Who are you? A guide to building and using your personal brand

When you think of the word brand, you think of big companies ready to sell you their products rather than individual people. In fact, it feels unnatural to think about yourself as having a brand. But what if I told you that your personal brand is the key to taking the next step in your career?

What is a personal brand?

Before we begin dissecting what makes a personal brand, it’s important to establish what it is. Your personal brand is how you establish who you are and what you bring to a prospective job role. This includes what skills and attributions you have, what your experience is, what you value, and what your motivators are. This includes your military experience, civilian job experience, and any voluntary work you may have done

Why is a personal brand important?

Knowing what your values are and what skills and attributes you have will help you narrow down your job search. Remember, job searching takes time, so narrowing down what jobs you are applying for will help you to use your time efficiently. It’s important to remember that you have a limited amount of time to convey to potential employers why you are the right person for the job. A strong personal brand will help you do this. Executive Services Career Consultant Lisa Jones says, “Applying for a job is essentially selling yourself and your skills, so it’s important to be able to get across a strong and clear message of who and what you are and what you can offer as soon as possible. Your branding is part of this, so the clearer and more succinct you can be, the better.”

It begins with a self-assessment

To establish your personal brand, you must do a self-assessment. By answering questions about what you value as a person you’ll better understand who you are, what you can bring to a job role, and what career you’re interested in. Questions that you may want to ask yourself include:

  • What are my interests?
  • What are my skills?
  • What are my values?
  • What motivates me?
  • What external factors do I have to consider?
  • What job would I like?
  • How much money do I have to earn?

Only you can provide the answers to these questions, but you may want to ask friends and family for their input. You could ask them what interests they have and see if any resonate with you. Or what external factors they considered before applying for jobs.
Once you have answered your self-assessment questions, get rid of any answers that make you think ‘so what?’. These are the factors that, although important to still keep in mind, might not prevent you from accepting a job offer. For example, a job that requires you to travel 100 miles every day is not, realistically, one that you would apply for, but, you may be tempted to apply for a hybrid role despite wanting to work from home. Separating out your ‘so what’ responses will leave you with a clearer idea of what your personal brand is.

Applying your personal brand to your CV

Now that you have established what your personal brand is, it’s time to use it to build your CV. You may already have a CV, but it’s important to go back and look at it to make sure that your personal brand shines through. Lisa says, “If you do not know who you are and what you are good at, how can you expect others to grasp this?” For each job that you apply for it’s important to tailor your CV and highlight your relevant experience. This could be military experience, volunteering, or any civilian jobs you may have had. Remember, though, that your CV must include your recent experience.
Your CV should also show potential employers that your values match the company’s. “If you are applying for a job, then your branding should be compatible with the organisation as much as possible,” says Lisa. Don’t be afraid to highlight some of the interests and values that you noted down in your self-assessment. As long as these are relevant to the job or company that you are applying for then this can help set you apart from the crowd.
Once you have finished writing your CV, make sure that your cover letter and LinkedIn profile also display your brand. This means that when prospective employers look at your CV, cover letter, and LinkedIn page the brand is consistent. You must make sure that your LinkedIn profile is up to date with your relevant work experience, skills, and interests.

Pitch yourself

An elevator pitch is a 30-60 second summary of who you are, what you do, and what your skills are. They are useful for networking events and for writing CVs and cover letters. Think about getting into an elevator with the person hiring for the job you want. You only have a limited amount of time to tell them why you are the right person for the role, so what do you tell them?
If you are writing your elevator pitch for a job application, make sure that you are clear on who you are talking to, what the company does, and which position you’re applying for. This will allow you to keep your pitch relevant to the opportunity that you are applying for. If you are writing a general pitch for networking events, keep your desired role in mind and think of some of the things that the role may require. This will help you to think about how your experience can translate to fit the potential job description. To write your elevator pitch, refer to your CV and pick out the key experience that is relevant to the role you are applying for or the job that you want. Using statistics to back-up your experience can be impressive and make your personal brand stand out.

What your elevator pitch may look like

“My name is Lisa Jones. As an Executive Career Consultant at the Forces Employment Charity, I help both serving personnel in transition and veterans find meaningful employment. A qualified coach, I work with them to give them the tools that they need to find a job that matches their skills and salary expectations. I’m a veteran myself and when I left, I worked within the financial services sector. This gives me the insight I need from both sides to understand not only the needs of the commercial world, but also the concerns or anxieties that a service leaver or veteran might have in job seeking. I use my experience, knowledge of the job market and salary levels,in addition to my coaching skills, to do this. The feedback I receive is that this helps makes the job seekers transition process, or search for another job, much easier and more successful.”

Using LinkedIn to network

LinkedIn is an excellent platform for networking with potential companies that you may want to work for. You can follow their LinkedIn page to stay up to date with what the business is doing, and also keep an eye out for any upcoming job opportunities that may be of interest to you. As well as following the company in general, you should also be able to find current employees to connect with. Connecting with these individuals is a great way to find out what it is like to work for the company and could also lead to a recommendation into employment. In addition to using LinkedIn to network with specific companies, you can also use it to connect with people in the same sector or job role that you would like to get into. This is a great way to explore various avenues into employment and is your chance to speak to individuals about their experiences on the job.
There is a lot of networking to be done on LinkedIn, which is why you must make sure that your LinkedIn profile reflects your brand. Make sure that you have completed your profile, including adding your professional experience, education, and your skills and attributions. Posting regular content that highlights your passions and interests increases your visibility. When you apply for jobs, potential employers will visit your LinkedIn page to get a sense of who you are, so make sure your brand is clear for them to see.
Every day brings opportunities to network. Whether you are at an in-person networking event, a job fair, or even walking down the street, you never know who you are going to meet and what possibilities they can open for you.
“Over 70% of people get their jobs through their networks,” says Lisa. “This can mean recommendations or referrals, or even access to jobs before they are advertised, so being able to articulate what you are offering an organisation can help people understand how they can help you or to point you in the right direction. You may sometimes only get a few minutes to get your message across, so it is crucial that this is clear and in a format that people will understand and remember.”
If you are at an event, let curiosity guide you. Consider what sectors and roles you would like to explore and speak to the relevant people. Networking is about pitching yourself and your brand, as well as learning about the opportunities that are open to you. It may be easier to do this if you set some goals for yourself before heading to an event. Your goal could be to find out more about a certain industry or talk to at least three people about their roles.

Top tips for networking in person

  • Talking to people about yourself can be daunting and feel uncomfortable, but the more you do it the easier it becomes.
  • Practice your elevator pitch before heading to an event so you have a strong starting point to show off your personal brand.
  • Although your elevator pitch should only be 30-60 seconds long, make sure that you are not rushing – the people that you are networking with will want to hear about you and what you could potentially offer them
  • Don’t forget that networking is a two-way street, so it’s as important to listen to the people you are networking with as it is to have them listen to you.
  • Make sure to exchange information at the end of your conversation. If you have a business card don’t forget to give one to each person you talk to, if not, then exchanging email addresses or phone numbers is equally as useful.
  • Keep a note of the names of everyone that you meet and add them to your LinkedIn network.

Help from the Forces Employment Charity

We are here to help you throughout your career. Our specialist team of Advisors is on hand to provide you with life-long employment support and guidance, including:

  • Help building your personal brand
  • Access to employment and networking events
  • CV and cover letter tips
  • Interview techniques

Once you’ve registered, we will be here for you whenever you need us. Whether you need help taking the first steps into your civilian career, or you want to climb the career ladder, we can give you tailored employment advice and guidance.
Register with the Forces Employment Charity today.

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