3 Personal Branding Mistakes Job Seekers Must Avoid
The best brands connect with you in meaningful ways. That’s a given for big companies, where branding and marketing function like entire industries. But it’s equally true when highlighting your personal brand and conveying the values that drive you.
Done right, branding will leverage your authenticity and credibility to differentiate you from the many others who do the same type of work that you do. (Pay special attention to the fact that 88% of consumers place importance on authenticity when it comes to brand support.) Done wrong, personal branding will leave you exhausted from the pressure to imitate someone you’re not, and it will leave decision makers disappointed that you didn’t live up to your own hype.
The good news is that building an honest, consistent image around your talents can attract positive attention in any environment—especially when it comes to job interviews. Anyone on the job hunt can tell you that standing out from the crowd is crucial to getting hired. When competing with other similarly qualified job seekers, a unique, authentic personal brand will naturally set you apart and help you connect with your interviewers.
Every organization is looking to hire the best candidate for the job. A strong personal brand can make you that candidate.
Common personal branding mistakes to avoid
A successful job interview usually comes down to preparation, from looking professional to asking the right questions. But preparing talking points about your personal brand needs to be woven into that. Understanding your values and how they align with the company, for example, gives your interviewer a clear picture of who you are. Displaying those values also conveys how you might fit in with the company culture or contribute to projects.
To showcase your brand during a job search, avoid these errors at all costs:
1. Abandoning what got you to where you are now.
One of the most critical elements of a compelling personal brand is consistency. Consistent messaging over time builds trust. As Caroline Jerome, partner and chief creative officer at TBGA, notes, Marvel has successfully relied on a long history of consistent storytelling to build a loyal, ever-growing fanbase: “Brands with excellence offline and online have design as a bridge between those things,” Jerome said. “It’s really important to consider that Marvel originated in a visual form of storytelling, and that’s what’s being leveraged still. That’s what’s resonating with people. That’s what’s building the brand trust.”
A consistent brand image clearly works. But when job candidates rebrand themselves every time they change companies, career paths, or industries, unpredictability becomes one of their brand traits. Instead of avoiding your past experiences in an interview, present them as a part of your branding story, highlighting the deeply ingrained mindset that you’ve brought to every work environment. Don’t distance yourself from the early growth of your skills and abilities. For instance, if you’ve been a graphic designer for years, play up your visual prowess as you apply for IT jobs. Your experience is an asset, not something to abandon, and your personal brand comprises the traits that helped you make the most of that experience over the years.
2. Not considering your social media audience before posting.
It’s never been so easy to share your personal brand with the world. Social media can be a highly valuable tool for communicating issues that matter to you—which might include your opinions, professional insights, recent job experiences, new skill sets, or passions dear to your heart. This kind of transparent messaging goes a long way in building personal connections between you and your audience. As you put yourself out there, it’s a good idea to build a healthy social media presence around your brand—and don’t forget that LinkedIn is the most powerful social media platform for personal branding.
First, you should always be attuned to whether your posts align with your branding strategy. If you’re branding yourself as an avant-garde, independent writer, it probably doesn’t make sense to name-drop commercial projects. If you’re aiming for a job at Chevy, it obviously won’t help to publicly applaud Ford, but it also won’t help to ignore the overlap between your traits and the branding philosophy in place at Chevy.
There’s also a fine line between overpromoting every accomplishment and underpromoting to the point of falling off social media entirely. Either one can alienate your audience. The solution is to share the stage. Publicly praise the team members who go the extra mile. Exude authentic gratitude.
Most of all, you always want to remember that potential employers are googling you. Make sure that they don’t stumble upon (or seek out) old, immature posts on your social media accounts that undermine the brilliance of your brand.
Social media is a powerful branding tool when used the right way. The key is to remember that your posts might all become part of your professional messaging, even if you think your accounts are only for the “off duty” part of your life.
3. Working with mentors who don’t share your values.
Aligning with a helpful mentor can be a huge boost. Studies have shown that mentoring is directly related to career longevity and other markers of career success, such as raises and promotions. When it comes to building a cohesive personal brand, an experienced mentor can help align your messaging and so much more. The benefit of experience simply can’t be overlooked.
But it’s important to make sure that there is strong brand alignment between you and your mentor. Just because a mentor offers to take you under their wing, you don’t have to say yes. In fact, there’s a risk of getting attached too soon to those who aren’t a good fit. For instance, a mentor who doesn’t take their own advice is a red flag. Ivan Misner, creator of global business networking site BNI, explains: “It’s like saying, ‘Here, take my advice; I’m not using it.’ You’ve got to find someone who’s walking the talk.”
The other thing to consider is who’s in their network. Are they affiliated with the type of decision makers you admire? They might have the power to open doors, but do those doors lead to a place where you’ll really thrive? Effective personal branding isn’t about becoming famous. It’s about becoming selectively famous within a well-defined circle of people who have value to offer to each other.
Ultimately, living your strong, authentic and differentiated personal brand will give you the competitive edge you need to stand out in any job search.
William Arruda is a keynote speaker, co-founder of CareerBlast.TV and creator of the 360Reach personal brand survey which allows you to get the real scoop about your professional reputation from those who know you.
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