It’s why you choose one cereal over its competition, and why you’ve been using the same laundry detergent for more than a decade--when it comes to making decisions, it’s all about branding. And when it comes to your career, a personal brand will help convey to your colleagues and potential employers your capabilities and what to expect.
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How you present yourself—whether it’s with an elevator pitch, resume, online profiles, or website—can differentiate you from the crowd and leave a lasting impression.
Having a brand is integral to your career. “It’s easier to manage your career when you know your expertise and skills,” says Julie Jansen, career coach and author of I Don’t Know What I Want, But I Know It’s Not This. “It’s easier to identify your goals— jobs, businesses, assignments— if you have a singular brand in mind. It could be broad or very specific.”
Your brand should include a mission statement or message that can be expressed through online profiles, social media sites, or a personal, professional blog, says Will Evans, manager of user experience design at TheLadders.com.
Your mission statement helps show that you’re on top of trends, identifies your values, and includes your qualifications, adds Jansen. Your elevator pitch should be a 30-second version your statement.
Know what you want and what your audience wants. Personal branding is about marketing and how you position yourself, says Evans. Your message should include where you are now, and where you want to be in the next five years.
Experts recommend echoing your message across all platforms—whether it’s in the form on an elevator pitch, website, resume, or online profile. Make sure each brand blast encapsulates your energy and enthusiasm, as well as why you care about solving somebody’s problems. “When it comes to elevator pitches, be focused on what you’re offering someone,” says Jacqui Barrett-Poindexter, chief career writer and partner at Career Trend.
Be cohesive with your brand and audit your past. When promoting your brand online, be strategic with social media posts. Having a cohesive brand is important since more than 60% of recruiters Google candidates. Evans suggests evaluating all your social media profiles and deleting anything that doesn’t jive with your established brand.
Experts recommend having tight Facebook privacy settings as this can be an opportunity to be filtered out. Social media profiles are important but posts and tweets that benefit other people and aren’t about yourself are what help to propel your brand, says Nicole Williams, connection director at LinkedIn.
“Websites sometimes showcase skills but it’s not something you need to do,” she says. “You’d build a professional online profile and contribute to groups on LinkedIn or tweet about your industry. That could be a benefit to your employer but also a benefit if you ever wanted to go out on your own.”
Be focused and target your pitch. “It’s important for people to spend time thinking about what they’re doing and what they do well,” says Jennifer Speciale, director of talent acquisition at Indeed.
Experts recommend figuring out how you can apply your skills to help an organization achieve its goals. “Distill that down into just a few sentences that you can deliver in an elevator—in 30 seconds,” says Evans of TheLadders.com. He suggests starting broad with who you are and what you do before drilling down into how you’re unique and what you can do to help them. “The quicker you talk about them, they’ll walk away thinking you were a great conversationalist,” says Evans.
Your pitch is like a resume, says Williams. “It’s one part having this 30-second bit down but what makes a great pitch is that you’re modifying it to the person you’re pitching to. Do that by asking a question.” You will be better able to target your pitch using information gleaned from the answer to your question. When your pitch is targeted the person will listen, digest, and do something with it in a way that’s more meaningful for your brand, says Williams. “Ultimately, you should have a sense of what you are bringing to the table and how you can make their life better.”
Rehearse your delivery and speak with confidence. “Lead with a strong, impactful, interesting sentence,” says Speciale. “The person you’re speaking to should be drawn in and ask a question.” This will help create a natural rapport.
“Talk with confidence and use intonation and positive energy,” adds Williams. “What matters most is the energy you’re conveying.” Non-verbal queues, like eye contact, posture, and holding your head high, show your confidence. If you’re nervous, anxious, or hesitate, the person you’re speaking to may remember your awkwardness instead of your message, says Williams. Your energy is contagious.
“The way you present yourself should be most relevant to what the role is,” says Speciale. “If you don’t exude confidence, you may lose an opportunity. If you give the energy of a notion of a doubt, they may agree with you.”
A pitch delivered in a more natural tone, instead of one that’s canned, is best. Evans suggests practicing your pitch to know whether you fill sentences with words such as “um” or “like.”
Business cards. Exchanging business cards is still customary after an introduction. If you do not have cards with a company logo, experts suggest having your own cards.
When you exchange cards with someone new write where you met, along with additional context about the meeting to help jog your memory when following up.
The next step. “Follow through is paramount,” says Speciale. “Your silence can seem dismissive.” Experts recommend writing a thank you email or LinkedIn request at a minimum, or an old school handwritten note, within the next 24 hours. “Ask the person when it’s okay to contact them again if only to gauge their timeliness,” says Speciale.
Mention that you enjoyed meeting your new contact and that you’d be interested in learning more about them and their career. “Make it meaningful to them,” says Williams. “Familiarity helps people develop a rapport.” By finding a connection with that person, you’ll be better able to build a relationship.