The “traditional” method of job seeking – sending resumes to job postings ad nauseum – is broken. Maybe crowded is the better word: it’s easy to do, so everyone does it. But when you’re one of 100+ resumes in a stack, it’s hard for even the best wordsmiths to stand out.
James Hornick did a live podcast on a very underutilized and misunderstood aspect of job seeking: personal brand.
Wait what? I thought that was for self-promotion gurus and Instagram influencers?
Personal brand is NOT synonymous with mass marketing yourself. It simply refers to your reputation, and how well-known that reputation is.
But how does this play into a job search?
A keypoint to remember: you get job offers via 1:1 engagement. Truly connecting with someone on a human level. Many times this happens during the interview process (think of the times you “hit it off” with your interviewer), but it can happen long before that (perhaps you’ve gotten a job via your personal network before).
So how does this tie into personal brand? It’s easier to get people to talk to you when they’ve heard of you before.
Personal brand doesn’t inherently refer to social media either. There are a lot of people who are genuine and great networkers, and have built strong reputations for themselves; you probably know of a few. But social media, and LinkedIn in particular, can allow you to quickly and efficiently scale your reputation if you have a plan of attack.
Humanize Yourself on LinkedIn
First the groundwork. A mistake that a lot of people make: their LinkedIn profile is too sanitized, too “professional”, and frankly too boring.
How LinkedIn started is vastly different than what LinkedIn is today. For the first decade, many viewed LinkedIn as a glorified resume database / company directory hybrid. It became popular enough that it was odd for someone to not have a profile, but it wasn’t truly a site for personal engagement. And such, most profiles were constructed just like that: an online resume. Job history, key skills, maybe some references.
Totally dry and lifeless.
But over the past few years, a major shift occurred on LinkedIn: it’s a social media site now. People engage with each other, share stories and experiences, provide and gain business insights, and building real-life relationships.
And social media is supposed to be fun.
So have fun. Be yourself in the way you construct your profile headline and summary, how you interact with others, and the types of things you talk about. It will make people want to interact with you, and more importantly, more likely to remember you.
Build a Target Network and Engage in Comments
The next phase of personal brand building comes down to strategically expanding your network. Who are the people you want to know, and who you want to know you? What circles are they in?
Put your key targets into 3 categories:
1. Highly active LinkedIn users in your field with large followings, located anywhere (i.e. influencers)
2. Hiring managers in your field at target companies, local to your market
3. All active users in your field, local to your market
A mistake that a lot of people make is thinking they need to connect with people, then immediately assail them with job inquiries or sales pitches. This happens a lot, and has led to connect-and-pitch burnout among recipients.
The comments sections on posts, however, are where the real engagement happens. Instead of connecting, follow people who fit into these categories, and make a point to join the discussions on their topics. If you do this regularly, not only will you build relationships with these people, but with their other followers, most of whom have similar backgrounds, as well.
Then it will be far easier to connect one-on-one to ask about job opportunities or network directly for other intros.
Pro Tip: build a list of all your targets with the URLs of their post-activity pages (example here). The LinkedIn algorithm won’t automatically show you every post of everyone you follow, but if you create your own list, you can refresh it a few times a day. Tools like Tab-Snap can allow you to open a list of URLs, all with one click.
Content Creation & Building Your Own Audience
When people think of personal brand, ‘posting a lot’ is usually what comes to mind. But for the purposes of job search, it ranks below simply humanizing yourself and engaging with others. Still, making your own posts will absolutely take your personal brand to the next level…but how do you decide what to talk about?
Much of this will come down to you. What insights do you have? Where is your expertise? What value can you bring to others, and what advice would you give?
It can be daunting a first, but here are a few ways to simplify it:
- If someone asks you a question, what was your answer? Chances are, someone else will find that valuable as well. Post it.
- That comment you made on someone else’s post that sparked a further discussion? Post it.
- The ah-ha moment, when you had a breakthrough while working through a problem? Post it.
Most people have a wealth of knowledge, but the challenge is the tendency to sell yourself short thinking things are “common sense.” But when you’re answering questions and sparking discussions with your ideas, those are things that will likely provide value to a larger audience.
It Takes Work
As any marketer will tell you, brand building is an ongoing process. During your active job search, it will take time and effort, every single day. And when the search is over and you land your dream job? The personal brand building should continue. This is not just an opportunity to find your next role, but a strategy to enhance your career, helping with every job search for the rest of your professional life.
If you have any questions or would like to chat further, feel free to reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org