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How to build a career-boosting personal brand

Getting your foot in the door of an industry has always been challenging, but now, with more people vying for coveted roles, getting that dream job can feel like a competitive sport. Whether you’re taking the next step in your career, trying to nab your first graduate role or changing careers, with a bit of preparation it’s possible to stand out from other candidates and land the job you want.

Know what makes you special

Building a personal brand can be a powerful way to make an impression. A personal brand is what you project to prospective employers, colleagues and industry peers. It’s the essence of what people recall when they think of you. Adriana Gascoigne, founder of Girls in Tech, says being authentic and confident in what makes you special is the key to forming a personal brand. That doesn’t mean being arrogant, but it’s important to foreground your unique strengths to an employer and believe you can bring something special to a role.

Deakin University graduate talent development manager Jane Hahn says it’s useful to start by developing a ‘personal brand statement’. This is a concise way to introduce yourself at interviews or networking events. ‘Your personal brand statement should summarise who you are, what you do, how you’re unique and what your goals are. It can then be edited to use on a professional blog, social media sites, as your LinkedIn summary and when introducing yourself in emails,’ she says.

Shape your digital personal brand

According to Hahn, recruiters and employers will often Google a candidate’s name and consider their online presence as part of the review process. Before you apply for roles check your current personal brand by Googling yourself. What pops up in the search results?

If the results need improving, here are a few essentials to quickly upgrade your online presence:

1) Create a LinkedIn profile so that your professional profile comes up first in search listings and follow these steps for a stand-out LinkedIn profile.
2) Customise your LinkedIn URL so that recruiters can easily find you.
3) Control what’s visible to the public via the privacy settings on your personal social media platforms.

If you’re ready to go a step further, there are plenty of ways you can promote your knowledge online and on social channels. Create a simple blog or website, using your full name in the URL if possible, which outlines your experience, links to your CV and lists contact information. Start publishing articles on a blog or through LinkedIn to position yourself as a thought leader in your field. Use your social media accounts to showcase your professional passions. For example, a nutrition student might post images to Instagram of the dishes they create, while a journalism student can share blog posts and articles on Twitter and Facebook.

Consider creative ways to stand out

Sometimes you need to follow the precise requirements of a job application, but where it’s appropriate, consider creative ways to ensure you stand out for a job. This might mean creating a custom application with wow-factor, or going the extra mile and producing a piece of work to showcase your skills. Take for example US-based graphic designer April Hansen who created custom chocolate bars that looked like Illustrator, Photoshop and Indesign logos to send with her application or hand out during interviews.

Sometimes a well-crafted CV and cover letter is the most powerful statement you can make though. Do your research on the company and its culture; it will help you to identify a suitable tone and approach. Get someone else to read your application and give you feedback before you send it to see if any improvements can be made.

Don’t forget to shake on it

Finally, Hahn says there are some simple tools to use in networking and interviews that can place you firmly at the front of a prospective employer’s mind. ‘Practice and perfect a strong handshake ensuring it’s not underwhelming or overpowering. When wrapping up conversations or meetings, exchanging business cards is a great way for people to remember you and makes it easier for them to contact you later,’ she concludes.

If you do get offered a job interview, ensure you prepare thoroughly and carefully consider how to present yourself. No matter how good your digital personal brand presence is, face-to-face skills and good old-fashioned manners are still essential in every career.

Take the next step in boosting your personal brand with our free two week course on FutureLearn, Becoming Career Smart: How to Sell Yourself

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Jane Hahn
Jane Hahn

Manager, Graduate Talent Development, Deakin University
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