The holiday break usually offers a reprieve, a welcome hush on campus. It gives higher education professionals a chance to catch their breath, to get perspective on what they’ve learned over the past year, and to contemplate their plans and goals for the new year.
Whether you’re an active or a passive job seeker, this reflective time presents an ideal opportunity to refresh your brand. Taking this opportunity to overhaul your materials and unify your social media presence invites you to see yourself from a new perspective. It can give you a renewed sense of focus and purpose, which stands to energize your job search.
The Anatomy of a Personal Brand
We hear a lot about corporate branding, but are you aware of your own personal brand? Are you strategic and purposeful in shaping it? Mark Bealassistant professor of practice in public relations at Rutgers University School of Communication and Information, defines a well-constructed personal brand as: “The ongoing strategic, creative, and proactive development, positioning and marketing of an individual, their career experience, skills. and thought leadership as well as their personal passions and interests.”
Your brand, then, encompasses more than your cover letter, resume, and Linkedin profile, those materials that directly relate to your job search. It’s the total package of how you represent yourself. Beal elaborates: “While you may not be as high profile as LeBron James, Tom Brady, or Beyonce, you have and own your personal brand just like those celebrities. Your personal brand is comprised of your background, education, career experience, passion projects , community efforts, and family as well as every piece of content that you tweet and post on your owned media channels. Once you recognize the power, reach, and influence of your personal brand, you will understand that everything you do professionally and personally contributes to your brand.”
A Revised Narrative
A lot happens over the course of a year. You build relationships, pursue professional interests, take on nuanced projects, assist your department in managing unexpected developments, etc. Those enhancements refine your focus and skillset and impact your professional goals and ambitions.
The ways in which your experiences act as tools for your future alter your professional narrative, which changes as you grow, learn, and advance. Recognizing the ways in which your current role impacts that narrative is like calculating a sum. You can feel the impact mounting, but it’s hard to recognize the extent of it until you do the math. Revitalizing your brand gives you the opportunity to do those calculations and to demonstrate how your hard work has helped you grow.
“Establishing and evolving a personal brand sets the compass for how an individual will position, market, and communicate their thought leadership as well as their career aspirations and vision. In the same way that an iconic brand like Nike communicates and markets their brand mission, vision, and values, an individual can do the same thing, leveraging their owned media channels as well as opportunities to present one-on-one in a job interview and to larger groups at a networking meeting or in a community forum,” Beal points out. .
It can be challenging to break through our daily operations, recognize how they advance our mission, vision, and values, and contemplate how they may impact our future trajectory. Take this quiet time to do that soul searching. The bi-products are self-awareness and a sense of direction. These enable a focused self-marketing narrative.
“Once an individual takes quality time to systematically develop their personal brand, they now have the solid foundation to effectively communicate their narrative and storytelling from a 30-second elevator pitch to a 30-minute job interview,” Beal shares.
Reviewing Your Presence
Take a look at your materials and how you’ve represented yourself on social media. Have you been operating reactively or purposefully? Have your posts furthered a cohesive narrative or have you been circulating reactive messaging via social media? As you revise your materials, aim to unify those core components, and take your direction from that work. Aim to keep everything unified, consistent, and focused in the New Year; this way, you can be sure you’re operating on-brand in 2021.
Beal advises: “Each day, we are doing something that is evolving and advancing our personal brand. A simple post on LinkedIn advances our brand. With each passing year, at a minimum, we should conduct an audit of our personal brand, take inventory of how it evolved, and determine where we want to take it in the year ahead based on our evolved professional and personal objectives.”
Audit as a Trajectory Indicator
Taking time at the end of the year to revise and review your materials and to evaluate your brand is a powerful way to see what direction you are already facing as the new year begins. It gives you the chance to review the accomplishments and challenges of the past year and to contemplate what they taught you about yourself and how that might impact your future plans.
No doubt, 2020 presented unique challenges and opportunities. What new tech skills did you learn? What communication skills did you refine? What leadership competencies did you hone? Revise your resume, cover letter, and LinkedIn profile to reflect concrete ways that you evolved this year: task forces or leadership groups on which you served, additional responsibilities that you took on, remote work groups on campus that you joined or led. What has this taught you about your future direction?
Think, too, how these new skills and awareness might impact your social media presence. What new academics, scientists, writers, activists, philosophers have you learned about in the last year that might yield good #Tuesdaythoughts or #MondayMotivations? What academic publications have you discovered this year to read, follow, circulate content, and perhaps target as sources to submit your own work?
A lot happened in 2020. Tabulate how it challenged and changed you. The exercise stands to refresh your brand and give you a sense of self-awareness and direction for 2021. Happy New Year!