Over the last few years I have frequently helped friends and colleagues in their search to find new work opportunities. Every time I start our conversation by asking how they are building their personal brand. I know that it sounds a bit ridiculous but in the age of an abundance of job candidates, how are they going to stand out? How are they building their exposure to their professional network to improve the odds that they are found?
Since the advent of social media there are plenty of examples of over exposure but not all exposure is bad. Specifically, there is a professional level of exposure that brings an awareness of who you are without requiring you to be the next Kim Kardashian, Justin Bieber or Miley Cyrus. While it may seem daunting at first, building your brand can have huge benefits to your career or your business. Two of the most obvious ways are by arming recruiters with enough information to be able to find you or by helping to bring potential business opportunities directly to your door.
While the unemployment rate in my home state of Minnesota has dropped below most other states in the nation there are still more people looking for work than there are employers looking to fill positions. For most people it will take at least a months to find a new position that is a good fit. And for those that are looking to follow the entrepreneurial path finding your first few clients can be a challenge. Having a strong personal brand can help tremendously in your journey down either path.
In my previously role many of my colleagues had been with the same company for a decade or more. During that time most hadn’t worked on building their brand outside of the company. If they did update their resume it was usually for an internal position and it wasn’t ready for external recruiters or hiring managers. Many hadn’t been actively using their LinkedIn account to grow their professional network.
Some individuals had spent their entire professional career with the same company and few outsiders knew who they were or what they were capable of. They had a small professional network and they hadn’t spent the time to develop their personal brand.
For those who want to get started in building their personal brand, I have highlighted several steps to consider. This is by no means a comprehensive list but it is easy to get started and doesn’t require significant effort to maintain once you are up and running.
- Get Started – Join LinkedIn and Add Your Contacts. If you haven’t done so already join LinkedIn and use their tools to import your contacts. The LinkedIn tools allow you add your network connections from most major email systems including Gmail and Outlook. Once you have imported your contacts and invited them to connect with you use the “People You May Know” feature to identify others that many not have been in your original contacts list. As for who to connect with and who to avoid go with your gut. There is little value in connecting with everyone you have ever spoken with but the general rule is that more is better.
- Research – Identify Professional LinkedIn Groups. The best way to begin to expand your network outside of your current connections is to find professional groups that are in your discipline or industry. LinkedIn limits users to 40 groups, so find ones that fit and that have active engagement. Before posting anything in the group discussion take some time to follow other conversations in order to determine the group’s norms for etiquette. If you’re not sure where to start looking for groups, review which groups your current connections are a member of.
- Engage – Share Articles & Contribute to Group Discussions. Once you are ready to engage with a network, take a few minutes each week to share important or insightful online articles with both your LinkedIn connections and with your new group. When posting a new discussion write a few sentences with the link to the article explaining why you think it is important and insightful.
If what you are sharing is seen as valuable by your network and groups they will start to share it with others. These loose connections outside of your current network are critical in building your personal brand. Research shows that they will likely be the connections that will help you find your next job or your next business opportunity.
Good luck in your journey and may you find the opportunity you are looking for!