Today’s job seekers need to change their mindset and adopt a new approach. The days of the traditional resumés are over, and even an MBA is no longer enough to give you an edge.
Why? According to Fortune, there were 191,571 MBA graduates in the US alone in 2011-2012, which constituted a staggering 25.4% of all master’s degrees conferred. Annual enrollment figures have increased significantly since then. Add the hundreds of thousands of new MBA grads outside the US, and you encounter a lot of competition!
Think about this: What’s your favorite brand of soda? Coffee? Car? Person? Yes, person. Whether you realize it or not, you too are a brand. And if you are looking for a job, it’s time to take your personal brand seriously. Just like companies, you must market your brand and be an active online presence.
If you are considering a leadership role, then you need to be especially careful with your personal brand. Every move you make will be dissected under the Social Media microscope. Business schools such as IMD are focusing, not just on giving leaders the business skills they need to succeed, but also on soft skills: “Leadership for us is based on technical competence, self-awareness and the recognition of one’s own moral compass.”
Recruiters are, without question, also attracted to candidates with strong personal brands and integrity.
So what are the best online forums and formats for creating your personal brand?
The most obvious way that people search others is through Google, whether it be future employees, employers or business contacts. It is easy to find a plethora of information about yourself, spread over a variety of platforms. If you have a unique name, it can be worse, because there will be no confusion about whether it is the right ‘Will Smith.’ According to Antonio Centeno, founder of Real Men Real Style, all is not lost – you can be in control of what shows up on Google.
Antonio suggests using your personal website, as well as profiles on a variety of different platforms such as Instagram and LinkedIn, to eliminate less-than-ideal stories appearing first in a Google search. Keep in mind that the first page of results are the most important.
Think of your own search tactics for a moment. Do you ever look past page 1 on Google? If you are in the majority, then probably not. The more you publish, the farther undesirable information goes down the pile. Google yourself and see what comes up. Did you have a DUI? Change careers? Are there any other skeletons in your closet? Make sure that you take control of your image and portray the Google results you want.
Let’s Talk LinkedIn
There’s no doubt that LinkedIn is a powerful personal branding (and networking) tool. As Zubia Hawcroft, International Director at MSC Headhunters in the United Kingdom, states, “Being able to sell yourself online requires having a strong personal brand such as a coherent and professional LinkedIn profile.”
To make it work, though, there are things you must do to make your LinkedIn presence count. Bottom line: your profile must be professional. Complete all your details and keep them up-to-date. Hawcroft stressed the importance of wearing appropriately smart business attire for your profile photo and making sure that you are the only person in the photo. Oh, and don’t forget to include a link to your personal website
The Ultimate Branding Tool: Your Personal Website
A personal website allows you to exercise 100% control over content and create your brand by utilizing a range of media, including videos, which can be extremely potent tools.
By making your website dynamic and performing regular updates, you can feature what you have done, what you are doing, what you can do, and where you are going. In other words, a personal website shows both who you are and what you can do in a way no resumé or cover letter ever can. A website can also showcase technical and creative abilities and a host of other sought-after skills.
Untapped Competitive Advantage
Over half of all recruiters are more impressed by a candidate’s personal website than by any other kind of personal branding tool. This presents a real opportunity to gain a competitive edge, as according to Forbes only 7% of job seekers actually have one!
The “What” of Your Website
But what should your website include? There may be variation, depending on what job or industry you are in or trying to break into. Regardless, consensus is that you need:
➢ A professional headline
➢ A brief, relevant “About me” or bio page
➢ A professional photo
➢ Your résumé
➢ Samples of your work in multiple formats
➢ A quantified “Results / Achievements” page
➢ Links to relevant professional bodies, publications, etc.
➢ A blog to showcase your skills and activities
➢ Videos or PowerPoint presentations that present you and your abilities
➢ Contact information
If you can refer recruiters to your website, or if they find it on their own, it’s a sure way to stand out from the crowd and get a jump on the competition!
Facing up to Facebook
While recruiters do look at job seekers’ profiles and use social media to help with scouting and vetting, applicants need to use good sense and judgment. Hawcroft puts it pretty simply: “You need to be very careful with Facebook. Use privacy settings and control what is being said about you online.” The second part of that is not always easy. How do you control what others say and post? Reviewing privacy settings for your wall, posts and photos you can be tagged in certainly helps.
Speaking of Photos
Saskia Nelson, one of the top international online photographers and founder of Hey Saturday and Hey Tuesday, underlined the importance of great photos:
“Creating a strong personal brand is about building your profile and becoming recognised as a leader in your field, helping you stand out from the crowd. But most importantly, when done well, it enables you to create meaningful interactions with others. People who want to get ahead in business need to connect with people on an emotional level and images, particularly good quality images, are known to do this more quickly and effectively than text, audio or video. Investing in high quality photos, which capture and showcase your personal brand, is essential to take you to the next level.”
Before you post one more photo to Facebook or “like” one more post on LinkedIn, stop and reflect. Is everything in line with your personal brand? Have you even defined your personal brand? Taking your branding seriously is a simple, undervalued way to make yourself a hot commodity, so don’t neglect this crucial aspect of the job-hunting process.
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