The One Thing You Can Do to Position Yourself for Your Next Career Move
What do Tina Fey, Justin Timberlake, and Ellen DeGeneres have in common? Aside from being excellent and hilarious entertainers, each of these influencers has done an exceptional job with personal branding.
Though the meaning has fluctuated over the years, what I mean by “personal branding” here is your unique promise of value. That is—your personal brand is the story only you are able to tell. It’s the one that makes you stand out from the rest of the pack.
For example, if there are ten qualifications for a particular job you’re hoping to land, and 90% of the applicants—including you—meet those ten, you need that company to want to learn more about you beyond how you qualify. Creating a distinct personal brand is the one thing you can do to position yourself for your next career move, as it helps you bring a unique perspective that differentiates you from everyone else.
Luckily, building a personal brand isn’t something you need to be a celebrity to do. I’ve built my own personal brand over the years by cherry picking and finessing the elements I wanted to include.
To begin, I started with the elements I wanted to highlight. I love to dress in costume and go to Comic Con—it’s a quirky side of my personality that I’ve chosen to embrace. I use the concept of changing costumes based on various scenarios as the foundation of my personal brand and my LinkedIn bio. This not only highlights what makes me unique, but it’s also authentic to who I am and to my goals.
Then I looked at elements I wanted to spin. I’ve received constructive feedback in the past about being too direct and quick to ask questions, so I decided to be upfront about my inquisitive nature in my personal brand. Now, people see me as curious and interested—not as a second-guesser. I use a piece of me that could be misinterpreted and spin it specifically as a strength.
Finally, I looked at elements I wanted to put on the backburner, to be shared later on. A persona that’s come up for me is that I’m a “structurer”—someone who really likes structure and organization. Because of the current trend toward things like open-floor plans and game stations at work, I don’t want to put that front and center in my brand and risk having people think I’m too structured for their organization. Like me, you are free to decide which pieces of information would be better to put out in the open, and which would be better to wait to reveal.
To build your own personal brand, start by looking inward
To build a compelling personal brand, first take time to reflect on who you are. You can do that by focusing on three areas in particular: core values, passions, and goals.
Start with core values, and think about the things that matter most to you that shape your character. And don’t make the mistake of separating your professional values from your personal values—you are the sum of your parts, so all elements of your life are influential and meaningful to who you are and what you have to offer.
Then move onto your passions. Let’s say you’re at a party, and as you mingle, you hear snippets of conversations. What topics would make you lean in and want to hear more? Identify those topics and you’ll pinpoint your passions.
Finally, what are your goals? If you want a job in marketing, for instance, you’ll need to develop your brand toward that goal. What’s more, you’ll need to appeal to a marketer’s perspective, which might be very different from a non-profit development pro’s perspective. Know your target audience and tailor your message accordingly in order to be effective.
Consider the opinions of others
After you spend time looking inside yourself, seek out insight from others. Review your performance reports with an open mind, and then talk to colleagues and direct reports to learn how you’re perceived at all levels of an organization.
Ask yourself these questions to find common impressions people have of you:
– What, according to others, are your most valuable contributions or key characteristics?
– On what do you receive the most compliments?
– What kinds of advice do people seek from you?
– Which problems or challenges are you consistently asked to tackle?
In addition, don’t forget to ask your friends, since people who know you best can be a great source of insight into what you have to offer that you might not see about yourself.
Putting it all together
Now that you’ve got your own opinions and outside opinions, you can take those core values, passions, and goals you began with and list them alongside the insights you learned from others. Here’s how you’ll start to create the story you want to tell.
Once you’ve got everything out on the table, cherry pick your favorite attributes and start assessing them in terms of how I did above—highlight, spin, and backburner. Ones you think are key to getting across your unique value you’ll want to highlight, and ones you think could be interpreted negatively you’ll want to spin in a positive light. And of course, you’ll backburner the ones you think would be trickier to spin, and don’t need to be featured to tell your story.
Getting the word out
Once you have a clear personal brand in mind, you’ll need to effectively communicate it in writing. You can do this through a personal brand statement—a single sentence that summarizes who you are, the value you have to offer, and what makes you different from others—or through a longer bio, using several paragraphs to talk about your values, passions, and goals.
On your resume and cover letter, include the key words and adjectives you really want to communicate. For LinkedIn—a great place to network with peers and connect with recruiters—insert your personal brand statement or bio in the summary section, so it’s the first thing people read when they view your profile. Just remember that no matter what platforms you use to express your personal brand, consistency is critical. You don’t want to show up as one person on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook, and another on your blog and resume.
A strong personal brand can set you apart from the competition and give recruiters a clear sense of who you are and what you will deliver. So whether you’re just beginning your career or you’re halfway up the ladder, take time to build a brand that’s uniquely you—one that will help you get noticed and hired for wherever you plan to take your career next.