You probably keep hearing this—”build your brand”—but what exactly does that even mean? And more importantly, how do you actually do it?
It’s a concept that encourages job hunters to think beyond the paper résumé and add online platforms to the mix. “One of the most important things you can do as a professional is to define a strong ‘professional brand’ and continue to build it,” says Nicole Williams, LinkedIn’s career expert and author of Girl On Top.
Thing is, building your brand isn’t just about readable efforts—you’re going to have to have an in-person conversation at some point! So we talked to Nicole about building your brand in a 360-way, online, on paper, and in-person. That way, you’ll be fully armed to walk into any interview and nail it.
1. Do your homework. First, do a little field research on how your own role models are positioning themselves online. Even Nicole does it: “I love looking through the profiles of LinkedIn Influencers, a group of the top minds in business like Richard Branson, Arianna Huffington, and Rachel Zoe. Reading their insights are great to consider as you evaluate who you want to be as a professional,” she says.
2. Be consistent. Designate one photo as your profile photo across all platforms (that way potential employers always know they have the right person) and make it a good one, says Nicole. “A great blow-out and a confidence-inspiring outfit goes a long way in terms of representing your professional brand and sealing the deal,” she says.
3. Make yourself heard. Use your social media accounts as a platform to show that you’re informed of and have opinions on industry news. “Share articles you find interesting with your network,” says Williams. And instead of just RT’ing them, add a comment—even if it’s just a compliment that it was a great piece. (Who doesn’t like to hear that?!)
1. Make the space count. If you’re going to include an objective, use the space to inject some life into your résumé and make your professional brand jump off the paper, says Williams. “One of the best objectives I’ve ever read included the applicant’s ‘enormous capacity for work.’ I interviewed and hired her within the week,” she adds.
2. Talk the talk. It’s one of the most effective but often overlooked ways to make your brand what employers will respond to, says Williams. “Dissect the job description you’re applying for and research the company ahead of time by studying their Company Page on LinkedIn and their website. Then tailor your résumé and cover letter to speak the company’s language,” she adds. Do they use the word “innovative” instead of “creative” do they need a “team-player” or a “collaborator”? If so, mention those words.
3. Save it the smart way. You spend a lot of time perfecting your résumé, so save it in a way that won’t let all your hard work won’t go to waste. “Save it as a PDF so that the formatting remains exactly as you intend for it to be read,” says Williams. Bonus tip: Save it as “Your Name—Company Name” so it’s easy for a potential employer to locate it if it’s saved to her desktop.
1. Prepare, prepare, prepare. Check your nerves at the door and walk into the interview confidently, says Williams. What does that look like? “You walk into the room with your shoulders back, head held high, handshake ready and a killer outfit!” Another piece of advice for the look: try it on ahead of time. “I’ve seen a lot of women who pull at their hem wishing their dress was longer distracting me away from all the great things they are saying,” she adds.
2. Find meaningful mentorship. “Opening up thoughtful dialogue either as the mentor or the mentee can be a great place to fine-tune your professional brand,” says Nicole. Are there colleagues within your company that are in the same position you were a year or two ago? What do you wish you would have known when you were in their position? Those are the questions that will open up a solid conversation and inspire movement in your career.
3. Be a fearless networker. It can be a daunting thing to dive into, but “a client, a colleague’s sister, someone you meet at a conference or networking event—all these people may have employment opportunities, partnerships, or business relationships for you farther down the line,” says Williams. Find an area of commonality to bring the connection to an even more personal level to maximize your impact, she adds.