How to Build your Professional Brand

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Whether you are on a job hunt, a student, or a veteran within the field, it is always important to think, act, network, and plan like a business leader. With the surge and popularity of social media and the wide range of competition within the job market, it is absolutely imperative that you establish a strong presence with your professional relationship.

When it comes to your personal and professional brand, it is all about who you are and what you want to be known for. In the grand scheme of things, it is your ever-lasting professional legacy. While the overall topic can be pretty broad, you want to make sure you cultivate a strong foundation that highlights your overall work ethics, beliefs, and personal and professional experiences.

To do this, you need to start with a simple question: What is your theme? With many college graduates leaving their alma mater with different majors and unique backgrounds, you want to make sure you create a story of self that is representative of the jobs and careers you want to be involved with. Having that professional theme will allow you to shape your resume and social presence in a more optimal manner. Take for example two candidates coming out with their perspective colleges, one with a finance degree and the other with an engineering degree. While they can, in turn, end up at the same company, their overall layout of their resume will differ greatly. For the finance candidate, they want to make sure their resume highlights their knowledge and skillsets. Having ‘Camp Counselor’ as an example may not be the best thing to showcase their leadership. Instead, various executive positions from clubs and extracurricular activities can highlight their leadership skills along with their classes and knowledge. In comparison, the engineering candidate may want to focus more on their academic background and various positions that meet their criteria. Jobs that deal within their field is essentially the best bang for their buck than applying for a finance or accounting job at any of the big financial firms in New York City. Whatever is the case, play to your strengths and the only way to do that is by establishing that professional theme.  

Once you have a theme in mind, it will be your job to create a story out of it. I call this the story of self. For many hiring managers and recruiters, they are looking for strong candidates that can answer the questions of ‘why this company’ or ‘why this position.’ For this to happen, you want to make sure you are able to connect the dots with your previous positions. Even if the positions differ greatly such as an education background and marketing, you want to think of various ways in which you can incorporate your theme throughout each position. To do this effectively, try thinking of specific transferable skills. This can be some related to leadership, organization, management, public speaking, customer and client communication, etc. Knowing those skills and the strengths that you have adopted from each position will give you that leg up over the other competing candidates when developing your professional brand.

After you have crafted that story, reflect again on your personal and professional strengths and weaknesses. Many hiring managers will look to ask about this and will want an answer. For your professional brand, it is important to have a strong grasp on your holistic strengths and weaknesses. By understanding and internalizing what you can and cannot do, you will be able to discuss what you can do for said company and what they can do for you. Remember, growth should always be a part of your story. Companies want to know that they can add value to your resume as much as you add value to theirs.

Once that is all done and said, begin thinking about the various fields, positions, and companies that match your vision and goals. If you know you want to get into marketing, think of the specific marketing companies such as Coca Cola or Nestle and why they intrigue you. Then go back to your resume and determine how you can connect the dots; the strong the connection, the better.

Now, before you apply, you want to make sure you have a strong presence both online and in-person. I’ll speak more about online since in-person will deal more with the interview stages. With the world moving more around the value and presence of the Internet, you want to make sure you are taking full advantage of what is at your disposal. This brings us to the social media platform LinkedIn. With your LinkedIn account, make sure you fill out all of the information. Think of this as an extended resume. The only difference is that you are not limited to the one-page limitations that a resume holds for applications. Fill out your work experience and be sure to highlight your successes within each position. Remember to go into this process with your theme in mind. Think of your main goal and where you want to be. This may make the difference in whether or not you will land that interview or even that position.

Now you are ready to apply. The process will be long and incredibly taxing. But by preparing your professional brand in this manner, you will be one step ahead of those other individuals who are fighting the good fight for that dream position.