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Personal Branding 101: Essential Guide For Job Seekers.

Personal Branding 101: Essential Guide For Job Seekers.

Most personal branding advice you see on the Internet tells you to “create valuable content”, “share other people’s content on social media” and so on. This advice is not entirely wrong, however it overvalues the role of technology in the process of creating a personal brand.

It leads us to believe that personal branding is more a process of posting interesting links on Twitter and owning a good-looking website than discovering who you truly are and making meaningful connections with other people.

Don’t get me wrong – digital technology is crucial in the process of building your personal brand. It enables you to leverage your time, distribute your message and – of course – reach out to, and be discovered by, potential employers.

However, long before technology is mentioned, an appropriate context for your actions must be defined. Without it any online activity you take part in will yield disappointing results.

Avoiding The Trap.

To see the biggest trap which catches most job seekers who attempt to build their brands, we must go back in time and take a quick look at the evolution of the world wide web.

If you’re like me, you started using the web during its most industrialised phase. It was called Web 1.0 and it was an individualistic, impersonal environment where people viewed other online users as nameless, faceless means to their own ends.

Web 2.0 changed this. Online communities emerged. Sharing and connecting replaced buying and selling as first points of contact between users.

The problem with Web 2.0, however, has always been this – majority of users have failed to fully embrace its community spirit. Even though Web 2.0 officially started around 2004, every day we still see native Web 2.0 tools (e.g, blogs and social media platforms) being used for Web 1.0 purposes (e.g., self-promotion).

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Why Do Most Personal Brands Fail?

Because personal branding is so heavily reliant on social media, the effects of this problem are often seen in the views of job seekers who are interested in taking the first steps of building their brands online.

Their questions quickly give away their approach. When it comes to using Twitter, a person with a Web 1.0 mindset would ask:

“How do I get more followers on Twitter?”

In the meantime, a person who has embraced, and is living to the standards of, Web 2.0 world, would be wrestling with questions such as:

“How do I engage with the most like-minded people on Twitter?”
“How do I serve the most people through Twitter?”
“Who on Twitter would benefit from what I have to offer?”

The difference is subtle, however the context for each person’s actions is completely different.

Their results will be vastly different, too. Because the web no longer caters to Web 1.0 mentality, people who are still approaching it with Web 1.0 mindsets will find it very difficult to build their personal brands and extend their influence.

Foundations Of Your Personal Brand.

Building a thriving personal brand in the modern Web 2.0 environment requires 3 things:

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  • ability to take a strategic, long-term view
  • self-awareness
  • knowing who you are and what you stand for

This is not something we’re generally encouraged to do in our Western society because it requires us to pause, set aside the usual things that keep us busy and get really present with ourselves, our motivations and desires; to come face-to-face with who we really are.

A good personal branding strategist will be able to help you get there and – importantly – will do this work with you before starting work on typical personal branding assets such as your resume, LinkedIn profile, personal website or social media presence.

If you are a job seeker and you are not yet ready to hire a personal branding strategist yet you feel stuck with building your personal brand, follow this 5-step formula to get you back on track quickly.

Step 1: Start Living A Rich, Fulfilling Life.

What makes a great life? Everyone has a different definition. You need to define yours. Can I share with you a glimpse into mine?

For me a great life involves waking up early, excited to attack my day. That’s right, I like to attack my work. Work for the sake of paycheck bores me; I must feel that I get to create something, so I aim to connect even the most rudimentary, repetitive jobs to a bigger picture.

This means I’m never “doing” anything when I’m at work – I’m always building (the task remains the same, but the headspace – and my experience of the task – is very different).

Step 2: Write About Your Life.

An inevitable by-product of a great life is the abundance of stories about your lessons and discoveries. These stories are the cornerstones of your personal brand and topics for your content.

The reason most people struggle with creating content is because they skip Step 1.

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Here’s a test. If you find yourself sitting down and thinking – “Geez, I need to write a blog post for my website because I know it’s good for my personal brand and SEO, but I just don’t know what to write about. Hmmm….” – you’re not pushing yourself enough in Step 1.

You’re simply not living consciously and / or are not clear on where your brand value is.

Remember that the content you create is the main vehicle through which you communicate your personal brand. As such, it has to be an organic extension of you. It has to capture your unique voice and tell stories of your struggles and victories. It can’t be rehashed, prescriptive advice you’ve adapted from somewhere else on the Internet.

Step 3: Share This Content.

This is where we start thinking about technology. If you haven’t completed the first two steps to your best ability, no technology in the world will make a difference to your personal brand.

Here are some social media platforms where, as a job-seeker, you should consider publishing your content:

  • your LinkedIn profile
  • the LinkedIn publishing platform (check if you’ve been invited)
  • LinkedIn Groups
  • Google Groups
  • Twitter

Remember that you should not attempt to be on all platforms at the same time – you’ll spread yourself too thin.

Step 4: Create A Community.

Some people would tell you to “build a following” right now. I don’t like that phrase because it has an ego-centric appeal and lures us into believing that social media is a means for us to promote ourselves. It’s not.

The key advantage of social media and Web 2.0 is that you can find people who share the same interests, who are fighting for the same cause and who serve the same communities.

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Those people are your allies. Your job is not to use them, but to create win-win situations which benefit you all.

Be strategic about your social media activity. Don’t “spray and prey”. There’s no point sharing your epiphanies about increasing your productivity in a Buddhist meditation Google Plus group, however I’m sure there are software developers in Palo Alto who want to know about them.

Because the social media world is so large it’s always tempting to build lots of very shallow connection in it. Your effectiveness, however, starts with the opposite approach – connecting with 10-20 like-minded people.

Step 5: Leverage Your Community.

This is where you amplify your influence by increasing your ability to be heard.

If you’re at this point and you’ve done the previous steps correctly, you will be seeing a multitude of opportunities through which you can evolve your personal brand.

The opportunities will come in two forms. Look out for them:

  • passive (e.g., editors/writers approaching you for comment)
  • active (e.g., you’ll see benefit in approaching an influential blogger to be their guest author)

Which ones you’ll act upon will depend entirely on your individual needs and your career objectives at that point in time.

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Last Updated on August 20, 2019

How to Find New Growth Opportunities at Work

How to Find New Growth Opportunities at Work

Career advancement is an enticement that today’s companies use to lure job candidates. But to truly uncover growth opportunities within a company, it’s up to you to take the initiative to move up.

You can’t rely on recruiter promises that your company will largely hire from within. Even assurances you heard from your direct supervisor during the interviewing process may not pan out. But if you begin a job knowing that you’re ultimately responsible for getting yourself noticed, you will be starting one step ahead.

Accomplished entrepreneur and LinkedIn Co-Founder Reid Hoffman said,

“If you’re not moving forward, you’re moving backward.”

It’s important to recognize that taking charge of your own career advancement, and then mapping out the steps you need to succeed, is key to moving forward on your trajectory.

Make a Point of Positioning Yourself as a Rising Star

As an employee looking for growth opportunities within your current company, you have many avenues to position yourself as a rising star.

As an insider, you’re able to glean insights on company strategies and apply your expertise where it’s most needed. Scout out any skills gaps, then make a point to acquire and apply them. And, when you have creative ideas to offer, make it your mission to gain the ear of those in the organization who can put your ideas to the test.

Valiant shows of commitment and enterprise make managers perk up and take notice, keeping you ahead of both internal and external competitors.

Employ these other useful tips to let your rising star qualities shine:

1. Promote Your Successes to Your Higher-Ups

When your boss casually asks how you’re doing, use this valuable moment to position yourself as indispensable: “I’m floating on clouds because three clients have already commented on how well they like my redesign of the company website.”

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Tell your supervisors about any and all successes. Securing a new contract or signing a new customer should be a cause for celebration. Be sure to let your bosses know.

2. Cultivate Excellent Listening Skills

Listen well, and ask great questions. Realize that people love to talk about themselves.

But if you’re a superb listener, others will confide in you, and you’ll learn from what they share. You may even find out something valuable about your own prospects in the company.

If others view you as even-minded and thoughtful, they’ll respect your ideas and, in turn, listen to what you have to say.

Check out these important listening skills: 13 Powerful Listening Skills to Improve Your Life at Work and at Home

3. Go to All Office Networking Events

Never skip the office Christmas party, your coworker’s retirement party, or any office birthday parties, wedding showers, or congratulatory parties for colleagues.

If others see you as a team player, it will help you rise in your company. These on-site parties will also help you mingle with co-workers whom you might not ordinarily have the chance to see. For special points, help organize one or two of these get-togethers.

Take the Extra Step to Show Your Value to the Company

Managers and HR staff know that it can be less risky – and a lot less costly — to promote from within. As internal staff, you likely have a good grasp of the authority structure and talent pool in the company, and know how to best navigate these networks in achieving both the company’s goals and your own.

The late Nobel-Prize winning economist, Gary Becker, coined the term “firm-specific,” which describes the unique skills required to excel in an individual organization. You, as a current employee, have likely tapped into these specific skills, while external hires may take a year or more to master their nuances.

Know that your experience within the company already provides value, then find ways to add even more value, using these tips:

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4. Show Initiative

Commit yourself to whatever task you’re given, and make a point of going above and beyond.

Position yourself so that you’re ready to take on any growth opportunities that present themselves. If you believe you have skills that have gone untapped, find a manager who will give you a chance to prove your worth.

Accept any stretch assignment that showcases your readiness for advancement. Stay late, and arrive early. Half of getting the best assignments is sticking around long enough to receive them.

5. Set Yourself Apart by Staying up on Everything There Is to Know About Your Company and Its Competitors

Subscribe to and read the online trade journals. Become an active member in your industry’s network of professionals. Go to industry conferences, and learn your competitors’ strategies.

Be the on-the-ground eyes and ears for your organization to stay on top of industry trends.

6. Go to Every Company Meeting Prepared and Ready to Learn

A lot of workers feel meetings are an utter waste of time. They’re not, though, because they provide face-time with higher-ups and those in a position to give you the growth opportunities you need.

Go with the intention of absorbing information and using it to your advantage — including the goals and work styles of your superiors. Respect the agenda, listen more than you speak, and never beleaguer a point.

Accelerate Your Career Growth Opportunities

A recent study found that the five predictors of employees with executive potential were: the right motivation, curiosity, insight, engagement, and determination. These qualities help you stand out, but it’s also important to establish a track record of success and to not appear to be over-reaching in your drive to move up in your company.

Try to see yourself from your boss’s position and evaluate your promote-ability.

Do you display a passion and commitment toward meeting the collective goals of the company? Do you have a motivating influence with team members and show insight and excellence in all your work?

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These qualities will place you front and center when growth opportunities arise.

Use these strategic tips to escalate your opportunities for growth:

7. Find a Mentor

With mentorship programs fast disappearing, this isn’t always easy. But you need to look for someone in the company who has been promoted several times and who also cares about your progress.

Maybe it’s the person who recommended you for the job. Or maybe it’s your direct supervisor. It could even be someone across the hall or in a completely different department.

Talk to her or him about growth opportunities within your company. Maybe she or he can recommend you for a promotion.

Not sure how to find the right mentor? Here’s How to Find a Mentor That Will Help You Succeed.

8. Map out Your Own Growth Opportunity Chart

After you’ve worked at the company for a few months, work out a realistic growth chart for your own development. This should be a reasonable, practical chart — not a pie-in-the-sky wish list of demands.

What’s reasonable? Do you think being promoted within two years is reasonable? What about raises? Try to inform your own growth chart with what you’ve heard about other workers’ raises and promotions.

Once you’ve rigorously charted a realistic path for your personal development within the company, try to talk to your mentor about it.

Keep refining your chart until it seems to work with your skills and proven talents. Then, arrange a time to discuss it with your boss.

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You may want to time the discussion around the time of your performance review. Then your boss can weigh in with what he feels is reasonable, too.

9. Set Your Professional Bar High

Research shows that more than two-thirds of workers are just putting in their time. But through your active engagement in the organization and commitment to giving your best, you can provide the contrast against others giving lackluster performances.

Cultivate the hard skills that keep you on the cutting edge of your profession, while also refining your soft skills. These are the attributes that make you better at embracing diverse perspectives, engendering trust, and harnessing the power of synergy.

Even if you have an unquestionably left-brain career — a financial analyst or biotechnical engineer, for example — you’re always better off when you can form kind, courteous, quality relationships with colleagues.

Let integrity be the cornerstone of all your interactions with clients and co-workers.

The Bottom Line

Growth opportunities are available for those willing to purposely and adeptly manage their own professional growth. As the old adage says,

“Half of life is showing up.”

The other half is sticking around so that when your boss is looking for someone to take on a more significant role, you are among the first who come to mind.

Remember, your career is your business!

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Featured photo credit: Zach Lucero via unsplash.com

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