Your Personal Brand

You may be attempting to secure a new role at your current employer, or you may be after a new career in a new town: one of the most important things you can do to secure either is to focus on your ‘personal brand’. This goes far beyond simply exuding an air of professionalism – your self-packaging can have a significant impact on your future prospects.

This guide looks at ten crucial elements in self-positioning that will help you advance your career and find the perfect role.

Make yourself indispensible

To boost your value to an employer you need to get yourself noticed for the right reasons. You will need to look at ways of improving your skills, knowledge and attitude while also building on your relationships, both internal and external. Understand your business and have a business-like attitude. Get under the skin of your customers, their challenges, drivers and goals. Look at ways of up-skilling – it will evidence your commitment to your development and to the organisation. Always look to be proactive, offering practical solutions to challenges.

The importance of your profile is not to be underestimated. Always take opportunities to get involved in new projects internally, work with as many people as possible and expand your future network opportunities by simply being a constant presence. If you are a customer facing member of staff, you’ll find it easier to achieve this externally: if you are not, always look for opportunities to interact with external authority in a professional context.

It’s not a time for a scattergun approach though. Be targeted – engage with projects that will provide the opportunity to build on the skills related to your current role and those relevant to your career path. Select projects that allow you to get in front of key business stakeholders and always look to add value. Showcasing your knowledge and skills to these people will place you in a powerful position of influence.

But take heed – the more relationships you have the more you have to nurture. Damage one and it could be detrimental to your profile and career. Take the right approach and you will be in prime position to influence business decisions and protect your position.

Demonstrate, not assert

Whether you get hired, promoted or paid more is always dependent on your actual performance. Do you meet targets, motivate your team, remain positive, loyal, reliable and determined? Then you’re easy to identify as a performer. Of course, you also have to be able to describe these triumphs in the various competency systems that organisations typically rely on – good work can go unnoticed if you don’t demonstrate it regularly.

Whether or not you are actively job seeking, keeping your CV up to date and relevant is a sensible thing to do, especially if you make it competency based. Producing and documenting examples isn’t as easy as it sounds. After all, how many of us naturally file our organisational experiences under competency headings? Instead, we are more likely to move from task to task, rarely pausing long enough to capture behavioural evidence from our daily working life. And that can be a problem when we are changing jobs. But when you do, it is worth finding the time to consider your skills in this way.

Write and talk in terms of action – having established the context, describe what you actually did to achieve certain results. Consider what happened as a direct result of your actions. Competency interviewers are very wary of answers that always refer to ‘we’. A potential new boss wants to discover what you bring to the party, not how great the team is that you are planning to leave behind.

Get used to talking – even boasting a bit – about what you do. The great thing about a competency based approach is that it ignores job titles and takes no notice of how you might behave in a hypothetical situation, so if you’ve spent time re-filing your work life experiences in this way, you’ll be ahead of the pack in any interview situation.

Do your research

Always research the role for which you are applying. This may seem obvious, but the evidence is clear: employers constantly see ill-informed interviewees who know nothing about a sector, job role or company for which they’re claiming an interest. You CV should be tweaked to demonstrate the fruits of this research too – how you represent your skills and experience should always be relevant and exciting.

The more research you can do, the better you will come across in interview. Increase your market knowledge by reading the sector trade press and business news, and find out what the main issues are within the industry. If you can make reference to any market information in the interview, you will help to increase your credibility, and potentially raise your profile above the other interviewees.

Likewise, do an internet search for the company, its main competitors and the sector. You need to know what is going on, what people are talking about and what the latest news reports are on the company. Again, by demonstrating that you have a full knowledge and understanding of the company, you will give the impression that you are genuinely interested in its future and want to be a part of it.

Raise your profile

They say it’s who you know that counts, not what you know. But generally one will lead to the other. Network and get to know as many of your peers as possible through corporate social events, industry networks and professional forums. A strong corporate profile, within your organisation and across your industry, will position you as a popular and therefore favourite person to know.

The more likely your name is to spring to mind when a new position opens, the better. Having a wider range of contacts helps too, even if it only put you in line to receive some of that important insider information that will impress bosses and interviewers.

Colleagues in other business units, sectors or regions might even involve you in projects that will further develop your competencies, skills and experience. But to become known you have to first invest effort in getting to know your peers. So start by giving them your support where you can, to receive a leg up in return.

Carefully manage your ‘net rep’

‘Net rep’ – your internet reputation – is a critical part of modern job searching. There are hundreds of websites and services that enabled you to manage this aspect of your public profile, but the sheer number does make this something of a minefield to negotiate.

People are leaving significant footprints of personal information across the Internet and many are unaware of the impact this may have on their employability. More and more employers are using online sites to check the truth behind people’s claims and what they find may often present a very different picture to that which the candidate would like them to see.

And it’s not just those seeking employment that need to be cautious. Employers are checking up on their employees in a bid to better understand their people and potentially separate the ‘wheat from the chaff’.

Don’t be fooled into thinking it’s only the web savvy among us who could come across your profile. It’s easy – all someone needs to do is Google the individual’s name. Try it and see what you find. It might make you think otherwise about the information you upload.

And remember, your friends can upload details about you so carefully monitor their activities. It doesn’t mean removing yourself from the web – your ‘net rep’ can also work positively for you. Including examples of achievements, demonstrating values that mirror your employers’ and linking to well known influential people can all work towards a positive ‘net rep’ and ultimately an attractive proposition for an employer.

Believe in yourself

In tough times, it’s very easy to get despondent, particularly when you may have been made redundant or have been out of work for a while. But as competition for roles gets tougher, now more than ever it’s crucial that you remain positive and confident. Take time to identify your skills and experience that make you valuable to an employer.

It’s easy, for instance, to underestimate the value of old skills that would actually be a differentiator in the right role. Your character and personality are also highly relevant – remember that many employers are looking for ‘soft’ skills now, so don’t immediately discount any detail as trivial.

If you have confidence in your abilities and believe you can get that job or get that promotion, then this will show through. Likewise, a lack of self-confidence or self-worth can be easily identified and may make an employer suspect that you are not capable of the role. If you don’t believe in yourself, then why should anyone else? Remember, you are your own salesperson, and it’s up to you to highlight your attributes.

Be realistic

You’re unlikely to impress your current or future employer if your career demands vastly exceed what they can offer for you. While a clear focus and drive is essential, you need to be realistic and put your career aspirations into the context of the current market. Career openings and opportunities are naturally limited in a downturn, likewise, the skills and competencies that employers demand may also adapt – what is in demand in a buoyant economy is often at the bottom of the list in a downturn.

Bear in mind that market conditions are constantly changing, and consequently your expectations may need to fluctuate with the times. If you can remain flexible and open-minded, then your chances of fulfilling your longer-term plans are more likely to come to fruition.

Maintain momentum

In any market, and perhaps even more crucially in a tight labour market, it is important to keep your focus and energy levels up. It’s been estimated that most of us work at just 65-70% of our potential so it’s not hard to see that the real winners will be those who maximise their opportunities and keep themselves involved. Your lifestyle will help, so regular exercise, plenty of water, loads of fruit and vegetables and a good night’s sleep are all essential.

It’s easy to have your confidence knocked so make sure you know where your strengths lie and make time every day to stay abreast of market trends. Knowing what your alternatives are can actually keep you more motivated in your current role – you won’t feel trapped. Look to the future. There’s no point getting frustrated or angry with your current situation unless it drives you to a better future. Use your strengths to help keep projects on track, honour every commitment and step by step work towards your ultimate career goal.

Build on feedback

Other people very often have a different perception of you, than you have of yourself. Where you believe you’re really quite brilliant at something, others might rate you less so, or vice versa. So it makes good sense to regularly check with peers what they see your development points as being. Ask your boss for regular appraisals if you don’t already have them, debrief with your project team after every piece of work, and ask your recruitment consultant for feedback on the best skills to demonstrate for your ideal step up.

More importantly, take constructive feedback and build on it. Seek out the best possible ways of addressing, developing and up-skilling your competencies. That way you’ll soon fill the gaps in your ability and experience that might otherwise hold you back from your next career step.

Choose your recruitment consultancies wisely

Effective relationships are so important in any walk of life or business and when times are hard they become even more crucial, particularly with the increased competition for roles.

The type of relationship that exists between you and your recruitment agency could have a massive impact on your career. Obviously we have a vested interest in recommending fewer agencies, but we do believe that less is more. A small number of relevant, specialist agencies is always going to work better for candidates – there’s nothing more demoralising than being bombarded by irrelevant positions.

The more agencies you register with, the more you dilute your brand – you may even risk losing control over where your CV is sent. You can build stronger relationships and can spend more time fulfilling your obligations as a candidate (by, for instance, researching employers properly) if you choose wisely.

If you’re keen to get started, search our job database and upload your CV. Don’t immediately see a position that’s right for you? Read more about our job alerts and keep ahead of other job searchers.

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