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Career advice for job seekers

How to build your personal brand and strengthen your career 06/05/2011

If you’re new to job hunting, it's important to get your personal brand just right. Here are a few ways to ensure that what employers see is what they get.

How to build your personal brand and strengthen your career

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  1. Key to success - effective branding
  2. You are the 'product'
  3. How to create the 'brand'
  4. Revise your CV
  5. Utilise LinkedIn
  6. Social media & privacy
  7. Tweet responsibly
  8. Consider your clothes
  9. Know your stuff
  10. Be yourself

Key to success - effective branding

The age of social media has brought with it more transparency than ever before. A quick Google search will usually tell recruiters and hiring managers a lot about a candidate, perhaps more than the candidate would like to share.

As a jobseeker, you are selling a product: you. Like any product, the key to its success is good branding. It’s vital to make sure your personal brand is consistent across the online and offline spaces. If you’re new to social media, this can be a minefield.

You are the 'product'

Think of yourself as a branded product and know what characteristics set you apart from your competition.

What are your unique selling points and how are you going to convey them? Before anything, sit down and make a list of all the positive qualities that make up the ‘you’ brand.

How to create the 'brand'

Decide on your personal branding. Personal branding has less to do with what you’ve done and more to do with what you want to do.

Of course, this is within reason, if your experience is solely in HR, you can’t market yourself as a professional tree surgeon. However, if you were already in HR, decide which aspect you enjoy most and sell it as your headline.

Revise your CV

Adjust your CV accordingly. Highlight the parts of your experience that are most relevant to where you want to be and change the headline to match.

Utilise LinkedIn

Treat LinkedIn as a serious part of your search. LinkedIn is increasingly being used by recruiters to head hunt talent, so make sure your profile is 100% complete and optimised for the career you’ve chosen.

Try to get a few relevant recommendations, as there’s nothing more convincing than a personal endorsement. Join groups on LinkedIn and establish yourself as somebody credible in your field.

Social media & privacy

Decide on your privacy settings. If you’d like to keep your private life private, make sure you put your Facebook on maximum privacy settings. Everyone’s entitled to a private life, but be aware of what you do and don’t put in the public space.

The same goes for groups you join and comments you leave, which can end up popping up on Google. With everything you post, stop and think about whether or not this is something you’d share in an interview. If the answer is 'no', then think twice about posting.

Tweet responsibly

Use Twitter wisely. Like Facebook, people can sometimes forget that Twitter posts are searchable. Either maximise your privacy settings in order to monitor who you allow to follow you or use your Twitter account as part of your professional brand. It can be a really useful tool in posting articles relevant to your industry or career - just steer clear of controversial topics if the world is reading.

Consider your clothes

Dress the part. What you wear to an interview says a lot about you. For example, if you’ve branded yourself as a creative, outside the box thinker, then show that in the way that you dress.

As a general rule, keep your outfit smart, but at the same time don’t worry about letting a bit of your personality show through your clothes.

Know your stuff

Whenever there are articles about the latest development in your field, take notes. You might not be an expert, and articles aren’t a substitute for real-life experience, but they help build on your existing knowledge and keep you up to date with your field, even if you’re out of work. If, during an interview, a topic comes up that you were unsure of beforehand, then being well read could make all the difference.

There's a big online HR community you can tap into and become part of and HR bloggers are known for commenting  on the most up-to-date news.

Be yourself

Just because you’ve branded yourself professionally doesn’t mean you have to be devoid of all personality. Build your personal brand around you and this shouldn’t be a problem.

If you’re generally considered to be fun, make that part of your brand. If you’re organised, do the same. If you pretend to be something you’re not, it will become pretty difficult to keep up once you get the job. Better to put all of your distinguishing traits in a positive light than invent some.

The art of personal branding can be hard to master, particularly as it’s not easy for people to stomach the concept of themselves as a product, or for those with a large social media footprint. However, once you become more comfortable with your professional brand, it can be your greatest asset in your job search.

David Johnston, manager - HR division, Handle Recruitment

David Johnston, manager - HR division, Handle Recruitment

David Johnston is Manager of the HR Division at Handle Recruitment