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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 May 28, 2020

How to Succeed in Business: 10 Skills Every Entrepreneur Needs

How to Succeed in Business: 10 Skills Every Entrepreneur Needs

Learning how to succeed in business used to be a case of being really good at one skill or area and milking it for all its value. Today, we are fast becoming a “skills economy”[1], driving trends in employment and even the way we approach entrepreneurship.

To succeed in today’s business landscape, business owners and executives need to possess a mix of skills that enable them to stay ahead and adapt to change.

1. Digital Savviness

As the adage goes: “If you’re not online, you don’t exist.” Today’s entrepreneurs need to take to the internet to increase their presence and to remain relevant in an evolving business landscape.

Companies like Amazon, Netflix, Airbnb and more are a testament to the disruptive impact of technology and the new image of what it means to be a skilled, successful professional. Think about today’s Mark Zuckerberg versus a banker from the 90s.

Being able to quickly adapt to new technology, like cloud applications and collaborating remotely across the internet, is fast becoming the expected norm for executives.

For businesses, discoverability on the web is becoming a quick litmus test for credibility. Potential customers and investors bank on the first page of Google to make up half their minds about making further transactions with a business. GE Capital Retail Bank found that 81% of retail shoppers conduct online research before buying[2].

How to Develop This Skill

For a start, begin by hosting your website and reserving all of your brand’s handles across social media platforms. While hiring a web developer might sound like the next step, consider first hosting your company’s site on more user and budget-friendly options like Squarespace, Wix, or WordPress.

From here, you can start on some simple search engine optimization techniques that will increase your discoverability over time. Through keyword research, organic content creation, and external back-links, your site will, eventually, slowly but surely garner more traffic.

Note, however, that an increase in search traffic does not immediately imply an increase in revenue. But it’s a start for delving into customer conversion rates in the future.

2. Financial Forecasting

Let’s face it, many business owners feel that time could be better spent on developing and running the business instead of planning for it financially. However, a financial forecast serves as a roadmap for shaping any kind of business and is not just reserved for the likes of listed companies providing financial guidance to shareholders.

Largely, forecasting and planning your financial goals will give you a clearer idea of resources required and ways to measure success. It can also provide assurance to investors as a testament to the thorough research and planning you have done when included in business plans.

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However, inaccurate forecasts can lead to livid investors and mismanagement of expenses, which could potentially result in financial teething problems. When creating a detailed financial forecast, a rule of thumb is to always start with your expenses.

How to Develop This Skill

Generally, it is easier to calculate and predict your expenses compared to your revenue, so noting down your expenses is a starting point to benchmark how much you might need to generate in sales to turn a profit. It is a good habit to regularly update and evaluate how adjacent your operations are to what you have forecasted.

Building a precise set of growth forecasting will take time, but, remember, you are an investor in your own business. You must have confidence in the validity of your business concept.

3. Video Production Skills

The rise of visual mediums and the dopamine boosts it gives to users has long been researched and proven as providing an unfair advantage to businesses that leverage it[3].

If you’re a heavy user of social platforms like Facebook, LinkedIn, and even YouTube, you’ll know that it’s pretty hard to stop once you get started on a binge-watching session.

In fact, video marketing is seeing a non-stop rise in popularity and effectiveness when used in conjunction with social media to drive traffic and boost conversions[4]. According to research, by 2019, 80% of global Internet consumption will be video content[5]. With video marketing becoming more ubiquitous, businesses that fail to leverage the power of video are almost certain to lose out.

How to Develop This Skill

Some ways to get started with using videos for your business would be:

  • Creating a series of educational videos that cover useful information for your audiences
  • Live videos interacting with your community at large (these can be shot on your smart phone)
  • Using videos on landing pages to boost your customer conversions

4. Benchmarking Personal Goals to Business Performance

As far as you get into achieving endeavours on your business bucket list, it’s important to remember that being an entrepreneur is just one facet of your identity. Don’t forget why you started in the first place.

Ambition usually stems from some lifestyle goals you’ve always wanted for yourself and the people you might be providing for today or in the future. Working 24/7 is a surefire route to burnout and may manifest in an unhealthy interaction between partners and employees as well.

How to Develop This Skill

Money can’t be your only motivation, but look into the positives of how having more financial freedom and time can impact your life. In the short term, involving your interests in your businesses can make everyday tasks feel less like mundane errands. In the long run, your business may also bring you fruitful rewards, including personal fulfilment.

Set realistic income goals to manage expectations for your performance and your company’s revenue, especially during its earlier stages. See how projected growth can align with your personal goals and make adjustments accordingly to maintain a balance between growth and your personal values.

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5. Leveraging Healthy Competition

Some of the best athletes who have spent their careers neck-and-neck with each other have changed the standards in their respective sports. The notion of healthy competition applies to the business world more than it may seem on the surface.

Innovation has always been a key driver in free markets, which were intended to boost economies and provide customers with more choices. Just like the biggest sporting rivals that build on each others’ game, you can use your biggest competitors to hone your strategies.

How to Develop This Skill

Turn a competitive market landscape into an advantageous one by leveraging on long-established systems your business proposes an alternative to. Learn from the mistakes of predecessors once you discover their product or service loopholes.

For example, the Dollar Shave Club’s viral video[6] became a big hit because it hit the right buttons of consumers being tired of purchasing expensive but low quality shavers from incumbent retail giants. Going in second meant they could fill a gap competitors might not even have been aware of.

Apart from lifting off from what could have been your second-mover advantage, solidify your place with your business’ own first-mover advantage — whether you’re tapping into a new geographical region, unexplored market sector, or introducing a business model that proves more viable than others. There’s always room for improvement in business from mature markets to newly emerging ones.

6. Honing Pitches to Investors

Stand out in a broad mix of budding entrepreneurs by mastering the art and science behind a solid investor pitch that can determine the acceleration of growth for your business. Get comfortable talking about your ideas and receiving feedback or questions from peers, partners, and advisors before setting out to make a good impression on potential customers and eventually investors.

The phrase “If you can’t convince them, confuse them,” will certainly never get your business funded, especially in front of seasoned venture capitalists who have seen thousands of startup pitches. You should be able to deliver a quick elevator pitch that summarizes your unique proposition and its market viability for casual meet-ups[7] because you sometimes only have a few minutes to make a good impression and move on to another meeting.

How to Develop This Skill

Develop your investor pitch deck by highlighting your business’ strongest points, which will vary for every funding round. Create your deck with the investors’ interests in mind, balancing technical jargon and buzzwords.

You can also introduce your diverse team of experts, some proven traction, or the current state of the market to demonstrate profitability and the attractiveness of the opportunity to investors.

Ensure each slide flows into the other to develop a persuasive narrative, utilizing consistent and intelligent design principles to support your content.

7. Developing a Strong Brand Identity

In a world of saturated content and numerous emerging businesses that offer similar service lines, developing a unique brand identity will help you cut through the noise and stand out from your competition. From aesthetics to the body of clients you’re associated with, these contribute to how you’re perceived by prospects looking to buy.

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Evaluating your brand identity is linked to identifying your target customers, your business goals, a proposed promised land your solution achieves, and identifying values that are aligned to these components. Brand identity serves as a guide to maintaining consistency and creating an image you want your business to be associated with.

How to Develop This Skill

Efforts to strengthen your brand identity are closely tied to giving marketing strategies a direction. By knowing what makes your target customers tick, their values, ideals, and behavior, you will be able to elevate your business from simply being a service or product to be utilized into a projected brand customers and partners would be happy to identify with.

8. Automating to Your Advantage

The need for efficiency is often the general problem new businesses aim to resolve across all markets and industries. Assure that your proposed solution is more efficient than what’s readily available in the market to instill the need for it.

Efficiency is often achieved nowadays through digitalization and new technologies. While your product or service may not necessarily be the most innovative out there, you can apply the same automation concept across your business’ daily operations.

How to Develop This Skill

Shorten turnaround times and conversion rates by investing in small tools for automation where you deem fit. While it may come out of your pocket in the early stages, evaluate the holistic advantages and benefits of automating certain processes. At our office, we’ve tried using collaborative apps like Workplace by Facebook, Slack, Asana and a few other popular apps to reduce human error and friction.

9. Managing Millennials

Your team plays an integral part in whether your business will accelerate at breakneck speeds or be dragged down by dead weight. Hence, it is imperative to be selective and strategic when choosing your team.

In leaner small business teams, the addition of every new teammate can impact how your organization culture evolves.

Today, learning to manage millennials has become an increasingly sought after skill as well due to the increasing proportion of them in the workforce[8]. Some brand them as strawberries that are easily bruised and others loath their need for “meaning” and wearing t-shirts to work.

How to Develop This Skill

Naturally, there are many misconceptions surrounding millennials, and various businesses would do well to leverage their unique skills.

A couple of ways to manage a millennial team include:

Encourage a Flat Team Structure With Open Communication

Maintain clear professional lines between supervisors and subordinates but keep communication channels open to ensure no negativity festers.

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Offer Constructive Feedback

Baby boomers are well known for their straightforward approach to delivering feedback. Millennials, on the other hand, don’t always take feedback in a form that could be construed as deep criticism.

Being constructive with feedback ensures that we don’t coddle millennial workers but also tell them the things they need to hear.

10. Maintaining a Network of Connectivity

Instead of proposing a business that’s ambitiously and entirely disruptive to the supply or process chain in a respective industry, foster connections with other companies that cater to the same target customers as long as they provide a different service.

By creating partnerships, both you and other businesses thrive simultaneously through creative avenues for customers to utilize your products and services for a holistically improved user experience.

Sole market disruption isn’t always the best strategy to take. Not everybody has the opportunity, bandwidth, or financial capacity to dominate and monopolize a marketplace. See your potential for integration into other businesses and services as a good opportunity for co-collaborative marketing efforts with shared campaigns, split costs, and a strengthened customer database for everyone to tap into.

How to Develop This Skill

Regardless of the stage your business is in, never stop looking for ways to expand your network. Keep in contact with mentors you can look to for valuable industry advice that can help you avoid pitfalls and costly mistakes. Strengthen brand awareness by attending cross-industry events and casual meet-ups to open your business to reinvention and innovation.

As the African proverb goes:

“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”

Collaborating will get you where you want to go quicker and gear you up for further growth.

More Tips on How to Succeed in Business

Featured photo credit: Tyler Franta via unsplash.com

Reference

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