Tell me if this sounds familiar.
Someone you know is making an unplanned career change — perhaps due to a new business opportunity or an unexpected layoff. Suddenly, your friend is forced to polish a neglected LinkedIn profile, scramble to build a network of contacts and ask for recommendations to highlight earned skills and experience.
Sounds stressful, right? It’s tough having to navigate an unexpected job search, and it’s even worse when you’re feeling 10 steps behind from the outset.
There is an easier way. While I hope you don’t need to change careers unexpectedly, I do hope you can plan ahead and set yourself up for success should that become necessary.
The key is to be proactive instead of reactive, consistently marketing yourself (before necessity forces you to) with something called personal branding.
What is personal branding?
Personal branding involves building your reputation and making sure others know your strengths and skills. People often don’t know what you’re good at unless you tell them; others don’t pay as much attention to you and your skill development as you might wish. Personal branding is about identifying and sharing core values that set you (and the work you do) apart from others. It’s also about earning trust and becoming a resource to others.
Think personal branding is just for job seekers? Think again.
Personal branding can be used to launch a startup company or expand an existing business. Those currently employed may even be able to leverage the power of personal branding to secure promotions and higher wages. Personal branding is an effective means of proactive reputation management and can be used for positive reputation building, too. Before a crisis hits, it’s a great idea to build a solid base of positive interaction with the community.
However, developing a personal brand does not happen overnight. People who are looking for a quick fix and immediate results will be disappointed. The key to personal branding is to work on it before it’s needed. Again, we’re talking about a proactive approach, not a reactive one.
7 tips for establishing your personal brand:
- Identify your skills and core values. Write a short and sweet personal branding plan. Start with three to four sentences about your core values and what makes you (and your business) unique. Next, add three to four sentences about how you would like to be positioned in your industry in three years. Include words you would like people to use when they describe the work you do. Add a bulleted list of your five most marketable skills (what you bring to the table now) and lastly, another list of three to five skills you’d like to acquire in the future (what industry experts bring to the table that you don’t have).
- Live the plan. If you wrote, “I want to be known for being compassionate and giving back to my community,” then you need to consistently seek out opportunities to make a difference. Volunteer at community events in Whatcom County, support a local nonprofit or donate products or services to charitable causes. If you wrote, “I want my business to be known as a local leader in the widget business,” then study who is doing a great job with widgets globally and identify a few traits you can implement in your own company.
- Use LinkedIn. Yes, there are other social networks you can use, but LinkedIn can be a personal branding powerhouse — if you maintain it well. LinkedIn is an excellent place to build a network of contacts, document your work history, showcase your experiences and build your reputation. Develop a detailed profile that includes important keywords and highlights marketable skills identified in your branding plan. (Need help polishing your LinkedIn profile? Bellingham PR & Communications can help!)
- Become an expert. Write articles that can be shared in industry newsletters and on trade association blogs. Look for opportunities to teach free workshops that showcase your knowledge while being helpful to others. Consider partnering with Bellingham-area community education programs that can help market and promote your seminars.
- Connect in person. Social media is a wonderful tool for networking and building your brand online. However, deeper and more meaningful relationships are formed when you spend time with people face-to-face. Attend chamber of commerce networking events. Go to coffee or a happy hour meetup with peers. Be sincere and let your personality shine in a positive way.
- Never stop learning. Work to acquire the new skills identified in your branding plan, and remember to update your LinkedIn profile to highlight those new marketable skills.
- Evolve and revise. Consider personal branding as something that will change over time. Review and update your skills and goals at least once each year.
Your end goal in building your personal brand is to be prepared for new opportunities and unplanned career changes. Remember, personal brands can’t be bought or acquired overnight; they are earned over time. If you prove to be reliable, knowledgeable and trustworthy, people will want to support you personally (and support your business, too).