Why Get Personal?
You may not be comfortable with the idea of adding a personal dimension to your professional identity. After all, aren’t the two supposed to be kept separate? Maybe in the corporate world, but as a job seeker, you’ve got to sell yourself as someone recruiters and employers want and/or need.
Getting personal has real benefits:
Relatability. When you’re human and flawed, you’re easier to understand. Prospects who can relate to you are more likely to hire you.
Common ground. You meet a potential employer or recruiter in a chat forum about your industry, who finds out you share the same hobby, high school or car; a bond forms, and he or she ends up becoming a great referral source. It happens all the time, and it stands a better chance of happening if you put your personal life into your online personal brand.
Differentiation. Look at Google results for any profession, and see how many of them say the same thing. But build your marketing around something personal – a hobby, for instance – and it will stand out.
Retention. If something’s novel, it’s remembered. If you’re the only person in your profession who markets yourself using a hobby or style of dress, prospects will remember your name after they’ve forgotten others.
Breaking down sales resistance. If people perceive you as just selling, they’ll tune you out. But if they see you as a real person who just happens to be providing a service they might need, they’ll respond much more openly.
Increased ‘sales’. Given the choice between giving a job to a recruiter or a local, hard-working person, most will choose the person.
Fun. Marketing yourself should be a blast. Online Personal Branding lets you take pride in who you are – and take satisfaction in letting everyone else know it.
In the end, when the marketplace is overwhelmed by competitors who all appear identical, it’s the one who stands out – who gives the prospect a reason to choose – who wins.
Four Ways To Work The Personal Into Your Online Brand
This is a problem for some people, because we’re taught that business is serious. But even the largest corporations are run by people, and people have emotions. Personality can mean your sense of humor, the attitude in your slogan, your style of leadership, odd tastes you choose to let prospects know about, your political or religious views, or just about anything else.
However, make sure your personality is appropriate for your target market. Nothing will turn off a potential customer faster than inappropriate behavior. Know your target market, and you’ll know how much personality to add to your brand – and at what intensity. Tips:
- Be conservative when working personality into your website. You can dial down your behavior, but you can’t dial down a brochure that’s already printed.
- Downplay your personality at first, and as you get to know the people, turn up the volume.
- Once you’re established, be bold about adding personality to your online branding.
Your personal history is a powerful weapon as long as you know which parts to leave out. Background information can mean where you grew up, what country your family came from, the traveling you’ve done, even your ethnicity. It’s especially stories from your life – adventures, lessons or improbable coincidences. People love to learn about the things that shaped you, because it helps them understand you. Giving others a sense of where you come from can help them develop an affinity for you. Perhaps you and a prospect share a Native American heritage, or both spent time living abroad. Sharing your stories makes productive personal connections possible. Tips:
- Research your target market to learn their backgrounds: education, countries of origin, military service, and so on. Knowing the backgrounds of the people whose business you’re after will help you decide which parts of your background to make public.
- Beware of telling sob stories. They will make your prospects feel more embarrassed than anything else.
- Just tell your stories. Don’t try to work a sales message into them.
If you’re a sailor, build an Online Personal Brand that has boating as an integral component. You’ll have an immediate bond with anyone in the sailing community. That’s how to use your interests. Interests can be hobbies, sports, things you collect, passions for theatre or politics, or just about anything else you do when you’re not working. Interests are a powerful way to differentiate yourself, because they’re easy for people to file away in their memory banks. Tips:
- Be sure your market is suitable for talk of your interests. Law or medicine may not be the best venues for talk of your action-figure collection.
- If you can, promote an interest that fits your target market. For example, if you’re a personal trainer, promote your love of hiking and running.
- Be cautious about over-promoting your interests. You don’t want people to think you’re more into your hobby than your work.
Lifestyle offers a chance to connect with people who may not live like you do, but would like to do so. They can get a vicarious taste of that life by working with you. For example, you live at the beach and surf almost every morning. No matter which profession you’re in, you could design a logo and business card that depicts you in a beach setting or on a surfboard. Voila! You’ve tied yourself to beach culture.
Lifestyle can be about where you live, the car you drive, the clothes you wear, or even the places you hang out. Communicating this part of your Personal Brand is usually less about marketing and more about living the brand – dressing the part, taking clients to a restaurant that fits your lifestyle, and so on. For example, if part of your Personal Brand positions you as a lover of wine, show up for a dinner meeting with a rare bottle of Bordeaux.
Lifestyle can be a volatile part of your Online Personal Brand. There are people who won’t work with you because they don’t like your politics, hair or sexual orientation. Decide whether or not that matters and brand accordingly.
- If you’re going to claim a lifestyle, be able to back it up. Don’t build an image as a surfer dude, then always look paler than white milk.
- Be very careful with religion or politics.
- If you need help with specialization, check out this free career book: http://www.myonlinecareerspace.com/scontrol.php?mysession=shopping
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Mark Montoya has been working in personal branding for more than a decade for hundreds of online and offline companies, small businesses and individual service professionals. His focus has been toward improving the way jobseekers find employment on the Internet. He has synthesized his expertise by helping job seekers obtain their ideal choice of employment over the Internet on his sites MyOnlineCareerSpace.com and MyOnlineCareerCoach.com, and through his books 101 Tips Every Job Seeker Should Know and The Ultimate Online Job Search eBook.