By Alison Doyle
This article previously appeared on The Balance Careers.
When you’re starting a job search, your goal is to make your credentials strong enough to get you selected for a job interview. Once you get to a job interview, you can sell yourself to the interviewer by confidently making the case that you’re an exceptional candidate. Before that though, what’s on your resume and cover letter is going to be the pitch that gets you picked for an interview.
One of the best ways to achieve that goal is to brand (or rebrand) yourself if necessary, so you’re a close match for the jobs you’re targeting. What does this mean? And how do you do it?
What’s in a Brand?
Branding (if you haven’t worked on creating a brand yet) or rebranding (if you’re considering a job or career shift), means deciding what professional path you’re on and tailoring your credentials, expertise, and what’s visible to network connections and prospective employees, to match that brand.
Your brand, besides showing what you’re capable of doing and where you’re heading, will show employers what you can bring to the table and how you will add value to their organization.
How to Get Started
The first step in creating or reinventing your brand is to determine what you want that brand to represent. What type of job would you love to have? Would you like a new job in a similar role or the same job in a different industry? If so, that’s a relatively easy brand update. If you’re looking for a career change, you’ll need to invest more time and energy into rebranding yourself.
- Check yourself out. Google yourself and check the results before you start making any changes. You will want to see how the current information available about you reflects your professional persona, and ensure that it clearly reflects where you are in your career and where you want to go next. Look at it from the viewpoint of a hiring manager to see what narrative you are sharing about your achievements and aspirations.
- Make a plan. It’s important to figure out how you’re going to get to where you want to be. Does your career need a makeover? Do you need new skills or certifications? Or can you tweak your brand and update it so it’s a fit for where you want to go next? Make a list of what you need to do before you get started. There are things you can do at your current job to position yourself for success in the next one. If your career needs a major overhaul, it will require more planning and a bigger investment of time.
- Upgrade your credentials. Are you short on the skills you need to make a successful brand switch? If you can carve out some time, it can be easy to gain the skills you need to bolster your qualifications. There are many free and low cost classes you can take to get the career skills you need. Once you’ve upgraded your skill set, take on some freelance projects to create a portfolio of skills related to your rebranding objective. You can add those skills to your resume and LinkedIn, and refer to them in your cover letters.
- Be careful. As with a job search when you are currently employed, be careful about the changes you make that are visible to your current employer. For example, if you’re working in sales, you don’t want your Twitter feed to be all about product development. Gradually mix in the new topics if you’re using social media for business purposes. Make sure “Share with network” is turned off while you’re updating your LinkedIn profile if you’re connected to current colleagues. If you make changes slowly and carefully, it’s easier to stay under the radar.
Create a Branding Statement
A branding statement is a short and catchy statement that encompasses what makes you a strong candidate for a job. Writing a branding statement can help you to capture the essence of what you want to accomplish in the next phase of your career. Taking time to write your own statement will help you to focus on what you want to accomplish with your branding or rebranding.
Here is an example of a branding statement: “Detail-oriented development assistant experienced in coordinating extensive fundraising efforts and drafting successful grant proposals.”
Add a Branding Statement to Your Resume
Adding a branding statement to your resume is a way to show employers how you can add value to the organization if you were to be hired. Don’t use the same branding statement every time you use your resume to apply for a job. If your branding statement isn’t a perfect match for the job, take the time to tweak it so it reflects the attributes the employer is seeking. As with all job search materials, it’s important to show the employer how you’re among the best qualified for the job.
Update Your LinkedIn Profile
Also, update your LinkedIn profile. It doesn’t have to match your resume exactly, but it should be close enough to pass scrutiny because employers will check it. Take time to write a summary that’s informative, reflects your career interests, and will grab hiring managers’ attention.
Check Your Other Social Accounts Too
Is the message you’re sending to recruiters and networking connections consistent? When they look at each of your various public social media accounts will they get the same impression? Consistency is important when you’re using social media for career development. Using the same professional photo across platforms will help to build your brand.
Rebrand Yourself (Carefully)
When you’re thinking about a major job shift or a career change, rebranding might be in order. Rebranding is something you should do slowly and carefully if you’re currently employed. You don’t want to advertise to your current manager, other employees of the company, or clients that you’re rebranding your credentials and seeking new opportunities. That way you won’t jeopardize the job you have, and you can move on when you’re ready.
- GRADUALLY CHANGE YOUR LINKEDIN PAGE Making small changes over time will be less noticeable. For example, you could gradually change your LinkedIn profile by reworking some of your job descriptions to fit better the brand you’re aiming for. They should still reflect what you did at each job, but the focus can shift.
- UPDATE YOUR LINKEDIN HEADLINE The headline section of LinkedIn is designed for short, descriptive text. Use that to highlight the skills you have that match your goals. Again, don’t get too far off-base from your current role if you’re employed. If you’re not currently working, you’ve got some more flexibility in how you write your headline.
- REWORK YOUR RESUME Another option is to keep your LinkedIn job descriptions brief and vague. Instead of changing LinkedIn, you can tweak your resume to match better with each position you’re applying for. There won’t be a noticeable difference to current or prospective employers. There are small and simple, but very powerful changes that you can make that can have a big positive impact.
Use Your Cover Letter to Explain
What’s in your cover letter is between you and the hiring manager reading it. Employ your cover letter to tell the story of your career pivot. Write a targeted cover letter that highlights your strongest accomplishments and assets that qualify you for the job, helping to convince the hiring manager that you’re well worth interviewing.
Start All Over Again
Rebranding your career isn’t a one-time deal. Technology changes, the economy goes up – or down, in-demand skills change over time, and most people’s career aspirations change along the way. The average person changes jobs 10-15 times over their career. Your career will most likely shift over time too.
As you gain additional work experience, take a course, or otherwise learn new skills, add them to your resume and LinkedIn profile. Tweak your job descriptions as you move forward so they reflect where you are going, as well as where you’ve been.
By making some slow and steady changes your rebranding will be a work in progress, and you’ll be able to use your brand successfully to boost your career.