Personal branding is a popular concept promoted by marketers, public relations specialists and, more recently, career professionals. Countless articles have been written on the subject. A recent Google search turned up about 353 million results.
Still, questions abound.
What is a personal brand?
Why is it important?
How do I develop one?
While there is no pat answer, there’s substantial evidence that a strong personal brand can boost your job search and positively impact your career.
What A Personal Brand Is
Your personal brand is how others perceive you. As entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk notes in a 2019 article about personal branding, “Your personal brand is your reputation. And your reputation in perpetuity is the foundation of your career.”
LinkedIn is your face to the business world. It’s often the place recruiters looking for candidates will meet you. It’s the place recruiters and employers who are impressed with your resume will go to learn more about you. While LinkedIn is considered a business platform, it’s important to remember that it’s also a social network. Like many things, you’ll get as much out of LinkedIn as you put into it.
You may get away with updating the resume you’ve had since college or hastily putting together a resume on your own early in your career. However, once you reach the executive level or are targeting senior executive roles, you need a results-driven executive resume that tells a powerful career story.
The Career Ladder Myth
Most people think of climbing a career ladder. But the career ladder is a myth. It’s a career pyramid. Competition isn’t as tough for early careerists or even mid-level managers because there are a lot of jobs at those levels. As you move into Director, VP, SVP, and the C-Suite roles, however, there are not as many jobs.
There’s no doubt that looking for a job during a pandemic is exceptionally challenging. Right now, millions are furloughed, underemployed or out of work. The United States unemployment rate was 6.7% (with 10 million+ unemployed) in November 2020, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics latest news release. While this number has declined over the last six months, it’s not close to the 3.5% level reported in February 2020.
That said, looking for a job in a booming economy isn’t easy either. When people feel confident in finding another job, they often decide to begin exploring opportunities. As they move from being passive job seekers (those who need to be enticed to move) to active job seekers, competition for plum positions grows.
The truth is, standing out from your competition is essential in any job market. It’s particularly important when you’re pursuing executive roles. One of the most effective ways to do that is by establishing yourself as a thought leader. Someone that people can recognize as an authority in their industry.
While you can’t become a thought leader overnight, you can begin working toward that today by providing value to your colleagues and community.
Anyone who’s looking for a new job has been told they need to be on LinkedIn. That’s true.
It’s also true that you need to be LinkedIn even if you’re not looking. Whether you like it or not, your LinkedIn profile, or lack of one, is part of your personal brand.
Certainly, recruiters and hiring managers who receive your resume will review your LinkedIn profile. So will people that you meet at conferences, seminars, or networking events who want to learn more about you. Make sure what they find is your best self.
That includes having a head shot.
I know there are people who resist putting up a head shot because they’re afraid of discrimination. Yes, it’s out there. There are people who will think you’re too old or too young. Too ethnic or not ethnic enough. They may take an instant dislike to you because you remind them of a former boss or a neighbor they don’t like.
However, the benefits far outweigh the potential risks.