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How to successfully build your personal brand at each stage of your career
Recently, I was kindly invited to appear as a guest on a segment in Channel NewsAsia’s breakfast programme, First Look Asia.
The topic that we discussed — personal branding — is one that is close to my heart, having been in the recruitment industry in Asia with PageGroup for over 15 years.
Whether you’re a fresh graduate, mid-way into your career or a “mature-age” worker, having a strong, authentic and relevant personal brand is essential at any stage of your career.
To put it briefly, personal branding is what people know you for. It is who you are, what you have accomplished and how you present and carry yourself.
We all have a personal brand, whether we like it or not, and managing and shaping an effective one requires careful planning and an investment of time and effort.
If you’re fresh out of school or university, you probably have little or no demonstrated record of work successes, which can make it hard to craft a solid personal brand on a professional basis.
To get around this challenge, you may want to consider highlighting any internship or volunteer work. Having experience outside of academia is often a plus as it shows employers that you are able to translate what you’ve learnt in your life so far into the working world. Other activities such as sport, music, or charity work etc can also demonstrate who you are and what your brand represents.
When it comes to job seeking, many fresh graduates tend to prefer roles in large, prominent multinational companies (MNCs). While that’s a good goal to work towards and certainly a viable option, competition for MNC roles is often high. My advice is for fresh graduates to keep their options open as many small and medium-sized enterprises also offer wonderful opportunities that offer excellent experience and exposure.
By the time you hit your mid-30s or 40s, you will hopefully have amassed a track record of successes that can be used to contribute to and illustrate your personal brand. At this stage, you should ideally be able to translate your achievements into tangible outcomes. For example, if you are a sales professional, specify how your actions have helped the business increase their profits by X%, or whatever the desired outcome for your profession is.
The key here is to be self-aware about your achievements and strengths. Be honest with yourself. Look at past performance reviews and ask people you trust for their feedback. Make sure that you align your track record and interpersonal skills to the job you are seeking as well. You must also be able to show the measurable value that you and your brand can bring to the organisation that you are hoping to join.
Some job seekers in the over-50 age group may find it more challenging to market themselves at this stage of their career, partly because of the unconscious bias that can sometimes exist in the workplace. For example, some employers may think that mature workers have lower energy levels and are not as tech-savvy compared to their younger counterparts. We know that’s not necessarily true, but such bias can still create an unwanted perception which, unfortunately, needs to be dispelled.
Having a competent understanding of new technology and social media is very important. If you do not feel comfortable with these areas, then invest the time to upskill yourself. Doing so usually does not take long. You can consider asking friends and family for help or take up courses conducted by professionals.
At this stage, your personal brand should ideally emphasise your wealth of experience and how your skills can benefit the company. Your CV also needs to be current with a focus on the past 10 years.
Being open-minded and flexible is important. You don’t necessarily have to find a job that is a replacement of your last role. Contract roles, which are on the increase in Asia, may also be worth considering.
While your personal brand may look different at each stage of your career, the principles behind it are the same.
Firstly, you need to know what your strengths and weaknesses are. While you need to focus on your strengths, attempting to show that you know how to do everything is often not the right approach.
Secondly, be authentic. Don’t embellish your achievements. Rather, be clear and strong on the positive areas and re-frame your weaknesses. For example, if you’re not as social media savvy as the role would like you to be, demonstrate how you are building up this competence through, say, your personal blog.
Having a compelling personal brand is a great way to build credibility among your peers, colleagues and employers and is essential in a competitive environment. Your personal brand will constantly evolve and develop, and investing in it will yield benefits and hopefully, give you reason to be proud and a head start in your job search.
Watch the video here:
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Here’s how you can develop a strong personal brand if you’re a:
- Highlight any internship or volunteer work
Keep your options open when job searching
- Translate your achievements into tangible outcomes
Align your track record and interpersonal skills to the job you are seeking
- Have a competent understanding of new technology and social media
- Be open-minded and flexible. You may also want to consider contract roles, which are on the rise in Asia.