By Perminus Wainaina
On Saturday, I had been invited to a career development workshop. The workshop hosted professionals and job seekers from various backgrounds.
The organizing party had requested I talk about career growth and practical skills to help you get to the next level of your presentation.
After I had made my presentation, we had an interactive Q&A segment.
One of the questions I got was from Ann, a professional in the banking sector with five years’ experience. Seven months ago, she was rendered unemployed after a mass retrenchment at the bank she worked.
Since then, Ann has been looking for a job, she has been to three interviews, despite the fact she has applied for over 50 positions.
While talking to a former colleague, she was asked about her personal brand. Ann didn’t know much about personal branding or how it could help her get a job.
During the career development training, Ann sought to understand what personal branding was, and what it had to do with her getting a job.
What is personal branding?
Personal branding (also referred to as professional branding) is how you position yourself as a brand in the job market. Your brand includes various aspects such as the skills you’re proficient in, the values you stand for, the experience you’ve garnered and the traits that set you apart as a professional.
While looking for a job, there are highlights you need to pay key attention to. These include a professionally written CV, a great cover letter, your references, and so on.
However, most job seekers applying for a particular job will have almost the same skills.
So what will set you apart? Your professional brand!
Three years back, we were recruiting for a leading NGO in the region. After the first interview, we narrowed down to two candidates; they both had excellent skills and prior experience required for the role.
The NGO’s management team arranged an interview with both of the candidates, then requested I sit in the interview and assist with deciding the best candidate for the position.
During the interviews, both the candidates put their best foot forward. However, it was evident one of the candidates was interested in the financial aspect. With every question, he took a financial angle –explaining how the organization can cut cost by subsidizing the quality of products. At one point, he spoke of how the NGO could make a profit from helping the community.
When it came to the second interviewee, her focus was on how the NGO could help the community more effectively, how they could reach everyone, and how they could improve the quality of the services and products offered to the community.
The second candidate got the job. The interviewers could not picture working with the first candidate. While he was qualified, his values did not match those of the NGO.
When you’re walking into the interview room, your professional brand should guide your answers.
However, personal branding doesn’t always apply at the interview stage. In most cases, your professional brand could decide whether you’re called in for the interview or not.
Here are three reasons why you should work on improving your professional brand and ultimately land that job.
1. Showcase your professional statement on all your digital platforms
After an employer reviews your CV, they’ll decide if you’re what they’re looking for or not. If you match the skills and qualities the organization is looking for the employer will seek to know more about you before they call you in for the interview.
At this point, the hiring manager will likely Google you –so as to get a better feel of who you are. Use this opportunity to sell yourself even more.
On your digital platforms, display your professional brand where an employer can easily see. For instance, you can have your brand statement as part of your bio.
In the bio, briefly talk about your skills, experience, and the professional values you uphold.
2. Build meaningful relationships with your networks
I was recently having a conversation with a recruiting officer. She told me her inbox is always full of messages from job seekers looking for opportunities.
When relating to recruiters and other professionals, view yourself as a relatable person. The same goes to your networks, don’t just reach out to them telling them of the jobs you’re looking for.
Take some time and learn more about your networks. If you see an event that could benefit them, notify them.
For example, if you see a networking event for HR professionals, and you know a HR practitioner within your networks, you can inform them about the event.
Part of building a professional brand involves building meaningful and mutually beneficial relationships with your networks.
3. Be consistent in your branding
The way you present yourself to a hiring manager can either work for or against you. In the job market today, an employer has access to more than you’re willing to show.
For example, if you’re going for professionalism, that should be the message your brand showcases across every relevant platform.
A few years back, there was a story circulating mainstream media. The case was that of a professional who had been denied a position in a faith-based organization. Later, it was discovered he failed to get the position due to a video that had surfaced. The video showed the professional drunk and hurling all sorts of insults.
Your brand should be consistent all through. If there are any mishaps or inconsistencies, try and get ahead of the situation before it embarrasses you, or worse yet, costs you your dream job.
Ultimately, your job search process ends when you get your dream job or the job that will take your career to the next level. Having a great CV and working on your interviewing skills will help you. However, you need to remember other job seekers have the same qualifications and skills. As such, you want to create a positively unforgettable impression on the hiring manager. The most effective way to achieve this is by having a professional brand to help you sell your skills even more.
Perminus Wainaina is an experienced HR Practioner with over 15 years of experience in executive recruitment and selection, training, performance management, and Kenyan labour laws.
He has consulted for firms such as Safaricom Sacco, Oxfam, Un Women, Pacis Insurance, Windsor Golf, Muthaiga Country Club, etc. Currently, he represents the private sector at KEBS in the HR standardization committee.