Building Your Personal Brand
Millennials and the younger end of Generation X are rapidly taking over the bulk of the work force, and with that comes change. They stay at jobs for shorter periods (one Deloitte study says a hire under the age of 34 might stick around for three years) and each time they move gunning for higher positions and more leadership. Those are the jobs the older Gen Xers and Baby Boomers are currently holding and trying to retain due to increased costs of living requiring later retirement ages. But with the college grads hot on their heels, it’s becoming more and more common to prepare for a mid-life job search. So what can the Gen Xers and Baby Boomers do to when they find themselves forced to follow the 3-5 year tenure cycle, but starting in the middle or even towards the end of their career? The best advice is the same as in most cases: it’s all about building a brand. Back in the day (and by that I mean maybe five years ago), the only people talking about building their personal brand were those who really needed to have a public face. The actors, the writers, the undiscovered-but-perpetually-about-to-catch-their-big-break-ers, they needed to ensure they were doing everything they could to have their work out for public consumption. Now those people are all of us, in every field from ages 18 to 65. These younger generations grew up in a world where they have computers in the classrooms and social media before they enter high school. As the Internet has become faster and cheaper, and with social media replacing phone calls for staying in touch with mom, there is now a greater need for everyone to build their personal brand in order to remain professionally competitive. Luckily, it’s also much easier to do so. When a potential future employer, or even a potential client, searches your name they should never come up empty. Here are a few ways to quickly establish, and easily maintain, a personal web presence: LinkedIn, Instagram, and Twitter (among others). Your network can never be underestimated. Your best face starts on LinkedIn when looking to build your professional brand, and many web searches of a name will lead first to your social media presence regardless of which site. Use these to your advantage. Even if you aren’t job hunting, check them for a few minutes at least every few days and like other peoples’ posts and interact with your followers. Especially on industry-related posts on LinkedIn, this shows you are listening and up-to-date on topics. Build a public Facebook page. Going beyond the usual personal page of what you had for dinner and so on, maintaining a public page in your industry on the largest social media networks is another potential avenue. You can set your personal page to “private” and all but the basics away from prying eyes, yet still connect with others on a self-moderated page where others can’t post. This page, established the same way as other public pages, can host some of your thoughts on industry, share your blog posts (see below), and build a following outside of your usual social circle. Blogs. Website template platforms like Wix and Squarespace, or even a basic Wordpress or Medium site, are easy and inexpensive to maintain. There is no code involved unless you want to use it, and they will allow you to start getting your thoughts out there. If you are too busy COO plus a parent plus have two dogs and three cats and several hobbies, or your opinions would draw too much ire, or you are just not a proficient writer, no worry. There are freelancers and companies – such as Present Tense LLC, of course – who will help you build a personal brand, a site, and even maintain a blog in your voice and with your proofread approvals for an affordable fee. The rest of the web. If you work in graphic design, writing, or any other field where there are a lot of freelancers, you will want a full, personal webpage beyond the blog to showcase your talents. But if you are a leader in your industry and have been so for several years, you will need to go beyond your own word to prove your expertise. Forbes, Huffington Post, and a host of other sites have contributing writers. Get your 500 word commentary and suggestions on something in the industry published on a relevant site and you will find yourself higher and higher on web searches when you need it most. Most of these items take only a weekend to set up, and then a few days a month combined to keep updated. And companies like us do each of these things for individuals as well as major partners, mostly because we know how important that brand can be. Building your brand while still comfortably employed is not something most of us think to do; if we like our positions, we don’t like to think about how one day we might leave. But with so many factors to consider, from a team changing to a position disappearing to the dreaded hired replacement, we all need to build early and maintain our personal brands to remain competitive for as long as possible.