In our current economy, competition is fierce, and all for seemingly scarce opportunities. It’s not enough to have a resume and upload it to several online job boards. You have to be visible and actively engaged on social media. You also need a strategic plan, with a persistent approach to managing your personal brand across a variety of platforms. Another critical key to personal brand management success in this digitized world is human interaction. It’s absolutely imperative to get out and shake some hands, or to at least get on the phone and hold some compelling conversations.
Here are four simple strategies to help boost your personal brand immediately:
1. Think like an entrepreneur, and treat networking as marketing.
First and foremost, who, what, and where are you targeting your networking efforts? Don't just roll out to an event without a plan that contains clear objectives and key points. Second, what is your networking budget? How far and how often can you afford to drive to event venues? Can you take public transportation? If so, how much will it cost you? Are you only able to attend free events? Or can you fit some attendance expenses and professional affiliation fees into your budget? Know before you go.
Third, you should map out a strategic communication plan for each event. How many people do you want to have conversation with? How will you approach them? How will you collect their contact information? How and when will you follow up with those contacts? Lastly, how will you measure the success of your efforts? According to the quantity of business cards you collect? Based on how many interviews result from your networking efforts? Or maybe according to how many new Twitter followers you gain? The answers to these questions are up to you to determine, as long as you can tell whether your efforts are effective or ineffective.
2. Handle interviewing as if you're a sales rep.
Face it, you're selling a product and a service. The product is your time, and the service is your labor. You must convince your customer that your product and service is above reproach, and that they should close the sale immediately. You don't want your customer to have to comparison shop. You're going to explain your product (time) and your service (labor) so well that the value is apparent and desirable.
Start with an introduction that says your mere presence is a benefit to the buyer, the buyer being the potential employer. Then, conduct what’s called "customer discovery" in the business world --- figure out the company’s needs, wants and expectations. Next, present what you have to offer, and ask to close the sale. If there are any objections or questions, be prepared to overcome them with assertive finesse.
3. Use personal-brand business cards as an easy prompt for your elevator pitch.
Yes, you need an impressive set of business cards to signify your personal brand, and to help you out when people ask, "Who the hell are you, and what exactly do you do?" What should be on your cards? Obviously, your name and contact info. Also include your LinkedIn profile URL. Tech-it-up a bit with a QR Code directed at your LinkedIn profile for easy mobile device access. Add in some abbreviations next to or under your name (i.e. MBA, PMP, ITIL, etc.) for significant degrees and certifications that you hold in your target field.
4. Automate your brand management plan with a weekly schedule.
This is most effective if you're not online 24/7 tweeting or posting every miscellaneous detail of your life. Commit to managing at least one platform per day, this way you won't get overwhelmed or fall into the trap of oversharing.
Monday: On Google+, like an interesting article related to your field, then skim your profile for any needed tweaks.
Tuesday: On Twitter, tweet about a networking event you're attending, “#SomethingTrendy" at folks or companies relevant to the tweet.
Wednesday: On LinkedIn, find/join relevant groups; post some of your thoughts within group discussions; connect with recruiters and like-minded people; follow companies you're interested in working with; connect others and help someone else out; update your profile, and maybe even send an InMail or two.
Thursday: Learn something new via Lynda.com, Coursera, etc. Due to all of the freemium education and training available online these days, there's no excuse to not take advantage and expand your horizons. Go for in-demand knowledge bases and skill sets like web analytics, SEO, and HTML/CSS. Such learning will keep you growing, confident, relevant, and primed for whatever opportunities will come your way.
Friday: On Facebook, post something motivational, like how awesome your week's been. “Like” a few light-hearted posts that are aligned to your personality. You can even share a funny video (but keep it appropriate so that you don't damage your online reputation). Facebook should be the platform for the "Every day YOU" to shine through.
Along with the above four brand management strategies, I can’t emphasize enough the importance of old fashioned human interaction. Shaking hands and making phone calls will open up more doors than just being one virtual fish in a vast digital ocean.
When you get out of the military, it's going to be up to you to distinguish yourself from your competition in the job market. Make sure you have a smart and savvy personal branding strategy.