It is important to to define yourself. But you also have to think about what you want. What is your goal? How can you craft your message?
What do you want?
In the previous post, we focussed on how you define yourself and on what you can and cannot do; it’s now time to think about what you want.
It is crucial to think of where you want to be in six month or a year, five years and even ten years from now. Answers to these questions will provide you with your career goal. Reflect on the type of environment you would feel comfortable in. Do you like a fast-pace environment? Do you prefer to work on a lot of different subjects or going in depth in one specific subject? Do you prefer team work or working along? Do you envision working in a unionized organization or not? Would you prefer to act as a consultant and work in a variety of organizations or to work in one organization and be able to see the impact of your projects on a daily basis?
While goal setting will be the topic of one of my blog entry this summer (i.e., keep an eye open for it), it is of utmost importance to identify your career goals and to be as specific as possible when doing so. Indeed, whether yout goal is to be a senior consultant in an international firm or a tenured professor at Harvard, it won’t happen overnight, so you need to plan for it. There are 2 steps to prepare you to achieve these goals. And the way you will brand yourself today will either help or hinder your progression towards them.
Craft your message
Drawing from marketing principals, you must know your target audience if you wish for them to buy your brand. What organisation needs to know about me? How can I be of use to this organisation? How will my skills and unique qualities help respond to a need they have, whether they are aware of it or not? This will help you position your talents and competencies in the best way possible, hone your message and deliver it to the right people.
Moreover, whether your target is a company, an industry or a niche area of expertise, browse websites and get familiar with the vocabulary they use. Crafting your message to reflect the culture of your target will serve two important purposes: it will show your brand fits the culture and it will speak to your audience.
Identify your competition. Recognizing who are your competitors are and their competencies will help you craft a message that better positions your skills towards your audience’s needs. This step will also help you gain an understanding of how those who have succeeded in your field have branded themselves. Examine the strategies they used and think of what was effective. Moreover, knowing your competitors will help you differentiate your selling proposition.
Your communication plan
Be clear. This means you have to invest effort into defining who you are. Remember that being authentic is the key— it won’t help to exaggerate your competencies. Be consistent. Express your brand consistently across media. Whether online or offline your brand’s attributes must be in sync and self-reinforcing. The way you address your coworkers, how you write your emails, the way you behave must convey your brand at all time. Pay attention to details. Review your resume so it fits your new brand, and your short- and long-term goals. Stay connected. Make sure you remain visible to your target audience.
If you are not already an active social networker, it is essential that you become one. With numerous free social media platforms to convey your brand, it can be confusing to choose the right one to make an impact.
LinkedIn and Twitter are probably your best allies to widely broadcast yourself. LinkedIn is an easy way to showcase your competencies and your experience. However, if you only use it for this purpose you are missing out on many opportunities. The idea behind social networking is to take part in discussions and create an online community. Don’t be afraid to comment a colleagues post or to post interesting information when you feel it can speak to your target audience. There are no general guidelines for how often you should post on LinkedIn. Yet, I believe a right balance between what is suggested for Twitter, one post a day, and for a blog, which is at least twice a month, would be best.
Twitter is almost only about interactions, thus you need to take an active role. It is fun way to sell your brand and the 140 characters available force you to be concise and creative. It is important to be authentic and not to use Twitter just as a way to push your product or your expertise. There are guidelines on how to interact and have a positive impact on your network (1). Here are some questions to ask yourself before you post on Twitter in order to increase your visibility and broadcast yourself efficiently (1): Am I being consistent with my personal brand through this post? Can I link it to external content to enrich my contribution (e.g., one of my blog entries)? Is my post useful? Can it start a conversation or add value to an ongoing one? How can I make this information more attractive? Can I use hashtags in an effective and meaningful way (e.g., #turnover rather than #OMG)? Can I add multimedia value with a video or picture? According to Herrera and Requejo, these are habits successful organizations use to reach their audience, so why not use them to promote yourself?
If you have an inclination for writing, you should think about starting your own blog site. There are numerous platforms, such as WordPress and Joomla, which will allow you to create one for free. It is a great way to cover in depth different topics. You are not restricted by a number of characters, thus you have room to broadcast your thoughts, knowledge and expertise. Make sure your blog is aligned with your target audience. If you work in HR a blog on food won’t be helpful for your personal branding. Moreover, general guidelines state that you should commit to posting a couple times a week, or at least twice a month. Choose topics your audience will find interesting and educational, but that will also showcase your unique experience and skills. If you feel you cannot commit to your own blog platform, think of posts you can broadcast less frequently or regularly on one of CSIOP’s three blogs.
It is of utmost importance not to forget face-to-face interactions, so don’t hesitate to participate in different conferences that target your audience and join and participate in industry groups. This will allow you to experiment asserting your personal brand and to broaden your LinkedIn connections.
In sum, there are many things to consider when creating your personal brand. It is a deliberate effort to identify and promote yourself effectively, so make sure you use all the right tools to maximize your impact.
Isabelle Tremblay is CSIOP's Student Representative. She is in the last year of her PhD at Université de Montréal.
© CSIOP 2017.