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The Critical Journey to Your Personal Brand



personal brand

Having a fulfilling job and believing you have a career path in your company is a great position to be in. It is tempting to get comfortable in your position, in your relationship with your colleagues and senior management. Employees shouldn’t forget, however, the changes that might lie ahead where greater opportunity either within the organisation or elsewhere might present itself. It is therefore essential to build and maintain a personal brand.

Employer branding is a hot topic in HR and Recruitment and companies the world over are thinking more about how they can be perceived as an employer of choice to attract, engage and maintain top talent. Many HR professionals are adopting it as a specialism and it is becoming an engaging topic for professors and students.

Employers, however, are not the only ones who should be thinking about how they ‘brand’ themselves. In this article, John Whiting, Head of the Advanced Technology search practice at Korn/Ferry company Futurestep, explores why and how individuals can and should develop their personal brand.

Having a great job today does not guarantee career success tomorrow.  For today’s organisations the War for Talent is about identifying, developing and retaining the genuine change-agents who will accelerate business results.  Employers can, and will, be relentless about this.  If you are perceived as not bringing new growth to an organisation you can be seen as dispensable.

The opportunity to influence an organisation, the strategy and its future only comes with recognition from the right people. In today’s large and diverse organisations this requires a positive personal brand.  A personal brand is the collection of values, experiences and associations that people attach to you.  In short, it’s what peers and associates think about when they hear your name mentioned.

We are all individuals, but unless we have a positive personal brand we will be invisible both to existing colleagues and to search executives, looking for the next bright star to fill a vacancy.  We have to showcase what makes us special.  What are we famous for now?  What do we want to be famous for in the future?

Having a positive personal brand is also important to your team, your department and the wider organisation.  You are the figurehead, the leader, and the main representative to the rest of the business.  How you are able to contribute to the overall strategic direction of the organisation will be dependent upon the positive personal brand you have established with your leaders, your peers, and your team.  It is about your ability to build a personal brand which transcends your current job title and makes you an attractive prospect for internal promotion and to external companies.

The importance of your positive personal brand should also not be underestimated when looking to recruit and retain top talent for your team.  Top talent wants to work with top talent.  How much would you have valued the opportunity to work alongside iconic leaders such as JFK, Jack Welch, Ricky Ponting or Steve Jobs?  My experience of leading executive search assignments where there is a strong leader with a positive personal brand is high caliber candidates who may otherwise be reluctant to consider opportunities will listen, and discuss the potential role.

There is, however, a subtle line between developing a positive personal brand and blatant self- promotion.  This is the challenge which a number of executives struggle with.  As one person recently stated “I concentrate on delivering practical solutions that work rather than shouting my name” but as one other executive also commented to me “I considered the quality of my work would speak for itself, but realise now that was naive”.

So what advice can I provide on how to develop your positive personal brand?  Here are your top 5 tips:-

1. RECOGNISE its importance

Good personal branding doesn’t just benefit you.  It’s an important part of the strategy for your team, department, division and the whole organisation.

 2. RESEARCH your brand

To know how to promote your brand you need to know what your brand currently is, and where it needs to be.  Really ask yourself “Who am I?”  and “What do I want to be known for?”  Work out who needs to know you and make a plan to communicate it successfully.

 3. Get the message out INTERNALLY

The single most important way of developing your brand is to be seen in person – positively.  Networking is often seen as a purely external exercise, but internal networking is just as important. Make going out and meeting the rest of the business an objective in itself, not just what you need to do as part of another exercise.   By all means raise your profile on emails, but remember email can be the ‘cheap man’s’ branding tool – you might be one click away from being a spammer.

4. Get the message out EXTERNALLY

Set yourself apart by regularly contributing and providing added value on LinkedIn, writing blogs, using Twitter.  Speak at conferences, make a point of networking, become a press contact for your organisation.   Get yourself known in a positive light as an expert on a particular topic.  It’s not about being online 24/7 for the sake of it, it’s about adding value to others.  We are in the era of big data.  Help others cut through the information overload and be the digital equivalent of an ‘intellectual’.

 5. Get the message out CONSISTENTLY

Don’t be a one-hit wonder.  Brand building takes time and needs to be consistent.  There are countless blogs with only one or two postings made years ago.  Don’t let the tumbleweed roll through your branding initiatives.

Thinking about these will help make you a more realistic proposition for internal promotion, and more attractive to external search executives who are eager to find not just great candidates but also inspirational executives that their top talented candidates will be clamouring to work for.

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John Whiting

About John Whiting

John Whiting is Head of the Advanced Technology Group, Australia, for Futurestep, Korn/Ferry International’s mid-high level recruitment and talent management consultancy.
John has 15+ years experience of recruiting technology executives across all industry sectors, and prior to joining Futurestep he was the Managing Director of the UK’s leading technology executive search business.
In his studies at some of Europe’s leading business schools, including INSEAD and Henley Management College, John developed a strong interest in how organisations achieve extraordinary performance through their people and he is passionate about helping clients effectively attract, retain, deploy and develop their talent.

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