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How Your Essential Personal Brand Affects Your Career

A personal brand is the culmination of your actions; it’s an image that is useful during a job search that marks you as a specific, well-defined package of abilities, talents, and experiences. It is you, outside and inside, in the sense that you’re unique. Personal branding has a lot to do with the emotion people feel when they think about you but is rooted in self-reflection and integrity.

Although obvious differences between you, as a brand, and a tube of Crest toothpaste exist, considering yourself as a brand can help bring objectivity to your job search and continuity to your career. In other words, building a personal brand gives you the ability to make career choices easily and consistently.

Every serious professional must consider his or her personal brand for the following reasons:

  • When you proactively define and communicate your brand, you’re in control of it. Most people have their brand handed to them by other people’s perceptions and reactions alone. By defining your brand, you take back some control over this process.

  • Crafting your personal brand helps you figure out what makes you unique. The process of finding and communicating your brand can therefore be a pretty powerful tool for boosting your confidence and convincing interviewers of your value.

  • A personal brand helps you appear more consistent online and avoid raising any red flags with recruiters. Inconsistencies in how you appear online can put your career in jeopardy because hiring managers and HR professionals may view them as signs you aren’t being completely honest about who you are.

  • When you have a personal brand, you can more easily make decisions during your career. When you’re presented with options that go against your brand — against who you are — then letting them go is easier, even if they’re more lucrative.

  • A personal brand can even out the troughs between employment by being the one thing that doesn’t change about you. When you consider that the average time at a job in the U.S. is about two years, you may appreciate that your personal brand lets you look at your career as a whole instead of a series of jobs.

Brand yourself before someone else does

Branding is all about trying your best to manage other people’s perceptions of you. Because you can’t reach into someone else’s head and tweak how that person sees you, all you can do is change your image, your messaging, your look, and so forth to better align with who you really are.

Instead of waiting for others to form random opinions about you that may or may not be accurate, help them out by sharing your well-crafted personal brand.

Set yourself apart from other job candidates

Differentiating yourself from all the other potential candidates for a job means being yourself, as in your authentic, true self. Personal branding allows you to let yourself shine by encouraging you to look inward and evaluate what makes you different from everyone else. Only after you complete this inner evaluation will you have enough information to say, “I’m better than anyone else going for this position because…”

Granted, looking inside and figuring out who you are can be very uncomfortable. But self-knowledge really is the key to building the confidence that helps you stand out and be unique.

Maintain a consistent online presence

Your online identity should be consistent no matter where someone looks for you. If you do your personal branding right, you become a single thought in the mind of a potential hiring manager. When you’re done with the branding process, your LinkedIn profile will match your other online profiles. And if you get a chance to send a résumé, your brand will be visible there, too.

When recruiters start looking for talent, they typically start with LinkedIn. If they find you on LinkedIn and your profile appeals to them, they keep digging. They do background checks and Internet searches to find out more about you. If your online image has any inconsistency, you may find yourself in the maybe pile pretty quickly.

From another point of view, your friends and family on Facebook get to know you from your daily or weekly Timeline posts. The more consistent you are with them, the easier it will be for them to articulate who you are should they decide to refer you to their professional contacts.

Why is it dangerous to have inconsistencies online? When someone’s image is incongruent with what you expect, it can make you feel uneasy.

Simplify your decision-making process

Having a clearly defined personal brand can help make your career decisions easier. When career opportunities arise that you’re unsure of, you can look at your brand for guidance. For example, if you’ve determined that you prefer small companies and don’t want to travel, then you know that turning down a job at a large, bureaucratic organization that sends its employees all over the place will contribute to your happiness.

Managing your career versus finding a job

To have an effective personal brand, think of yourself as the CEO of your own company. Any job you have is just a short-term contract. In the United States, where the average length of time at a job is two years, this viewpoint makes it possible for you to manage your career. Maintaining a strong personal brand helps you minimize the gaps between jobs because you’re doing the following:

  • Continually networking, both on- and offline

  • Maintaining your résumé and online profiles

  • Setting short- and long-term goals by asking yourself where you want to be in three to five years and with what company, position, and level of responsibility

  • Viewing your professional life beyond the confines of any single organization, which means you’re reflecting on the personal and/or professional skills you need to further your career

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