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What Is a "Career Brand" and How Do I Make One?

Posted by Kirsten Agnello-Dean on Sep 11, 2018 12:00:00 PM
Kirsten Agnello-Dean

What Is a Career Path

Move over personal brand — the career brand is here!

"Your unique career path is a big part of who you are today," says official LinkedIn Blogger Ian Brooks. When it comes to taking your career to the next level, personal brand isn't enough. It's time to start thinking about what's next for your role. Enter the career brand.

What Is a Career Brand?

Personal Career Brand

Wondering what the heck a career brand is? Artisan Director of Operations Ellen Bird to the rescue: "Your career brand is who you are professionally. It's what you bring to the table at work and how you present yourself as a potential hire."

ellenIt’s helpful to use these practices at any point in your career — whether you’re happily employed or looking for new work — but it's vital to use them if you are looking for a new job. Doing so will give you the power to influence your career brand up front — and approach your entire search with confidence, consistency, and diligence.

Basically, you need to know where you want to go. Public Accounting Recruiter Adam Karpiak (you might have seen him pop up in your LinkedIn feed) encourages us to remember the Cheshire Cat from Alice in Wonderland when Alice asks him for directions and he responds, "Where do you want to go?"

When she says she doesn't know, he replies: "Then I can't help you."

"To me, that is recruiting," Karpiak says. "That is the approach Recruiters need to take with candidates and clients. A good Recruiter should never talk anyone into anything. They should never 'yes' anyone or convince anyone of anything. They should listen and then question and then listen some more. That's how people figure out exactly what they want, and why...through realization."

So where do you want to go?

Figure Out Your Career Path to Build Your Career Brand

Career Path Signs

Here are some of Ellen Bird's favorite pieces of advice when it comes to discovering your career trajectory and building your career brand:

1. Start with Self-Reflection  

Do you know who you are? Find a quiet spot and ask yourself: What am I great at? Where do I struggle? What am I passionate about? Take personality and strengths assessments to gain additional layers of insight. Here at Artisan, we love Gallup's StrengthsFinder.

Bird also suggests 16 Personalities, DiSC®, and How to Fascinate®, and suggests taking more than one to get a fuller picture. "Taking a few — even silly ones like what Harry Potter house would you be in — will let you see trends and patterns that reveal details about yourself." (She's a Ravenclaw, FYI).

Companies are starting to incorporate tests like these into their screening processes. Glassdoor reports that "personality assessments help HR leaders place new hires in positions where they will thrive and be more productive. By using assessments such as The Predictive Index and storing the information in an applicant tracking system, managers can anticipate the best fit for new employees."

2. Gather Feedback

Now that you know where you stand with yourself, it’s time to gain some outside perspective. Reach out to your colleagues and managers (or peers, teachers, coaches, etc.) and find out what they consider to be your strengths. You might be surprised to learn that you excel in areas you don't realize. Another great place to check? Past work performance reviews!

3. Connect the Dots

You need to make it clear to Recruiters and Hiring Managers why you fit the role you're applying for, so it’s important connect the dots for them. Clearly communicate at every stage of the job hunt — from your resume through the interview — what you uniquely offer. Customization of your career documents is key. Cater your content to match the particular role every time. 

Need help? Bird suggests these resources:

Artisan Talent's Resume Writing 101 
The Ladders' Resume Guide and Template
Career Contessa's
Career Transition Series 

4. Keep Focused

It’s important to realize that your dream job might not come along right away. In fact, Bird says she's "not even sure that dream careers and dream jobs exist in the first place — and Lifehack backs me up on that." Even if working where you have to may be the right move right now (due to all those pesky life responsibilities like caring for babies, pets, parents, and paying the bills), don’t lose sight of what you’re passionate about.

"Instead of only focusing on where you wish you were, pay attention to how you’re getting closer to your goal through each role. Looking back at your progress is a great source of motivation as you keep taking next steps."

Getting Tactical with Your Career Brand

Career Brand Tactics

Now that you have an idea of where you might want to go in the job market, how do you begin to build your brand?

Here are 10 tactics to try:

1. Learn How to Explain a Career Change

Hoping to move in a new direction? It’s less important to explain why you are changing careers, though you do need to address your motivations, and more important to explain how your existing skill set relates to your industry, Bird told Skillcrush.

"I find people need to explain three things,” Bird says:

  1. Their passion for the new career path
  2. Proof that they’ve done their due diligence in understanding this new career
  3. How their transferable skills, plus any new skills they have learned or are working on, will relate to this new job
She’s found success covering these topics in her cover letter and resume summary, as well as during interviews. “Hiring managers often struggle with understanding how past skills relate to a new career,” she said on Skillcrush. It’s important for you to help them understand.”

Started at the Bottom Now We're Here?

Speaking of career changes, what if you can't get your career brand aligned to nail the interview and get the offer? Consider sliding down the career ladder a bit. Skillcrush loved Bird's story of "aiming for a job that was where she wanted to be in that field but at a slightly junior level." Being willing to start at a slightly lower level can make up for some of your lack of job-specific experience.

2. Network, Network, Network

Seriously, never underestimate the value of networking. Landing a job through mutual or loose connections isn’t an exact science, but it can provide opportunities under the right circumstances. Take advantage of resources like Meetup.com and start looking for networking opportunities in your area. Get more tips on networking in our "Back to Basics: Networking" blog post. 

Hate networking? Try this tip: "As my career progressed, knowing my tendency was to quietly work away at my desk, I had to make more of a point to chit-chat a bit more, never eat lunch alone, and most importantly, proactively walk the halls to connect with people throughout the organization," Joseph Liu, host of Career Relaunch podcast, wrote in this Forbes article.

3. Volunteer for Projects

Are you known simply as the "data girl" or "graphics guy"? Start changing your projects when you can. "One way to reshape your professional reputation is to engage in projects, roles, or initiatives that strengthen your desired identity," says Forbes. Miller explains that a personal brand needs to evolve at certain points in your career or it will hold you back. Think about where you want to be in a few years and identify which specific activities will help you get there. “Actively seek out and volunteer for high-profile roles and assignments where you can demonstrate your new brand in action.”

4. Use LinkedIn

Have you managed to put the above tip to work in your current role? If you've had more than one role at a company, it's easy to "link" them together on LinkedIn and keep your past experience relevant. After all, your profile is viewed up to 29 times more if you have more than one position listed in the Experience section. The official LinkedIn blog explains how to use this recently added feature:

LinkedIn Experience

If you’ve held more than one position at same organization within one month of each other and they link to the same company page, they’re now automatically grouped — you can spotlight multiple roles at a specific organization, while not risking the rest of your past experience getting pushed too far down on your profile. The new design started to roll out in the U.S. the week of August 6, 2018, and will be available globally to all members in the coming weeks. Get more details here.

5. Write

Easier said than done, but writing and getting your thoughts out there are key to creating a name for yourself. "One of the best ways to amplify your personal brand is to leverage the reach of journalists, influencers, and industry leaders," says Liu. "Although I now do a fair amount of writing myself for a range of career publications, I also try to make a point to share 'expert' views and perspectives on specific topics where I’m continually trying to reinforce my domain expertise." 

Self-publish pieces on LinkedIn, volunteer to write for a friend's company blog, or sign up with a free service like HARO (Help a Reporter Out) to get started.

6. Change Your Title

Not wanting to stay where you are right now? Change your story! Of course, you can't call yourself a CPA unless you have the credentials, and there are career paths that you need permission to join, like Realtors, but there aren't actually many jobs that require official credentials or qualifications. 

You can call yourself an HR person if you've been doing HR-type work. You don't need anyone's permission for that, says Liz Ryan, CEO/Founder of Human Workplace and Forbes Contributor. You can be a Marketer or Bookkeeper — no one is stopping you if you have the matching experience.

Dr. Tracey Wilen-Daugenti tells the Huffington Post you should assess your day-to-day work activities and rank what you do best. "For example, you may be in the marketing department for a number of years but your role for the past year has been as Project Manager. Your career brand might be more salable if you were to position yourself as a Marketing Project Manager rather than a Marketing Specialist."

"Don't be afraid to brand yourself for the jobs you want whether you've been in the field for years or you're looking for your first job in the field. Claim your stories! Nobody on this earth has your stories — only you," says Ryan. 

7. Manage Your Reputation

Darius Foroux writes on Medium that "personal brand" is a bit of a myth. "A reputation is a by-product of work. You can work on your skills. But you can’t work on a reputation," he says. Instead, you can manage it. "Reputation is nothing more than the perception that other people have of you. So for one thing, it’s not something you directly control."

You can only influence your reputation through two things:

  1. Doing great work
  2. Treating people well

"That’s something I learned early on from one of my mentors ," Foroux says. Think about how people you've worked with would answer these questions about you: Has this person done good work? How does this person treat people? Do the work and become great at what you do. 

8. Take a Class

You're never too old to go back to school, so take a class. You don't have to go back for a new degree if you want to change careers, but you do need to be current on new skills, programs, and trends in your new field. 

"Investigate educational opportunities that would bridge your background to your new field," Mike Profita writes for The Balance Careers. "Consider taking an evening course at a local college or an online course. Spend some time at one day or weekend seminars. Contact professional groups in your target field for suggestions," he says.

Artisan Social Media Manager Kirsten Agnello-Dean is obsessed with continuing education. "You can't succeed without it, especially in tech-related industries — work in marketing? Guess what, Google changed up their analytics platform. Time to get to a class. Don't understand Facebook Ads Manager? Get to a class." She recommends checking out your local General Assembly chapter and joining groups for platforms you often use, like a Wordpress Meetup or local HubSpot User Group

9. Figure Out Your Statement

You’ve heard of the thirty-second elevator pitch, but Jason Alba of Live Career also suggests you create a five-second elevator pitch — what's called a bumper stickerAccording to Glassdoor, elevator pitches are out and bumper stickers are in! This new statement should answer the question “what do you do?” It's simple, short, and pithy.

Here are some good examples:

  • I’m an events planner — I specialize in big out-of-town events, like sales meetings
  • I run marketing, site content, and PR for a very cool jobs-research site called Glassdoor.com
  • I’m the CFO for an organic chocolate maker here in Springfield

Web marketer extraordinaire Andy Crestodina of Orbit Media calls this your "personal positioning statement" and emphasizes that it should answer three things:

  1. What problem do you solve?
  2. How do you do it?
  3. Who do you do it for? 

Basically, the message you need to get across is "who you are to whom on what topic."

Once you've developed this statement/bumper sticker pitch, you need to put it places. Put it in your LinkedIn headline, which shows up under your name, or in your LinkedIn summary, Twitter profile, email signature, website bio, etc. Then, "when someone sees your LinkedIn profile, they get an immediate idea of the value you could bring to a company," Alba says. 

10. Keep Track of Your Success

Make a habit of keeping track of your successes on a weekly basis. “Most people don’t, and it is the most impactful thing you can do,” Lisa Skeete Tatum, CEO and Founder of Landit, a personalized career platform for women, tells Fast Company. Set a calendar reminder and keep a running document you can add to. This will give you a comprehensive record of your contributions that you can draw on later when asking for a raise or promotion — or just to boost your own confidence, says Skeete Tatum. 

If you're changing careers and interviewing a lot, this list can help you practice those behavioral interview questions too.

Final Words of Wisdom

Dream_Job2

Above all? Don't forget to be human. With any brand, whether personal, business, or career, you should remember to be a person first. "Allowing authenticity to seep through your brand is a powerful way to connect with others. Our clients are human and will relate to the humans behind the brand," says Heather Pinay on Forbes.com

Remember who you are, what you love, and go out and do it!

Need Help Finding a New Job?

Artisan is a digital, creative, and marketing staffing agency focused on making the right connections between talent and companies. Whether you're changing careers, looking for a new full-time role, or hoping to add some temp work to your schedule — we can help. 

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About the Authors
 
 
ellenBy day, Ellen Bird is the Director of Operations at Artisan. She has a Masters in Organizational Psychology (i.e., how companies and people in companies think) and 10+ years of experience in digital strategy and marketing prior to transitioning to her current career. By night, she offers career coaching and branding services for professionals looking to make a career transition or reach the next level on their current career path. 
 
Kirsten Agnello-DeanKirsten Agnello-Dean is a Social Media Manager and Creative Copywriter for Artisan and has 10 years of experience in the social, digital, and email marketing space. She cut her teeth in CPG and has been everywhere from B2B to pharmacy and back again. She also successfully changed careers, but you have to buy her a glass of champagne first to hear the story. 
 
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Tags: Marketing + Social Resources, Career Resources

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