I’ve read about the importance of establishing a “personal brand.” But I’ve never really understood what establishing your own brand entails, and how job seekers can incorporate elements of their brand into resumes, LinkedIn profiles, cover letters and other job-search materials. So, I decided to get in touch with personal brand strategist Marietta Gentles Crawford, author of “From Nine to Thrive: A Guide to Building Your Personal Brand and Elevating Your Career,” who told me that building your personal brand is about more than self-promotion — a lot more.
“Establishing your personal brand is the process of evaluating your unique strengths and consistently taking action to add value by using those skills to help others,” Crawford explains. “It involves being clear about your core beliefs and determining what you want to be known for so that you ensure others see you as you see yourself. In other words, personal branding is about reputation management. It’s about making sure that other people sing your praises when you’re not in the room.”
So, what does that look like for someone who has never created a brand to call their own? How can they start to craft a brand that communicates their value to prospective employers?
First, consider how to identify and communicate your strengths, Crawford says.
“When you look at your strengths, think of characteristics that are different from others in your profession. This is your unique selling proposition — your USP,” she explains. “For example, a software engineer who is also a dynamic speaker would highlight this strength since it shows a unique blend of technical skills and soft skills that would be valuable to a team.”
Understanding how your personal brand translates to the job search is the next step, because, as Crawford stresses, “A good reputation and strong personal brand are crucial for job seekers.”
She suggests making sure you focus on “your unique way of getting things done” when crafting your resume and LinkedIn profile instead of only highlighting “responsibilities” and buzzwords like “team player,” “enthusiastic” and “results-oriented.”
“Listing generic tasks and buzzwords do not enhance your personal brand because they can apply to anyone with similar skills and will not make you stand out in a competitive job market,” Crawford explains. “So, be sure to focus on the results you achieve rather than tasks. The results will demonstrate your strengths better than any buzzword! For example, instead of saying, ‘Work with other departments to write and distribute monthly HR newsletter,’ say, ‘Collaborate with various departments to write and distribute monthly HR newsletter distributed to 2,000-plus employees, ensuring that key events and information are accurately communicated in a timely manner.'”
A professional picture that “accurately reflects your brand” is another plus that ensures a good first impression (“Remember, it takes about seven seconds to make a good first impression,” she notes). And don’t keep the default title of your current job as the LinkedIn headline, and steer clear of something as generic as ‘Seeking new opportunities’ in the headline section — even though it might seem like a good way to advertise your availability.
“The headline is crucial real estate that should be used to represent your personal brand so people immediately know who you are and what you do,” adds Crawford, who stresses you have to first show anyone reading your profile why they should care that you need a new job. “Adding value to your network is the best advertisement for your personal brand,” she says.
Finally, pay attention to that “About” section: avoid making it an exact duplicate of your resume and don’t write it in the third person.
“This space is the opportunity to show that you’re more than job titles and responsibilities, so use it to tell your career story, highlight your unique strengths and show your personality,” Crawford advises.
Those tips, of course, are only the tip of the personal branding iceberg. There are several online resources that offer more detailed information.
(Article written by Kathleen Furore)