Building and launching your personal brand or a search for that next great thing in your career can seem a daunting task…and it is, no doubt about that. When faced with this, most people don’t know how to get started, so they don’t. And they default to the behaviors that they know: develop a resume and wildly post for jobs or just continue down their existing career path.
To make things easier, I have an easy-to-follow, top-20, linear path of progression that will help make the impossible very possible, and energizing. Some of these steps may not apply to all people and situations but most will.
The biggest lesson I learned during times of career crises or forks in the road is that you have to take control, you have to be in charge, you have to create destiny rather than accept fate. Taking control isn’t easy, but it’s necessary. Here’s the path I followed to taking greater control for myself years ago:
1. Professional Photo
Is this really the first thing you should do? Yes, it is…because you can accomplish it quickly, and the ball starts rolling from there. This photo serves you on LinkedIn, business cards, stationary…so do it right, invest the time and money. It could cost about $100 for a session with a professional photographer.
2. The “Hates” and Loves”
Make a list of what you really love doing each day, each week. Then, make a list of what you really hate to do. This can be a mix of personal and professional. The intent here is to start lining-up the “loves” with careers that fit your passions.
3. The Future
You must have a checklist of wish-lists for your next job or career. Once you’ve aligned ideal jobs that match-well with what you love doing, it’s time to define the ideal next role or the next “act” in your career. If you don’t know what you want, you’ll risk accepting any job that comes your way, and that’s not always good. When building your checklist, think of things like money, location, budget, role/responsibilities, industry, benefits, vacation days, company size, chance to manage people, etc… Know what you want as “ideal” and what things are up for compromise.
You need to think like a product marketer. Ask yourself the tough questions, define who you are, what you want. Everything else springs from the answers to your questions. This is where you need to spend a lot of time…a LOT of time. I have a series of questions that I pose to others that help them arrive at their personal brand promise.
5. Write your Career Summary
Tell your story in 3-4 paragraphs, on one page. What have you done as a student, young professional? And why would I be interested in reading this story? A resume is a necessary evil but people hire people, not pieces of paper, and they want to know who the person is, not just who the worker is.
6. Your Successes
Spend time listing your top-10 successes in life and career. Add a paragraph of detail for each of them. Your successes don’t just have to be career-based; they can involve life, friends, school, volunteering, community. Doing this is not only a tremendous boost to your confidence but also provide great discussion topics during interviews.
7. Your Failures
If you’re human, then you have failures. You’re human, right? Part of building your personal brand involves self-awareness and knowing when you could’ve done something better in your life and career. I always ask candidates about times when they failed and what they learned from the experience. Just like you’re going to do with your successes, be ready to list and define those times when you stumbled, got back up and did things better next time.
8. OK, Time for the Resume.
Everyone has an opinion about this, and all of their opinions are both right and wrong. There’s no real “right” way to build a resume (actually, I think there is). Think: speed, simplicity and certainty. I have a more detailed summary on what the resume should convey, and that’s a topic for broader discussion.
9. Max-Out Your LinkedIn Profile
If you’re just casually involved with LinkedIn, then what are you waiting for? LinkedIn is your best personal marketing platform. Follow their guides to create an All-Star profile. Post and post and post. Consider being a Premium Member at about $30/month.
10. Be a Thought-Leader
You have thoughts about your career and work trends, don’t you? Share your thoughts on LinkedIn, in a way that makes other smarter for having read them and, hopefully, provokes them to engage with you. And, while you’re at it, get addicted to measuring your Social Selling Index on LinkedIn; I can show you how to do this and why it matters.
11. Be digital and visual
These days, a resume doesn’t cut it. LinkedIn is vital, sure, but so is a personal website…and not a website that’s just a web-based version of your resume. There are many DIY web-building platforms that make even the most non-technical luuddite look like a web wizard. With this site, you bring who you are to life, can embed a blog or a video blog, offer commentary and critique about your career, trends, industry insights and present yourself with polish and professionalism.
12. Line-Up Your Advocates
You’ll need references, endorsements, testimonials. For references, think 2 up, 2 down, 2 across. 2-up = bosses. 2-down = people you’ve managed or are in a lesser role than you. 2 across = peers. For testimonials: every time you receive praise or a compliment, write it down, note who said it and when and why.
13. Go Old-School
Personal notecards and business cards are non-negotiable; you have to have these. They are very inexpensive at Vistaprint. Writing personal notecards and attaching a personal business card says something very important about: you are a serious, committed professional. Plus, with everyone sending e-mails and texts, a personal notecard is an excellent clutter-buster. You want to “arrest” your reader; notecards received in the mail will absolutely be opened and read by your recipient…and you can’t say that about e-mails and texts.
14. Build Your Contact List
So, who do you know? Lots of people I’m sure. Friends, family, classmates, colleagues, professional contacts. These are the people that know you, understand you and will advocate on your behalf. Open an excel spreadsheet and list them all. Have a column for first name, last name, affiliation, e-mail, mobile number, notes. This is a living, breathing thing and must become a vital part of your career.
15. Editorial Schedule and Communications Frequency
Plan 4-6 e-mail messages for each critical target audience. Write content for use with e-mail tool
16. Activate Constant Contact
Or some other e-mail serving tool. I like Constant Contact. Build templates. Upload signature and photo. Upload your contacts into separate lists. Upload content for e-mail campaigns. Automate the schedule
17. Start Role-Playing
What could an interviewer ever ask you, and how would you answer? Script the entire Q&A, keeping answers tight to 2-3 sentences maximum.
18. Strengthen Your Weaknesses
What do you need to do to improve your skills? Easy to do with on-line resources.
19. Lather, Rinse, Repeat.
Now, take a look back now and everything you’ve just read and done. Now, commit yourself to doing this once or twice a year. This just requires simple updates.
20. Oh, yeah: Have Fun.
This is hard work, no doubt…but it’s fun work. Once you get rolling building your brand launch or re-launch plan, you find yourself drawn to it more and more, making your brand and plans better each week and month.