Marketing Career: 5 tips for building a personal brand
The ladder of success no longer has certain rungs that must be met. Now, companies are placing a greater emphasis on company culture, and are looking for people who will fit into that.
In the days when large corporations were the trendsetters of the business world, you could get ahead by following a certain set of rules. As the recession knocked down some of these traditional companies from their former glory, a new way of doing business was highlighted.
Facebook, Google, Twitter, Apple and a thousand others like them ditched the suits and turned casual Friday into a week-long institution. Ping pong tables (like the one here at MECLABS) replaced conference tables and office spaces began providing an environment that would encourage employees to “think different.”
Companies are looking beyond info from your resume, and wanting to get to know you. Zappos, for instance, has said that in their personality-focused hiring process, they ask themselves if the person being interviewed is someone they would want to get a beer with.
As personality and corporate culture become a bigger proponent of the hiring process, it may be time to make yourself known and stop hiding behind a generic black and white, 12-point Times New Roman font resume.
An increasing amount of companies want to see that you have unique, unconventional skills to bring to their team, instead of checking off a list of qualifications on your resume.
Establishing your personal brand online can be the most effective way to get – and keep – a company’s attention.
Tip #1. Identify who you are, and where you want to be
“It sounds so basic, but I think what we forget about a lot is, what do you want to do, where do you want to be? Then it makes it simple to break [personal branding] down into tangible goals,” said Taylor Aldredge, Ambassador of Buzz, Grasshopper.
Even if already on a set career path, asking these questions can give personal brand building a direction that will open up doors and allow for new and creative results within established processes.
After building her business, Tara R. Alemany, Owner, Aleweb Social Marketing, decided to bolster it by pursuing speaking engagements. To do this, she came up with the idea for producing online tutorials that would be both useful references for clients and open up her schedule.
“That frees me up for doing what I really love doing, which is speaking,” said Alemany.
Aldredge came around to the idea of personal brand building through a design class he took while attending Boston University. A visiting business professional in the class gave him advice that helped him ask the necessary questions when reviewing their current project, résumé building.
“He was walking around, and comes over to me…he looks at the résumé, and looks at me, and he looks back at it, and said, ‘when I look at this, I don’t see you. This doesn’t match up. You’ve got to fix that.’ I just thought that was great advice.”
Tip #2. Understand how your industry networks
“I read a lot,” said Aldredge. This can help you to “get a perspective on what your audience is thinking, what they are talking about. Whether you’re trying to grow your brand or make yourself appealing to a company, know what your audience needs are.”
From less structured creative environments to the more traditional, “it’s all the same,” says Aldredge about reaching out to contacts and thought leaders. “How do you tell people about you? It is about finding somewhere to direct your conversation.”
Know the tools that will appeal to your industry
There are established tools to use that will appeal to almost every industry, such as LinkedIn, Twitter and ensuring that you are a high Google search engine result.
However, there are also outlets growing in popularity every day that can show a more diverse and complete view of your personality than those tactics.
“There are so many cool avenues that can change how people perceive you,” said Aldredge. “Whether or not you’re technologically savvy, you can do something that changes the game.”
Aldredge lists some tools, useful both for displaying work history and projects:
“There’s no reason not to know how to do it,” said Aldredge. “The day and age where we take a paper resume, and send a PDF – it’s going by the wayside. In some [more traditional] industries that is still going to be the case…but if you’re in something new and emerging, your résumé is that one chance to reflect who you are as a person.”
The conversation of how to hire employees has changed, according to Aldredge. The kind of authenticity and transparency these outlets and others can provide is appreciated by future employers who want to understand your personality before hiring you.
“I think hiring managers want people who are going to stand out and fit within that culture…If you are the person who just wants to ‘check the box’ that is so detrimental. Nobody wants to hear that anymore.”
From a technical standpoint, he advises that whatever tools you utilize, to make your brand cohesive.
“Use the same picture on every website, the same colors, and fonts are as similar as they can be. Everything should point to the same direction. Consistency is really key when it comes to personal branding.”
The advice Aldredge gives is to look at your LinkedIn page from your audience’s perspective. Research pages of successful people in your industry to understand key words that people will be searching for.
He also advises taking your headline and summary as far as you can. A successful tactic is to use your headline to list your skills and expertise instead of simply your current job. This displays what you consider your greatest assets and will help you be found in searches.
Reference “Marketing Career: 3 steps to optimize your LinkedIn profile” for more suggestions on how to optimize your LinkedIn page.
Aldredge describes the two heavy hitters of social media as, “Facebook is the mall, and everyone is at the mall…Twitter is like the fashion show. There are a small percentage of people who are really good at it.”
“It’s a great writing exercise if you want to hone in on your ability to write effective sentences,” said Aldredge, adding that it can act as a great lead generation exercise. Twitter “keeps you in check on how to write effectively really quickly.”
His suggestion is to only connect to people you believe will engage with you back. Following thousands of people who will never interact with you will not be effective in growing your reach or audience.
Another opportunity Aldredge has seen is Twitter boards at live events, where attendees can tweet under an event-specific hashtag and have it projected up onto the screen. Writing something clever that will appeal to your audience can grow contacts in your sphere and start useful conversations.
“A great exercise to do is to Google yourself and see what comes up. If you’re not taking up the first page you need to reassess if your branding is working,” said Aldredge. “From an SEO standpoint it’s defining what you’re interested in and making that consistent across all your feed.”
Tip #4. Be authentic
Authenticity when brand building is “imperative” said Alemany. “I think that for a brand to be successful, whether it’s a personal brand or a commercial brand, it has to be authentic.”
Authenticity can be a difficult task when building your personal brand. Alemany believes it is a matter of knowing what to share about your life, what your audience will find interesting and compelling about you, and what to keep personal.
“I think it’s a matter initially of doing some soul searching, and figuring out for your personal brand, what elements of who you are are key to that brand,” she said.
A key to authenticity is an “understanding of who it is that you want to resonate with,” Alemany added.
“There’s often times that I am working with a client who has a book or a talk that they want to promote, and I ask them, ‘who is your target audience?’ and they say, ‘anybody that will come listen, anyone that will read my book.’ The issue with that is that it is too broad to be able to have a complete understanding of what the needs of that audience are,” she said.
Leverage personal experiences
A tactic Aldredge takes advantage of is to use his unusual life stories and experiences in terms of controlling how he is perceived by other people.
Aldredge gives the example of having done gymnastics throughout middle school and high school. “That’s not something I think a lot of people would talk about…but it gave me a really unique story.”
Aldredge wrote in a cover letter for a job description seeking a “marketing ninja” that, “you have my résumé, and I think that speaks to my experiences and my marketing work.” He then used his cover letter as an arena to display “all the ways I think I would make a good ninja. So I proceeded to explain all of my skills that were ninja related, not even mentioning marketing.”
He took a cue from the tone of the job description and crafted a cover letter that was written with the reader’s needs and wants in mind. While it wasn’t obviously useful, it spoke to his worldview and personality in a way that was perhaps more important to the reader.
“It’s about taking those stories in your life where you’ve done something different, or gone against the norm, and let that define who you are…It’s a fine line of balancing confidence and egotistical,” he added.
Tip #5. Go out of your comfort zone
There is “a certain level of risk with personal branding,” said Aldredge. The only way to know how to skillfully maneuver sharing your personality with your audience is to make mistakes.
This takes a mentality of daring, and an understanding that, “you have to shed that fear of embarrassment and humiliation.”
Aldredge promotes a philosophy of learning by doing. “That’s how you learn where your line is, and that is how you build your confidence.”
His advice to people who are less comfortable with putting themselves out in branding is to, “treat every conversation like it’s a networking conversation.”
Aldredge explains any exchange, whether it’s with a grocery store cashier or a coworker, gets you comfortable with speaking to somebody you’ve never met before, or don’t know well.
“It’s little things like that that can improve your ability to talk about yourself in quick ways that are very easy to take advantage of…It’s always a good idea to have a couple of those queued up in your head that no one else has really done – something to make you stand out.”
An important aspect of building your personal brand is figure out what you’re comfortable with. Then, figuring out what you have to do to get to get to the next step of your career or branding process.
“Maybe that is going to an event and speaking with people, even if that’s a big fear for you,” said Aldredge.
“The hesitation is the fear of vulnerability; I always ask people, what do you have to lose? If you can’t come up with a good answer then there is probably nothing wrong with it. It’s about identifying what that is,” he concluded.
YOU ARE A BRAND! 2nd Edition: In Person and Online, How Smart People Brand Themselves for Business Success (MarketingSherpa Weekly Book Giveaway, enter by October 21)
Marketing Career: Can you explain your job to a six-year-old? (via MarketingExperiments)
The Secret The Smartest People In The World Know That You Don’t (via Business Insider)
Marketing Career: 3 steps to optimize your LinkedIn profile (via MarketingExperiments)
Brand yourself: 5 new (and free) sites for personal branding (via USA Today College)
MECLABS Careers – 5 current job openings