Q: I keep hearing about the importance of “branding” yourself in a job search—but I don’t really know what that means or how to do it. How do I figure out my brand and, more importantly, how do I get hiring mangers to see it?
A: Branding isn’t only about a job search; it’s about you at work. What are you known for? How do people describe you when you’re not there? When do your colleagues come looking specifically for your help? These are the things that inform and compose your brand.
You can think of your brand as a combination of your personal values and philosophy, your attitude and visible attributes, as well as your skills, experience, and education. It’s a measure of reputation that emerges from your experience. It also allows you to differentiate yourself by being able to consistently articulate and leverage your own unique value.
Once you understand the basics of what branding is, you can focus specifically on building a positive brand for yourself. Even if you don’t think you need a brand, you have one—given to you by others. Your goal is to build a positive brand. What are you known for? Are you inquisitive? A good writer? Difficult to work with? Not a team player? Do you perform well in a crisis or under tight deadlines? Do you excel at teaching complex concepts, making them easy to understand? You can see that the way people are known impacts whether leaders want them on a team or not. Some these are interpersonal skills. Others are work skills. Both are significant parts of your brand. So a content expert who can’t work well with people has that “yes, but” brand.
Self-exploration is necessary before you can accurately convey your purpose and values and how they apply to your work. Ask yourself what your goals are, what you value, what you’re passionate about, what motivates you, and what makes you remarkable in your role. Whatever your strengths may be—personal and professional attributes alike—they are all part of your brand, as are the negatives, which need to be addressed.
Conveying your brand is most often through others. Your colleagues, managers, and external network describe you or seek you out in certain situations. Your references describe you in a certain way, typically with some consistency. You also convey it on your resume and via your LinkedIn profile, especially with recommendations, what you post, and who you follow. Branding is certainly an important part of the job search process, and it can be cultivated and articulated at any point in your career.
Authenticity should be your ultimate goal in building your brand. Trying to present yourself as other than who you are can be very short lived.
Your brand comes across no matter what—it emerges from what you talk about first, what’s most important to you, your areas of personal and professional expertise, and your passions. Whether you pay attention to your brand or not, it’s there. It’s in your best interest to intentionally craft it with self-awareness, authenticity, and purpose.