digit advances in growth.”
Your statement doesn’t need to be that complicated, use language that you are comfortable with, it should feel natural and ring true. Think of it as the good old elevator pitch, but now instead of pitching a product or project you are pitching yourself.
In many instances, less is more and this goes for your professional CV as well. Before going into the CV business, I worked in the ICT sector. Whenever I needed to fill a position I was constantly blown away by the amount of data people put in their professional CVs and their inability to summarise. Honestly, when there are a hundred CVs in your inbox you do not have the luxury of time to read a 7-page CV.
If you are a very experienced professional you can still summarise your experience without selling yourself short, one way of doing this would be to list previous work history without including lengthy roles and responsibilities and reserve those only for your current/latest position. Instead just state role, company, period and give a brief role description to assist when applying to companies that use keyword searches. Keep a copy of a comprehensive CV because some positions may require it, especially executive-level positions.
Social media is one of the platforms you can use to drive your brand. Look through your previous posts, ensure you are happy for prospective employers, clients, and colleagues to see them. If not, delete them or increase your security settings to ensure maximum privacy.
Networking will grow your career brand, engage with others in your field. Do so not only on social media but also in person. Attend professional functions whenever possible and use the time effectively to meet and connect with new people. Stay consistent in your efforts and pay attention to how people respond to you. Use the feedback to refine your approach until it is razor-sharp. Visibility is key, show what an asset you are.
Do what you say you will do when you said you would do it. Credibility is not built through words but through actions. How you perform in your current role or how you serve your clients will follow you, references go a long way towards your credibility. Your actions, which align with your brand, validate that you can be trusted and show that you are credible. Be authentic, don’t act or say what you think will get you ahead if it is not true, you will need to live up to your brand. Authenticity will ensure longevity.
Benefits of Career Branding
You know that guy or lady at your work that seems to get assigned all the good accounts or is earmarked for all the great opportunities, it may not be because they are the leadership’s favourite, have you considered that it might be because they have a much better brand than yours. Maybe they are trusted with the company’s biggest accounts or most important clients because they’ve demonstrated that they can represent the company well since they represent themselves so well.
Career branding is a powerful way to differentiate yourself, something that executives have been doing for years. It generates interest and opens doors.