Creating Your Own Personal Brand
A little over six years ago, I wrote a blog post called “Developing Your Personal Brand,” tailored to recent graduates and young professionals, and published it on LinkedIn.
Today, many of the questions that I posed in the article are still the ones I bring up to PR students and early career professionals when they meet with me for interviews or informational networking. In this pandemic-era and intensely candidate-driven market, branding yourself today is just as much, if not more, important.
If you have a specific expertise in a certain industry, then you have to learn how to arm yourself with that and make it easily apparent to someone reviewing your application. Figure out who you are, be able to tell your story and also decide what you want to be known for.
How can you quantify your accomplishments with a focus on your skills, successes and industry expertise? Perhaps you’ve successfully driven PR campaigns for a client in the education sector, and you’re applying for a role leading communications for a higher education institution. A hiring manager should be able to see that right away.
I review hundreds of résumés, sometimes thousands, every year. The candidates who I see are remarkably impressive, and they come to the table with the education and internship or work experience that truly allows them to hit the ground running in a new job.
When you’re up against other brilliant applicants, the inevitable question arises: How are you setting yourself apart from the other people surrounding you? Your peers are also your competitors when you’re on a job hunt, and it makes developing your personal brand an imperative.
Tell your story.
Your résumé is the most necessary tool, of course. It should be a flawless, concise document that details previous internships, volunteer work and academic activities. If you were active in the PRSSA with your university or a relevant professional organization, then you want to be sure to detail that, as well.
Remember to keep it short and sweet — there is no reason for an entry-level candidate to have a résumé longer than a page, and your email or cover letter doesn’t need to be a thesis. If you’re further along in your career, then it becomes more appropriate for your résumé to be longer than one page because you will be sharing more about successful campaigns for clients that you’ve developed or executed.
A link to an online portfolio or simple professional website is helpful as well. On it, you can speak to yourself, as well as include samples of your writing (press releases, pitches, articles, etc.) that are relevant to the opportunities you are seeking. You can even create and upload a video of yourself. What are your motivations? What inspires you? What have you accomplished? You can cover those three things in under two minutes. This is something I recently experienced from a university communications class that was tasked with creating elevator pitches for themselves, and I really enjoyed that experience.
Be professional online.
Most hiring managers and talent acquisition leaders are going to look at your social media profiles, especially if you link to them in your application. Across those platforms, it is crucial to be professional, but personality and a sense of humor go a long way, too. Use a business-appropriate photo across all your social media profiles, too!
Create original content that speaks to your expertise. Even early career professionals can publish, so tap into your writing skills and flex about a topic of interest to you. (LinkedIn offers a blogging option to all users.) Show your passions and offer your target audiences some insight into your knowledge and skills.
Do your research.
It is such a positive experience to interview someone who took the time to do their homework. Do your research and brush up on the company you’re applying to, and be knowledgeable about the industry the position caters to.
Always be sure to follow up with a thorough thank-you letter, too, which points back to a part of the discussion that was most notable to you. This is a great way to showcase what it would be like to work with you!
Creating your personal brand for a PR career is building credibility that will be long lasting. Get started on the right foot, and it will be that much easier to maintain.