By Bethany Stafford
As thousands of resumes come in and go out of our office for resume critiques and improvement, pages and pages of professional experience begin to run together in my mind. Truly, one resume starts to look just like the rest: Objective? Check. Professional skills? Check. Education? Professional experience? Check, check. When it comes to getting noticed on the job search, however, it’s imperative that you and your resume don’t fall into that dangerous stack of “look-a-likes.” Rather, you want to do your best to stand out!
If you’ve never considered your personal branding before now, it’s about time you got started. Your personal brand defines you as a professional and is a collection of your professional title, skills, knowledge, personality, values and image. Everything from a handshake to a business card helps define you as a professional and can make or break getting you a second look from an employer. In leaving an impression on a future employer, consider the following components of your personal brand.
Your professional title is the most concise and brief description of who you are as a professional and gives your employer an instant impression of what you are made of. For example, an administrative assistant is made up of a set of skills very different than that of an executive officer which is also very different than that of a graphic designer. Use this title to refer to yourself on your resume, business card, elevator pitch and first introductions to increase your chances of landing that job that is just right for you.
Next, consider your professional packaging on paper, including your personal business cards, cover letter, resume, letter head, etc. All of these items should include one consistent theme in colors, fonts, and wording. However, make sure that in choosing your image, it appropriately reflects the professionalism of your industry. For example, employers in the finance industry prefer black and white or grayscale branding while employers in the fashion industry might find a splash of color a little more interesting. The best way to dash your chances at getting noticed on this front is to use a template from the Microsoft Word library or an online resource. Templates are designed to help you get your information on a page, but they certainly don’t allow for any room to stand out among your peers.
Once you’ve nailed down your professional packaging on paper, it’s time to take a look at your professional packaging on the web. Remember, consistency is the key. LinkedIn can be a powerful tool when used correctly. Conversely, it can be detrimental to your image if not properly integrated into your personal branding. Be sure to fill out your profile completely with working links to your website and portfolio, if applicable. All wording should reflect your professional title, skills, and imagery. Finally, make sure to upload a photo and put a face to that name of yours.
Speaking of your image, this is the final component to your professional branding package. Your professional image consists of your physical presence. Good posture, professional dress, a firm handshake and a warm smile are all key ingredients to your recipe for success. And whether you like it or not, your image is often your first impression on an employer. Make sure this impression matches the professional image your relay both on paper and on the web. Again, it’s all about consistency!
The first step towards enhancing your personal brand is to analyze the information you currently have available for employers to see. Reel in key themes and words and work those into your personal branding, via the avenues discussed above: business cards, resumes, letter heads, personal website, portfolio and your elevator pitch. Colors and fonts should be used as tools but don’t let anything distract from you as a professional. Rather, they should be used for the enhancement of the professional you. Try to not let this be a daunting task. Developing your personal brand should be creative and fun since nobody knows the real you quite like yourself!