Building your Career Brand (internally and externally), is it worth the bother?
When we hit the job market, there’s one thing we focus our job-seeking attention on – firstly it’s usually our external career brand. Updating our LinkedIn, asking old colleagues for testimonials, rewriting our CV…
But importantly, your career brand isn’t just external. Nor is it only important and relevant when it’s time to job hunt!
Your career brand is who you are professionally.
Done right, your career brand should paint a picture of the kind of working professional you are – or could be. Your external career brand should give potential employers context and confidence when hiring that you are the right person for the company… So let’s debunk some career brand myths.
Career Brand Myth No.1: Selling vs. Marketing
It’s not about selling yourself. It’s just about marketing yourself.
As Peggy Klaus says in her book Brag! The Art of Tooting Your Own Horn Without Blowing It, “good self promoters are always planting seeds for the future.” You never know when you might find yourself looking for a new job or a promotion, so don’t neglect your career brand, just learn how to manage it.
In the last couple of months, my clients have often said to me:
“I’m not good at boasting”
“I find it hard selling myself”
“I don’t want to over egg it and say things I will regret later”
Many job seekers rely on the push strategy – where they continually push their brand on others for example through CVs, applications, intros and so on. If you’ve nailed your career brand, it will pull people towards you. You won’t have to do all that painful leg work. Networking is one really effective way of developing a pull strategy (keep reading to learn more).
Career Brand Myth No.2: Fake it ‘til you make it
If you’re not sure what you’re marketing you’ll come across as fake. So often my clients try to slot into the skills and experience lists on job descriptions and end up looking like an automaton with zero personality. Most importantly, as a candidate you need to delve into who you are, what drives you and then you’ll easily be able to show the value you bring to the table.
Career Brand Myth No.3: I’ll just dust off my CV when I need a job
If you don’t keep your marketing collateral up to date, the effort it takes to remember your achievements and how you added value when you suddenly need it slows down your ability to respond to job opportunities. You might miss out on jobs that would have been perfect for you. Instead of just dusting off your CV and LinkedIn when it’s time to job search, consistently manage your career brand. Update it once a month and then you’ll be ready for wherever your career takes you.
Now we’ve considered what you external career brand is, let’s take a look at your internal career brand.
What is an internal career brand? Mainly, it’s how you’re coming across internally within your current workplace. Your internal career brand is really your professional reputation.
How can you make sure that your colleagues will have good things to say about you if and when the time comes? Do you listen to others? Are you good at solving problems and offering solutions? Think about how you come across to others that you work alongside. Would decision makers recommend you for promotion? Do your colleagues see you as a go to person with a finger on the pulse of the organisation?
One way to market yourself effectively (and develop a pull strategy) is through active networking.
I’ll give you an example. Introducing Hilary! Hilary is a Senior Project Delivery Manager and works a 80 hour week but within that finds time to have coffee and catch ups with new and existing people in her network. Recently (and with just six weeks to go before her contract expires) Hilary has found that her on-going networking has paid off. A networking contact has let her know about a challenging high profile contract that her contact knows she can handle and deliver on. What perfect timing!
Does Hilary spend her coffee breaks selling herself, boasting or bragging? No! She simply talks, and listens. Hilary asks people what’s going on in their department or company, then she listens to their problems and ideas and subtly slips in how she might tackle it. This leaves the impression that she is skilled, an expert in her field, and really knows what she’s talking about. It’s no surprise that she’s in demand!
How can you improve your career brand?
I often help clients to develop their career brand. Usually people come to me either because they’re in the market for a new job, or for example if they’re not being perceived as positively as they would like to be in their current role.
Here are a few focus points that we always discuss…
To be able to market yourself (or anything) successfully, you need to be able to talk with confidence and authenticity. Work on your Elevator Pitch even if you’re not planning on networking anytime soon! Know what you’re good at, what you enjoy, and what you want more of in your next role.
It’s not just about you.
Making other people feel good, listened to and understood is all part of your career brand. These skills are especially relevant if you’re in a senior position. How good are your influencing skills?
Your career brand needs to be consistent and fluid (like your career). It’s not good enough to just pop your head up when you need something! Have a strategy and even a CRM system to schedule calls or emails to periodically touch base with people, ask how they are, take an interest in what they are doing. This will draw people to you, and they’ll want to do something in return.
Don’t neglect the basics.
LinkedIn is a good place to start. Keep this updated every step of your career. When you leave a role, why not ask colleagues and managers to leave recommendations for your work before they forget about you! A well-developed LinkedIn profile is a great way to show employers the value you could bring to their company.
Storytelling is crucial.
All the best brands have a brand story. Learn how to tell yours! Remember, short stories with attention grabbing headlines that people get quickly are most effective.
Your career brand begins on day one of your first ever job, and never ends. You should be actively developing, nurturing and refining it no matter what stage of your career you’re at. Be prepared for whatever your career throws at you, regardless of whether they are new opportunities or unexpected changes.