You’ve heard the latest ominous economic news. The current job market is a bear! According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate for African Americans (13.4%) is twice that of whites (6.7%). The median duration of unemployment amongst Blacks (8 months) exceeds that of whites (5 months) by a significant margin. Whether you have a job now or are looking for one, it is critical for you to maintain a strong personal brand. Your brand may prove to be the most important competitive advantage you have today.
What is a Personal Brand?
You’ll find many definitions for a personal brand. Based on my research, a personal brand is really your reputation for consistently delivering value and satisfaction to other people who interact with you. It is the summation of your values, identity, knowledge, skills, and accomplishments married with the image you project to those around you. The more satisfaction you bring to people in your sphere of influence, the more effective your personal brand becomes. And once you understand and can articulate your brand, the more career opportunities flow to you as opposed to your constantly seeking them out. So what helps to build a person’s reputation over the course of time? Here are five tips you can start doing immediately:
1. Volunteer for the messy jobs. There is always work in an organization that no one else wants to tackle. They’re the difficult projects/initiatives that appear at first glance to be unglamorous. But what better way to stand out from your peers? If you have the ability to build great relationships and influence others in the company to help you out, then it’s more likely you’ll succeed where others have failed. Once you’ve achieved outstanding results, be sure to publicly share credit and privately let your senior executives know your contributions to the project’s success. This also works if you’re an external consultant. Organizations leap to retain consultants they are convinced can solve their difficult problems.
2. Raise your internal visibility. You’re probably incredibly busy doing a good job and your time is limited. Still, it’s vital to keep your eye on internal events that may bring you to the attention of key leaders in your organization. So if you’re asked to be a mentor, do it. Your manager wants to put you on a cross functional/cross business taskforce. Say yes. The business needs a change champion or agent. Who better than you? HR or Diversity & Inclusion is sponsoring a new program/initiative and requires support. Give it. The point is to find ways to create and sustain new relationships. It allows people to get to see you in action and it will bring potential opportunities to your attention faster.
3. Raise your online visibility. It seems almost everyone is on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. That’s lovely. As fun and entertaining as these social media platforms are, they’re also tools to enhance your brand. If you tweet, how about giving your opinion about a key trend in your industry or profession. Use LinkedIn to actually meet face-to-face with experts and thought leaders who can help broaden your network. Instead of just posting videos of your pet(s), #1 use your social media outlets to share information that’s non-proprietary; #2 obtain speaking engagements; #3 announce awards & recognition you’ve received, and #4 meet recruiters who may lead you to a better job. Just remember to avoid making comments about your current job, work projects, clients, new company products/technologies, or overall organization as it could lead to dismissal. If you’re between jobs, then you can also leverage social media to promote your expertise and availability for consulting projects.
4. Ask for input and feedback. Sometimes we can get defensive about feedback for a host of reasons. At the end of day, few individuals like to be judged and critiqued. But think about flipping that script. Nothing makes you come across as more confident and capable than when you proactively seek feedback and perspectives from those around you. Use more language like “I’d like to get your input/opinion about …” or “How do you believe I could be even more effective in …” It makes you appear more inclusive in your approach which is the name of the game in the globally integrated world we live in today.
5. Connect others to value-added resources. Everyone needs help at some point. You instantly add more value when you can connect someone to a person, process, or technology that will help them solve a problem. Become the person in your group who can recommend a book, candidate for hire, consultant, department, device, short-cut, specialist, tool, or anything to support getting the work done faster and with higher quality. It makes you more credible and puts you in the position of the “go-to” resource without always having to resolve an issue yourself.
We were often told as children that it’s important to have a good reputation. Today, we need to have awesome reputations to land jobs and make progress in our careers. Building a strong reputation is the foundation for an effective personal brand. While it doesn’t guarantee you’ll become the CEO of your organization, it does enhance how you come across to others. So get started building your personal brand. Now!
* Bouvier Williams is a personal brand coach and consultant. He is the founder of a website that focuses on personal branding solutions. He also writes a weekly blog.