Electrify Your Personal Brand

Jane Harding, a top medical pharmaceutical sales representative, says that investing more in her personal brand could have gotten her hired faster. Here’s her story:

lightbulbShe interacted daily with regional medical health centers, gave educational presentations and felt strongly that her portfolio of drugs helped patients recover more quickly from surgery. She made $100K+. One drug she represented was recalled and lawsuits piled up. The company she worked for abruptly laid off even top performers like Jane.

After a successful career, Jane now found herself unemployed. Weeks turned into months during her job search. It began to take a toll on her financially and emotionally. The job search dragged on. A topsy-turvy pharmaceutical market caused competitor companies to brace for uncertainty in the industry and thus slowed their hiring during this time. The future for Jane looked bleak.

Previously, when she was at the height of her career, she found that her passionate involvement in volunteerism waned. She was too busy to support events for organizations that meant a great deal to her like the Muscular Dystrophy Association, Autism Speaks, and the United Way. Her commitment to children and adults through volunteerism, however, never waned in the slightest. “In my mind I was really committed to my company and my passions,” Ms. Harding expressed. “But that’s the problem – it was in my mind. I really feel that had I made more of my natural abilities in reaching out at a time when I was comfortable, I may have had an easier road in my new job search.”

Although Jane Harding’s career path may differ from yours, her dilemma probably does not. She became so focused on work that she ignored an important part of her life. She neglected the volunteerism that gave her great personal satisfaction. When you have a great job most people focus on that work. Most of your time and creative energy tend to be invested where you will get the most monetary return. Accolades and awards may result –and they did for Jane. But, like Jane, you may have lost the focus of your personal brand. What is your personal brand and why is it important to your career?

Simply put, personal branding can be defined as the initial and authentic lasting impression you want to give people. True career entrepreneurs understand that personal brands should be built during times of career comfort.

Pushing yourself to build your personal brand when your career is soaring can be inconvenient. But, success is often built on inconvenience. “I recommend inconveniencing yourself,” says Jane Harding. “That would have made my job search much easier. I could have made this voltage happen earlier, though I finally did.”

Whether you are job searching or you are at the height of your career, here are five ways to electrify your personal brand :

Check and Refine Your Existing Online Brand

Your personal life is part of your professional brand, so inventory every part of it – in person and online. “I realized that I was casually on MySpace, LinkedIn, Plaxo, Facebook and even YouTube,” Jane Harding says. “I didn’t have anything embarrassing out there, but I wasn’t doing anything to properly network and raise my positive impressions when you Google searched me.” Jane Harding reduced and focused her social status online and immediately posted professional images and short videos, as well as gained references and referrals.

Associations Work, So Work Them

Immediately after noticing her lack of participation in groups supporting her volunteering efforts, she jumped back into those groups and took on leadership roles. “My network probably increased directly by 200 professionals overnight,” says Ms. Harding. “I put the causes and organizations first in my efforts, but also utilized this time to professionally let people know what I was looking for inside and outside of healthcare.”

Use Your Expertise to Contribute

“With some coaching,” says Ms. Harding, “I developed and delivered three speeches, filmed them and posted them on YouTube and to my online web portfolio. I started my own blog and wrote book reviews on Amazon and Barnes & Noble online. Additionally, I authored four articles and published them in a volunteer magazine, on an online blog and in a regional sales magazine. It’s really stuff I could have and should have done while I was working; I learned that looking for a job is about branding yourself, not just pumping resumes out. The funny thing was that by doing this I got more responses from Ladders and other postings too!” Join groups like Toastmasters and industry-related associations. Network and find ways to contribute productively first then ask for advice. Build relationships first and focus on what you can do for others. Then find subtle ways to introduce your needs.

Stop Making Excuses about Building Your Brand

Ms. Harding states, “On the surface I was successful and busy, but when I visited some young cancer patients during my job search I realized how lazy I was. I always had time, no matter how busy I was, to give back. I will never make excuses like that again.” For example, Ms. Harding hated writing, but she did it anyway because publishing helped her personal brand. She always seemed to be too busy to do the fundraiser, put in an hour at the hospital for volunteer stuff or to capture and edit video during her educational and other appearances. “So many opportunities are available to you to build your personal brand while you are deeply focused on your work. Even my former boss asked me why I hadn’t thought of it while I worked with him.” Ms. Harding also states, “I did things during my job search to take my own excuses away and it worked.”

Define Personal Branding for You

“What I found out is that personal branding is not a phony line made up by an advertising person,” says Ms. Harding. “For me it was about reinventing myself to be more like myself, if that makes sense. I decided to start by committing to things that mattered most to me – kids, volunteer activities, causes – and this inspired me to push myself way out of my comfort zone. I developed new, strong and enduring relationships. I became more like myself.”

This advice can work for you. It simply does not matter if you find yourself in a high-flying sales position or in a low-profile operations position; you need to light a fire under your career and the core values of your personal brand. In today’s world of intense competition for the best jobs, becoming and staying proactive in developing your personal brand alongside your career is a must. Don’t wait until a layoff like Jane Harding.

Staying proactive about your personal brand while employed is mandatory. Lightning can hit any global or highly-exposed industry at any time. For Jane Harding, the skies didn’t seem to be gray. It may take a forward-thinking friend or career coach to push you to work on your personal brand when you’re comfortable. So, what should you do now? Stay proactive about personal branding and it will drive current and future career opportunities.