You’re looking for a change in career and you want to understand why you aren’t standing out. Your CV or Resume is top notch, and your LinkedIn profile is up to date, but you still aren’t gaining traction for the jobs you want. Maybe it’s time to consider your personal brand. But surely brands are for companies and celebrities not little old me? In 2021, absolutely not! A brand is for everyone! Let’s take a look.
By definition is “a name, term, design, symbol or any other feature that identifies one seller's good or service as distinct from those of other sellers.”
So do you really need to think about your brand when considering your career? If you break it down people often forget that a career is formed of a series of jobs. These jobs are a relationship between an individual and an employer underpinned by an employment contract.
An individual agrees to do a series of tasks in return for an agreed payment. Breach of this can result in termination of that contract. So in essence, an individual is selling their services to their employer, and therefore to be at the top and to grow your career you need to demonstrate you are the best at what you do, and this is where brand comes into play.
As the second richest man on the planet Jeff Bezos said, “Your brand is what other people say about you when you’re not in the room”.
At an online event I attended earlier this week I heard a speech from a former sergeant major in the British Army who talked about his life journey and how his mother, a single mum of 3 from the North of England, had been his life inspiration. She instilled in him “John, whatever you do when you grow up, you must be true to yourself”. These words were strong and stayed with him throughout his career, from his time in the army through to being a guest of the Queen at Buckingham Palace right through to him being a grandfather himself with 4 grandchildren. He stayed true to those words and those values that had been instilled in him from an early age. Whatever he did in his career, on his journey he was going to be brave, he was going to be authentic and he was going to be true to himself.
If you were to ask his colleagues I am sure they would agree even when he wasn’t in the room that this was a man of integrity and authenticity, this was his brand.
Be honest with yourself. The next 5 people you work with, take a moment to think about it. If they were asked by a stranger to define who you are and your style, your offering etc. What would they say? Perhaps this is your current brand.
A career change in an economic downturn or a pandemic, or an “employer’s market” can be difficult. It’s therefore essential to really finesse your offering and synchronise your brand with your prospective employer’s requirements. So how do you go about this?
A useful model to use is to consider your brand being made up of 4 pillars.
This is what you want to achieve in the short to medium term. From a career perspective this is an easy one to align as very often a company’s own mission statement will be visible and you can assess the synchronicity very simply. The next level of approach would be to review the online profiles of the individuals in the top two tiers in the organisation. What do the profiles on their LinkedIn and also company website say about their own individual mission. If there is alignment between the individuals and the company then you know there is a solid joined up mission and this is something you can align your documentation towards.
Similarly in the interview be comfortable to articulate your own mission. You will often be asked “why are you interested in this position?”, or something similar. You can use this question to articulate part of that mission. Your mission should show what you want to do, what you are doing and what you are willing to do and helpfully articulate the trajectory you wish your career to move forward in.
As in the story listed above and in our article last week published at https://www.careerships.com/post/values-what-are-they-and-how-do-you-find-an-organisation-with-the-right-ones, your values are what truly define you as a person. These might be integrity, friendliness, or creativity for example.
Values are so important that often companies will utilise values based interview techniques as a part of their process to try to understand what a person is like as a human rather than just as a name on a business establishment list. This is particularly prevalent in western cultures as well as well-developed Asian countries such as Singapore.
It is important to check alignment here. If you are someone that values building relationships then a non-customer facing role or a role working independently may not be a good fit. If you have branded yourself as someone that gets results at all costs then perhaps you wouldn’t align well with an organisation with a softer culture.
This is the way you do things, how you respond to situations and your ability to work with others. Often personality is derived from a combination of environmental experiences and genetics. There are many assessments you can get, and you can even run personality assessments on anyone that has an online profile these days so it’s very easy to find a model that assesses your personality and again you can look to synchronise or at least understand this when comparing it with the personalities of the people you are preparing to impress.
For a quick assessment, search google and there are many free tests you can try out.
Once you know the nuances of your personality and the nuances of the personality of the people you are meeting you have a huge array of techniques and styling you can use when engaging with the prospective employers to make sure they see the best version of you through their eyes.
This must be a core part of your brand. Understanding your strengths and articulating them. Often people don’t know how to articulate something they are naturally good at because they don’t see it as valuable because they are so used to it. This would be regarded as poor preparation when it comes to job search. Dig deep, ask yourself and ask around, do you really know what your perceived strengths are and how to articulate them in both your cv/application and at interview? If you don’t then your chances of landing the job you’ve always dreamed of is going to be very hard to attain.
You may have had a very successful career spanning 20 or 30 years but when it comes to interview you will sometimes get 30 minutes of talking time with a group of strangers. If you don’t articulate your strengths in the best and most relevant way then it is isn’t the panel’s fault that they don’t recognise your strengths and therefore choose not to hire you.
Similarly it’s very important to know what level your strengths are at. If you see yourself as a good communicator, how do you know which level you are? Can you communicate one to one, or to a group of subordinates? How about to a group of peers? A group of directors? A group of shareholders? How about a group of strangers? How about communicating at a Ted Talk level to a room of hundreds of people? How about communicating as a keynote speaker to a room of thousands of people?
It’s one thing knowing you're good, but can you quantify it, articulate it and make it relatable?
Articulating context is essential when articulating strengths, both verbally at interview and written in your documentation.
The best way to get a feel for this is to be bold, be brave. Don’t be British, be American. It’s time to get talking. Check the views of your colleagues, your boss, your former boss, your friends, your family, your own CV or Resume. Gathering feedback is essential because if you don’t know what the world already thinks of you then it’s impossible to change their opinion and ultimately a brand is based on the opinion of what those people say about you when you’re not in the room.