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The 21st Century CV. How personal branding can help you nail your dream job

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In 2001, Victoria Beckham said, "I want to be as famous as Persil Automatic". While some raised their eyebrows at her comparison to laundry detergent, she was onto something very clever. She was looking at herself as a brand.

Today, personal branding is no longer the work of A-listers and mega corporations, it is a part of our day-to-day lives. We've all in some way carefully created a profile of ourselves, be it our personal Facebook pages, a basic LinkedIn profile or even a blog.

As digital and communication technology proliferates, so does the need to present ourselves in the digital space. And while we're not all cut for becoming on par with Persil, thinking and treating yourself as a brand in the job marketplace can help you create a strong image of yourself and help recruiters see what you're all about. 

"When it comes to nailing a job, your personal brand can really put you ahead of the competition," says personal branding expert and author of Personal Branding for Brits Jennifer Holloway. "Whereas most people focus entirely on selling ‘what’ they have to offer, anyone using their personal brand alongside their CV to appeal to employers is adding their ‘who’ into the mix. And when people buy people (which is exactly what’s happening in a job interview) that’s important."

Marissa Mayer, Yahoo’s CEO, is an example of how personal brand building can positively impact your career. According to Laura Ries, a leading brand strategist,Mayer's brand as 'Google’s 20th employee and first woman engineer' set her apart from her competitors. 

Your personal brand allows employers who have never met you to very quickly learn who you are "If you've built a great LinkedIn profile, written blogs, shared your experience on Twitter and projected a positive image, that will lay some great groundwork for peoples impression of what and who you have to offer," explains Jennifer.

And while it might seem that personal branding is mostly for individuals in creative industries, that's not the case. A 2014 study by CareerBuilder.co.uk found that 50% of recruiters have admitted to using search engines such as Google in order to research potential job candidates and 48% used social networking sites.

To put it simply, personal branding is an extension of your CV and cover letter. It's where you can add colour and depth to your story and show employers why you're the person for the job.

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To help start you off, with the help of a few experts, we answer the key questions that surround creating a personal brand from what makes the perfect profile picture to how to avoid sounding pretentious...

What is personal branding made up of? 

"Personal branding is about defining and promoting two key things: your ‘what’ and your ‘who’," says Jennifer. "Your ‘what’ is where you set out what you bring to the table: your experience, your knowledge, your qualifications, your skills, your achievements. Your ‘who’ is where you set out the person behind the ‘what’: your values, your drivers, your behaviours, your reputation"

How do I find my personal brand?

You need to understand who you are and what makes you compelling to your target audience, says personal branding consultant William Aruda. He recommends asking yourself these questions:

  1. What’s your superpower? What do you do better than anyone else?
  2. What are your top values – your operating principles?
  3. What do people frequently compliment you on or praise you for?
  4. What is it that your manager, colleagues, friends, and clients come to you for?
  5. What adjectives do people consistently use to describe you – perhaps when they’re introducing you to others?
  6. How do you do what you do? What makes the way you achieve results interesting or unique?
  7. What energizes or ignites you? What are your true passions?

Do I need a website?

"The question you should ask yourself to help you decide is: is this website going to convey my personal brand in the way I want?  For some people, that might be simply setting up a single page with some basic information on, but for others, they may want to deliver a more in-depth view of their brand, with regular blogs and updates," says Jennifer. 

She recommends using Wix or Wordpress to create your website using the templates and examples on offer. She also suggests buying a website domain that is the same as your own name and if that’s not possible, try using your middle initial or some other permutations of your name.

For inspiration, look at wardrobeangel.co.uk and snapstraining.com 

Women illustrated

Do I need a blog?

"If you want to become known as the ‘go to’ person for your sector, people need to know you know what you’re talking about. Blogging is a great way to get your experience and knowledge across, as is sharing your thoughts on Twitter, posting YouTube videos or, best yet, delivering presentations at industry events," says Jennifer.

What social networks should I use?

"This depends on what you want your personal brand to do for you. If it’s about raising your profile professionally in business, LinkedIn is the number one place to be. If it’s about increasing your profile online and building a reputation for your opinions and thoughts, Twitter, Pinterest, Blogger, YouTube and Google+ can work well. If it’s about building a following on a more social level, Facebook should be a focus."

Profile picture

What kind of profile picture should I use?

When people see your profile picture, their subconscious mind is instantly looking for clues to your personal brand. What does your facial expression mean? What does your pose convey? What does the colour and style of your outfit say? What does the quality of the photo tell me?

"A good picture is one where those clues have been consciously thought about and used to deliver messages about your brand," says Jennifer. "A tilt of your head suggests you’re a good listener. A beaming smile suggests you’re warm and welcoming. A serious expression suggests you get down to business."

A great place to get feedback on your profile photo is photofeeler.com where complete strangers rank how likeable, competent and influential you look in your photo.

How do I promote myself without sounding arrogant?

"A good rule of thumb is to think about the things you’d say to someone in person (in a professional rather than social context) and what reaction you get when you do. The things that have others saying, “Wow, that’s really interesting!” or “Tell me more about that” are the ones to put at the front of your brand," suggests Jennifer.

"To make sure you’re not being arrogant or pretentious, ask yourself if you can really back up what you’re saying – or better still, ask for some feedback from friends and family who can be honest with you on how it comes across."

Have you mastered the art of personal branding? Share your advice and tips with Stylist readers in the comments section below

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