Rutherford Cross’ Harry Young shares his insight on how to build a personal brand that stands out in this blog originally written for ICAS.
A personal brand is the way in which a person is recognised for their knowledge, expertise and achievements in a sector or marketplace. An established personal brand is achieved by undertaking targeted personal branding activity
Over time, a personal brand becomes rooted in the minds of people in the market. Cultivating an authentic personal brand means that your expertise and opinions are seen by the right people, including those in the market for hiring top talent.
Whilst a personal brand doesn’t solely exist online, over 90% of prospective employers said they screened potential employee’s social media channels and that they were a factor in their hiring decision.
This article is not trying to advise you on becoming the next Instagram or TikTok sensation, but rather to help differentiate yourself in an incredibly competitive marketplace and ensure you are presenting yourself in a positive and professional way.
So how can you build a profile that will not only help with potential employers but create some exciting opportunities within your sector?
Establish your expertise and values
The key to building a solid personal brand is deciding who you are and what you want to be known for. This is not to say that you will forever be pigeonholed in one area, however you must have a decent level of knowledge and expertise that will add value to those you communicate with.
It is also worthwhile thinking about and agreeing on your values. This might seem a little excessive, and I am sure you know what you stand for. However, your personality and the values you live by will be central to your personal brand.
As you start to publish and engage with content online, you are building a legacy of thoughts and opinions, and it will be worthwhile ensuring you are consistent with your approach.
Identify your community
You will presumably have a reasonably good idea of where your community is, if you don’t, I would recommend starting by communicating with colleagues, looking at some LinkedIn groups that are relevant to your skillset and attending some events.
However, to establish yourself within your chosen community, it will help your profile if you spend some time getting a complete picture and building wider networks out with your core group.
This research will help you uncover topic areas you had previously not thought about and identify influencers you’d not engaged with before.
It will also help you focus on the proper channels. Some leaders in this field have suggested you need to be on every channel possible. However, the only thing worse than not being on a channel is having an account and not keeping it up to date.
The best approach is to focus your attention on the key channels to ensure that you have the time to create content that reflects your personal brand values and attributes. For accountancy, I would recommend focusing on maintain a visible presence on LinkedIn.
Develop your skills
Developing the skills upon which you are creating your personal brand is crucial. There will be several people engaging in your sector and lots of experts competing for a share of voice. It is incumbent on you to keep developing your skills through personal development and building a solid sector knowledge by staying up to date.
Professional development should be a given for any hoping to progress their career or get started within a specific sector. However, for some, it drops off the agenda as other life pressures take over. It doesn’t matter what level you are at; if you want to build a solid personal brand, you need to be at the cutting edge of your sector, which means every day is a school day.
Consistency is key
Building a prominent personal brand takes time, but it also takes persistence. You can’t publish a blog with your thoughts on a particular topic today and leave it a month before you post again. Ideally, you will want to be connecting with relevant individuals from finance on LinkedIn and engaging with relevant accountancy content regularly.
To build recognition among the people in your sector, you need to appear regularly and add real value to the day’s topic. It takes work and commitment, but as previously mentioned, in a world where competition for work is increasingly challenging, it is crucial to differentiate yourself and establish a foothold in your market.
Fail fast and try again
Building a personal brand is not an exact science. It is not easy, and you will likely make a mistake some point (we all do). However, the secret is to stick to your values and build on your skills to add real value.
Added value is the key here. You might think there is little benefit in what you have to say but being objective about the commentary that is already out there might add a perspective that no one else has considered.
Also, having the confidence to put forward your own take on a topic again might stimulate debate amongst the network that’s not been considered. However, don’t be put off when people disagree with you, and they will.
Putting in the effort to create a personal brand might seem like there is a lot to do, especially to get a job. Perhaps others within your market haven’t had to bother with any personal branding, and they are getting on just fine.
This could be the case for some. However, in an increasingly competitive world where niche skills are critical, developing your brand as a leader in your market could mean the difference between a tap on the shoulder for your perfect job and months of searching and interviews for a job you’re not entirely sold on.
Invest some time in building a personal brand, and that next job could be round the corner.
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