Did you know that 85% of people find new jobs through their existing contacts? It stands to reason that as working patterns and practices in general are changing with the modern world, so too are the methods in which people are finding these opportunities. One way to make sure you’re well thought of throughout your network is by having a strong personal brand.
Personal branding (the term is quite buzzwordy yet annoyingly apt) is how you present yourself in a professional capacity both in real life and online, and not only aids you in your job hunt, but also builds your professional persona throughout your HR career, or any career.
A couple of posts ago, I wrote about building your professional credibility by immersing yourself into a wealth of information and applying it in real life, for example in the workplace or online discussions on the topic du jour.
It’s important to follow this through into building your personal brand and how other professionals perceive you. This isn’t about getting ‘Likes’ on your social media posts, or having your quippy insights retweeted – this isn’t a sign of approval.
In fact, you don’t need external approval. If you want to maximise what the online and real world have to offer, what you need is a strong personal brand.
This is no easy feat. You will quickly find you are potentially a mere whisper in an overcrowded stadium of loud ruckus , so it’s important to focus on the realisation that your intentions aren’t necessarily to be heard, but they are to be seen.
Seen and not heard
What is the difference between being seen and being heard? In a modern world where everyone has an opinion on everything, voicing this is nothing ground-breaking.
It is possible to be heard over all the social hubbub but before you can be heard, you need to be seen.
And to be seen – the unequivocal separation from being heard – you need to build up, or upon, your strong personal brand. Your personal brand is:
- your core principles
- your work ethic
- your ethics
- your opinions
- your knowledge
- your enthusiasm
- your skills
- your background
- your career
- your social decorum
- your integrity
- your aspirations
- your professional motivation
- your focus
- your intentions
- your connections
These are not exhaustive, but hopefully you’re getting an understanding of how deep this can go. It’s essentially who you are as a professional, what you stand for, and how you go about it.
Luckily (perspective-dependent) building your personal brand doesn’t involve excessive amounts of actionable exercises – the things that make up your personal branding aren’t really physical…things to fix or work on.
It does however take ongoing conscious effort (which becomes less effortful as time goes by) and self-awareness of your actions, and below, I touch on just a few small pointers that you can be thinking about.
Social media introductions
Introductions on social media are a funny thing and I’m slowly getting to grips with the correct netiquette myself. Luckily, the HR and L&D tribe are a friendly bunch so I’m fine-tuning my introductions on social media which takes me further than I expected, but this is of course true to many other ‘tribes’.
Whether it’s a response to recent followers of replying to a comment, the first impression you make on social media is open for all to see, not just the recipient.
Being helpful, insightful and genuinely interested are what you’re aiming for, but also showing your personality and what you’re professional purpose is.
Following on from the previous point, how you come across in your general conversations in your social interactions, online or IRL, will paint a picture of your professional persona to all those who observe it.
This will help them determine whether or not to trust you, converse with you, or become a key member of your network. All of your debates, opinions, views and debates are open for everyone to see, and I encourage you not to shy away from voicing your opinions on things you are passionate about.
This itself builds your personal brand and attracts other professionals that share the same view, or educates them on your own perspective. Your personality in general should shine through, so if you’re funny, serious, passionate or laid back, let this contribute to your personal brand.
Your social network
The members of your network also contribute to your personal brand. The people and companies you follow (on social media) show a different side to your brand – your interests, your colleagues, your role models, your supporters, your political preferences, your professional intrigue, companies and people you admire, potential employers, potential business partners – listed together on one block tells onlookers a lot about you.
Experience and professional history
Where you have worked and the experience you picked up along the way develops your personal brand. You have a very specific formula of your experiences by working at very specific companies, and with each of those came their organisational culture.
How you reacted and adapted to this has shaped your personality and work ethic and in turn your personal brand. You might have also developed your brand in a particular niche market by only working in a specific industry, or specialised roles.
Think about what these previous experiences tell onlookers should anyone look you up on, for example LinkedIn, and in a job-hunt capacity, what your brand can do for potential employers with these experiences.
Qualifications and training
Similar to the previous point, your select and specific set of skills and qualifications contribute to your personal brand. In a more evident, in-your-face way this is more apparent with any post-nominals you may have.
How you have approached your training also depicts your personal brand; self-funded or funded by work? Clear strategic escalation of levels or different qualifications at the same level? Relevant qualifications or seemingly irrelevant qualifications? Loads of qualifications or none?
Professional community contribution
You will also need to consider the activities you do outside of the day job and think about what extra-curricular activities you do and how this contributes to, and even strengthens your personal brand.
If you do any at all, this alone is enough to tell people something about your brand, specifically that you’re dedicated to the profession, or volunteering, or being more socially or environmentally responsible, for example.
Or if your activities are dedicated to researching various or specialist fields and topics and contributing your thoughts and views on these to the wider professional community.
Or if you do none of the above and contribute very little.
These just touch the surface of the number of question and considerations you can begin to think about when firstly being aware of your personal brand and then how this is perceived to other professionals.
Again, this really isn’t about seeking approval or making sure you show off all your best bits. Indeed showing some of your fails and struggles contribute massively and positively to your personal brand, demonstrating that you are learning along the way as is everybody else.
But this is generally to make you become more conscious of the areas of your professional persona can come across as, how it can steer you to greater opportunities, and how to identify potentially harmful turn-offs.
This is particularly important for HR professionals as I find the HR community are very keen to network and learn from their peers. As natural people-people (most of us anyhoo), we value community and the people that make up that community, and by having a strong and authentic professional brand, it can help you settle into the right sort of community that share your views and aspirations, as well as opening doors for new opportunities.