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One career tip to rule them all: Ditch the CV. Focus on your branding.

Unless you really looked into my LinkedIn profile you probably didn't know that, although my entire career has been focused on HR, I actually have a degree in Marketing, Advertising & PR.

Back in the day, the definition of branding in academic terms was defined as "a name, term, design, symbol, or other feature that identifies a seller's product or service as distinct from those of other sellers" and it's based on the idea that a brand serves as a way to differentiate products and services in the marketplace.

Marketing has come a long way since my studying days and branding has evolved into a strategic process that creates a unique and memorable identity. It's no longer about designing a cool logo and coming up with a catchy jingle - it's about telling a story and showcasing your product's values. It's no longer just about what it can do but also what it stands for.

In many ways brands have become way more personable and engaging so, it's no wonder that in the conjunction between recruitment/ career management and marketing, you will find personal branding.

Personal branding follows almost the same rules and strategies as traditional branding but the main difference is that the identity and story is built around a person - in this case, a job applicant actively looking for a new role.

As a job seeker, your personal branding's purpose is to promote your profile with all its skills, talents, capabilities and experience in (almost) the same way as you would promote a product or service.

Why is creating a personal brand so important for job seekers?

  • According to LinkedIn, a strong personal brand can make you 50% more likely to be considered for job opportunities.

  • In a survey by CareerBuilder, 70% of employers said they use social media to screen candidates before hiring, and 57% of employers said they were less likely to interview a candidate they couldn't find online.

  • A study by Jobvite found that 43% of recruiters who use social media to evaluate candidates have found information that caused them to eliminate a candidate.

  • In a survey by CareerArc, 62% of recruiters said they hired a candidate because of their strong online presence.

It takes a lot of work to keep your CV as updated and well-structured, your cover letter as professional and adapted to each role you apply for and not to mention, to go through all the steps in each company's application process.

All that effort just to have your application end up in the same system as hundreds of others with a questionable likelihood that it will stand out enough to attract the attention of the hiring manager.

Personal branding does the work for you.

By creating, controlling and promoting the narrative around who you are, you create your career's legacy. After all, branding is all about building a reputation. But the talent market is too vast to only rely on word of mouth for promoting your reputation.

Employers are looking beyond your CV and cover letter and evaluating you based on your online presence and said reputation. Similarly to traditional branding and in a competitive talent market such as today's, it's about who you are and what you stand for, not just about what you can do.

What is actually included in your brand.

  1. The tools you typically use to apply for jobs: that includes your CV, cover letter and references. This is the documentation needed to apply to 99% of jobs out there so, although they are not the only element of your brand, they are part of it and they need to be aligned with the rest of your image.

  2. Online presence: your social media accounts that you are most likely to use but, for most job seekers, a lot of that action happens on LinkedIn. To build a successful brand, an updated LI profile is the minimum you need to do. To make the best use of social media to promote your brand, you need to post frequently and engage with your target audience (in this case, the hiring managers).

  3. Expertise-sharing platform: my blog is a pretty good example of how I use this platform to talk about the topics I specialize on. Other examples are online communities, industry-related groups or even your own website. Pick the ones that are relevant to you and start participating or posting content - it's really that simple.

  4. Networking opportunities: a brand has no reason to exist unless the audience is aware of it. Thankfully, there are plenty of different ways to network and promote your brand so you can find the ones that are the most suitable for you - such as meet-ups, career events, conferences etc.

Personal branding may seem like a lot of work to maintain, but it's the right kind of work.

Not only is personal branding a long-term strategy that will support you throughout the different stages of your career (see it as investment for your professional future) but it's also an avenue for self-expression and self-development.

In addition, a clear and concise brand will help you filter out the employers that are not a fit for you (if their values and mission don't align with yours) and make you stand out as a new hire in your next workplace (I'm still remembered as the "Lego lady" at my last job because I'm a certified Lego Serious Play workshop facilitator).

Your brand makes it easier for people to get to know you and relate to you, which, consequently, makes fostering connections in the workplace a lot easier.

How to start building your brand.

Building your brand should be as enjoyable as promoting it. It's a great opportunity for learning more about yourself, picking up new skills and a fun way to connect with like-minded people. And let's not forget that it makes it even more likely that you will land the job you want so it really is a win-win.

There are hundreds of resources and experts out there that provide great advice and guidance on how to do effective brand-building but, in my view, it all starts with some good old-fashioned self-reflection.

The first step to brand building is defining it. You can start by answering these questions:

  1. Values & strengths: What are the values that define you? What are you good at? What is the unique added value that you bring to the table?

  2. Passions & interests: What are you most passionate about? What do you spend your time thinking or doing? What other interests do you have outside of work?

  3. Mission & drives: What do you stand for? What gives you purpose? What gets you out of bed in the morning?

The characteristics of a good brand

Authentic: your brand is you and it should be as unique as you are. Authentic doesn't necessarily mean original - you don't have to know everything about nuclear physics, be a master painter and a top advocate for human rights to make your brand stand out. Keep it close to your heart and use your own voice.

Consistent: from the information you share to the colors you choose to use, your brand needs to have "one way of doing things". Think of Apple stores or Starbucks - consistent branding helps create a sense of familiarity and trust with your target audience.

Relevant: keeping your knowledge up to date is key in growing your career in any field. Your brand should reflect that - if there is a topic discussed in the news that is part of your brand's agenda, your two-cents will be needed.

Engaging: a brand's goal is to create the conditions for interaction and connection and it has no value without an audience. By engaging with your community, you create opportunities for reputation building and interrelatedness.

In conclusion, investing time and effort into your personal brand means investing into your career development. From finding a workplace where you can really be yourself to creating meaningful connections with others, learning how to successfully build your brand is a key skill for the future.


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