It’s been a whirlwind of experiences these past weeks. In all honesty it’s been difficult to find time to actually reflect on all the opportunities, people and events that I've been involved with. So, writing this blog has been a pleasant excuse to actually go through my time so far on the programme. Induction week, which feels lightyears ago already, offered a litany of events.
One that stood out to me was a workshop on Personal Branding, given by Joseph Liu, taking the principles of conventional marketing and applying them to ourselves.
Joeseph Liu (pictured above) is a former blue-chip brand marketer, he spent ten years managing such global brands as Gü and Häagen-Dazs. However, he decided to take the skills he picked up along the way and transition into his current roles as a keynote speaker, career consultant, podcast host, and coach.
In this blog, I share my learnings on personal branding from this insightful workshop.
How to define your brand
Have you ever stopped to think about what you stand for? Of course, we've given it a passing thought here and there. However, I think many of us, including myself, would struggle to answer in the affirmative. Interviews are part and parcel of accessing most career opportunities and a core component of them is to explain what exactly you're all about. But how does an interviewer, holding your professional fate in their hands, figure out who you are in under 30 minutes if you aren't sure yourself?
Before launching into the intricacies of personal branding, Joseph implored us to really understand what we were trying to convey. Who do you want to be? A data nerd? A creative spirit? Leader? Team player? The easy bit is to self-reflect and make a list of all the things you hope the people around you think. The hard bit is to put the pen down and ask yourself, do people actually think this? Do my experiences and interactions back-up the traits and skills I claim to reflect? And more importantly, am I consistently reinforcing this brand with everyone I meet?
Be the change you want to see
Don't say it, show it. To return to the interviewer example, what do you say when you are asked "Why should I hire you?". Do you just list the qualities that you believe are the right fit for the job? Or, do you tell a story that clearly conveys you are all those things? The latter is by far the more engaging and convincing method, yet if you don't have the experiences to support your claims, you'll have a hard time.
Stepping away from the interview, reflect on whether your daily interactions present yourself as someone who is both interesting and interested. One way to ensure this is the case is to be curious about the people and world around you. Ask pertinent questions and speak up. Anywhere you go, be engaged, whether you are attending a talk, workshop, or careers fair.
After Joseph's talk, I listed five names I found from searching LinkedIn for every single firm that I want to work at. Next to their names is the connection, a talking point, and a notes section. Every day I send off several LinkedIn connection requests, and I add a message explaining why I am contacting them and that I would love a few minutes of their time to ask a couple of questions. Some say yes, most don't even respond, but if just one will meet me for a coffee chat, it's a success.
Sharing your knowledge is one of the absolute best ways to show interest in a subject and connect with others. And there really is no better answer to an interview question about your passion or interest in an area, than to simply point them to a years-old blog you've scrupulously maintained.
Just say yes
Perhaps the most important point of all, and the simplest – is just say yes. When you look around and see people with illustrious CVs and all kinds of experiences to talk about, it can be hard not to ask if they just got lucky with being offered them. The answer here is that you make your own luck. Make yourself uncomfortable, say yes, and pick up new skills.
I get extremely nervous speaking publicly and I really hate doing it, but I knew that I would have to present as part of the programme. So, I applied for every position that required giving a speech and signed up for presentation workshops. Ultimately, I ended up really enjoying the process. The next time I'm in an interview and they ask me about a time I overcame a difficult situation, I have a perfect example.
In a world where business cards are thrown away in favour of LinkedIn connections and applicants are rejected on account of unsavoury Facebook posts, a curated online presence is more vital than ever. It brings together everything spoken about above, into one easily accessible place to showcase yourself.
Your Facebook, Instagram and Twitter profile will be checked by recruiters or other interested parties. Make sure there is nothing on there that you wouldn't happily show them in person.
Monopolise your name. Even if you don't plan on using it in the short term, register your name on all major networks so if you do decide to later write a blog, or use twitter, you are easily searchable.
If you want to work in an industry, you should be following thought leaders in the space, and sharing, commenting on or writing relevant articles on LinkedIn. If a recruiter Googles you and the first result is a well-articulated opinion piece on events affecting the industry, they’ll already want to meet you!
Good luck, and happy branding!