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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 October 18, 2018

10 Key Characteristics of a Highly Successful Entrepreneur

10 Key Characteristics of a Highly Successful Entrepreneur

When it comes to starting your own business and pursuing your dream of becoming an entrepreneur, it can be advantageous to go all in and embrace the flexibility of finally quitting your day job.

Keep in mind, though, that it takes a special kind of person to take the business world by storm: a person who has cultivated the key characteristics of entrepreneurial success.

People with these characteristics are likely to succeed, whereas people without them have difficulty moving forward with even the most brilliant business ideas.

These characteristics of an entrepreneur are so important that I’ve decided to cover all 10 of them in detail so that you can start your business with your best foot forward.

1. Successful Entrepreneurs Practice Discipline

Plenty of business experts claim that you can’t get anywhere as an entrepreneur without vision or creativity, but that’s simply not the truth. Instead, the one quality that no entrepreneur can be successful without is discipline.

To build an idea into a business, you have to have the discipline to spend time slogging through the least fun parts of running a business (like the bookkeeping), rather than taking that time to do something fun.

Andrew Carnegie, one of the most financially successful Americans of all time, grew up working dull and difficult jobs in factories. Despite going to bed hungry some nights, he continued doing his best work. He was eventually hired by a railroad company and continued to move up the ladder until starting his own successful businesses. Carnegie is a fine example of an entrepreneur dedicated to discipline and hard work. He truly earned his dreams of prosperity and success.

When you’re the boss, there’s no one to keep you at work except yourself — and there’s no short-term consequences for skipping out early.

Sure, if an entrepreneur plays hooky enough he knows that the business just won’t happen, but it’s very hard to convince someone that ‘just this once’ won’t hurt (and to keep ‘just this once’ from becoming a daily occurrence).

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2. Successful Entrepreneurs Keep Calm

Things go wrong when you run your own business.

Most entrepreneurs go through crises with their businesses — and more than a few wind up with outright failures on their hands. But when you’re responsible for a business, you have to be able to keep calm in any situation. Any other reaction — whether you lose your temper or get flustered — compounds the problem.

Instead, a good entrepreneur must have the ability to keep his cool in an emergency or crisis. It may not make the problem easier to solve, but it certainly won’t make it harder.

Honestly, losing your calm is a quick path to becoming the kind of person who gives up in the face of adversity. Instead giving in to frustration, remember classic entrepreneur Benjamin Franklin.

Franklin kept his calm as he experimented and tweaked his inventions again and again in pursuit of success. He didn’t give up during his many failures – he chose to innovate. You can choose innovation, too.

If an entrepreneur can handle failure without frustration or anger, s/he can move past it to find success.

3. Successful Entrepreneurs Pay Attention to Details

Restricting your attention to the big picture can be even more problematic than ‘sweating the small stuff.’

As an entrepreneur, unless venture capital has magically dropped out of the sky, a small expense can be a killer. It’s attention to detail that can make a small business successful when it has competition and it’s attention to detail that can keep costs down.

Attention to detail can be difficult to maintain — going over ledgers can be tedious even when you aren’t trying to pay close attention — but keeping your eye on a long-term vision is just asking for a problem to sneak in under a radar.

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After a business grows, an entrepreneur might be able to hire someone to worry about the details. In the beginning, though, only one person can take responsibility for the details.

Skeptical about the importance of details? Look no further than Howard Schultz, who grew a small coffee shop called Starbucks into one of the most globally successful coffee businesses in the world through his extreme attention to detail.

He is famous for taking all aspects of growing a business into account, paying attention not only to financially smart business decisions, but also focusing on socially responsible business decisions. Details can take you far.

4. Successful Entrepreneurs Embrace Risks

No entrepreneur has a sure thing, no matter how much money s/he stands to earn on a given product. Even if a product tests well, the market can change, the warehouse can burn down and a whole slew of other misfortune can befall a small business.

It’s absolutely risky to run a business of your own and while you can get some insurance, it’s not like most investment options. Even worse, if something does go wrong, it’s the entrepreneur’s responsibility — no matter the actual cause. In order to deal with all of that without developing an ulcer, you have to have a good tolerance for risk.

You don’t need to channel your inner frat boy and take on absolutely stupid risks, but you need to know just how much you can afford to risk — and get a good idea of how likely you are to lose it. If the numbers make you uncomfortable, the risk is too great.

Embracing risks is essential for growth and additional success, as well. Walt Disney, for example, could have stayed comfortable with his advances in the film and animation industries, but decided to expand his brand with a new dream: a theme park that soared above the competition. Without taking this risk, the incredibly successful Disney theme park empire would never have come about.

An entrepreneur has to be willing to accept pretty big risks, with some level of comfort.

5. Successful Entrepreneurs are Balanced

You can take any characteristic too far. There’s a point at which attention to detail can become obsession or calm can become unemotional response.

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As an entrepreneur, you have to be able to balance your characteristics, getting the most of them without going over the edge. But balance for an entrepreneur goes far beyond keeping your characteristics in check, though.

Just as an entrepreneur doesn’t have a boss to keep them at work when necessary, they don’t have one to send them home when they’re done. If you are working for yourself, you have to decide how to balance your work and home life — and if you have a day job to add into the equation, balance just gets more complicated.

Oprah Winfrey, one of the most successful and influential entrepreneurs out there, understands the importance of balance. Winfrey has a lot going on; she runs her own media kingdom, acts, produces films, publishes print, and more. In an interview with Fast Company,[1] she talks about her efforts to balance priorities and self care, saying that she must ask herself what is truly important in each limited day.

You may or may not have as much on your plate as Oprah, but learning how to balance whatever you have going on in life will certainly help you farther along down the road as you learn to be a great entrepreneur.

6. Successful Entrepreneurs are Passionate and Motivated

In order to develop any of the above characteristics, you must have a foundation of passion. Staying disciplined day after day during the building of your business takes unrivaled motivation.

Before you start any business, ask yourself if you can sustain true excitement about your idea during even the darkest days ahead of you. If the answer is yes, then good for you! Nurture your natural motivation by taking these action steps throughout your business journey:

  • Commit to making short and long-term goals. Check in with them often to stay on task.
  • Have a plan in place for the inevitable days when you feel discouraged. Make a list of things that will help keep you motivated and focused.
  • Share your ideas with trusted individuals who are just as excited as you are. They will help keep your enthusiasm rolling even when you are feeling down.

By being prepared for apathetic days and holding fast to your authentic passion, you can actually enjoy your journey to success.

7. Successful Entrepreneurs Adapt

Remember this one word: flexibility. Seasoned entrepreneurs know that change is not only a part of life, but also a part of the business world. Expect change and choose to adapt.

As a new entrepreneur, it will be tempting to cling to your original business plan with no exceptions, even if you notice it isn’t working. Good entrepreneurs know that it’s okay to make smart, informed changes in order to ensure efficiency.

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8. Successful Entrepreneurs are Marketing and Sales Experts

No matter what kind of business you are starting, a knowledge of marketing and sales will save you many headaches. A passion for creating a beautiful handmade lifestyle product is not enough to run a successful lifestyle brand; it is critical that you understand key business principles in addition to your natural skills or great product line.

Not sure how to start? Taking business courses is a great idea, but you can also easily brush up on sales and marketing through free online resources. Check out these 10 Sales Skills Everyone Should Master To Be Successful to begin now.

9. Successful Entrepreneurs Have Strong Money Management

Along with sales and marketing skills, money management is a very useful tool in the box of the entrepreneur. Understanding how to best manage your money can be the difference between early success and early failure in the business world.

If money management isn’t your strongest skill, prepare to hire a financial expert to help you with any tricky business that comes up. Financial guidance and knowledge is never a bad idea.

10. Successful Entrepreneurs Ask Questions and Continually Improve

Pride is a natural human quality, but it’s important to humbly conduct some constructive criticism every now and again on both yourself as a leader and your new business as a whole.

Assess how things are going and be willing to make positive changes if necessary. Here’re 15 ways to cultivate lifelong learning.

If you are always improving, then how can you ultimately fail?

The Bottom Line

Let me remind you of one important fact: the qualities of an entrepreneur listed here are not exclusively available to some people and elusive to others.

Although some people may have natural strengths and weaknesses, these qualities can be learned by anyone interested in taking up the entrepreneurial challenge. It might not be easy to change old habits, but it is absolutely possible to cultivate these characteristics in yourself.

Whether you’re a business owner or an aspiring entrepreneur, with hard work, you can train yourself to develop the qualities that truly determine the entrepreneurial spirit and future success.

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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