What Do You Have in Common With Coca-Cola, the iPhone and Angelina Jolie?
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the national unemployment rate is 9.4 percent and since the end of 2007, the number of unemployed people has increased by a whopping 7 million, which means 14.5 million Americans have lost their jobs to date.
Whether you're a recent college graduate or an experienced veteran, these numbers are intimidating, but you can't lose hope. A recent Careerbuilder.com survey states that 41 percent of workers who were laid off from full-time jobs found a new full-time position.
The jobs are out there, but the way in which you search, discover, apply and interview for these positions has changed over the past few years. The best way to get a job now is by building your own personal brand, becoming known for a specific expertise and then networking your way into your desired job -- not just one that will pay your bills.
Americans love brands, and well-known brands can command premium prices and more respect and have greater opportunities than competitors. Just like Coca-Cola, the iPhone and Angelina Jolie, you are also a brand and can become a rock star in your industry.
Personal branding, by definition, is the process by which you market yourself to your audience. When it comes to the online world, personal branding has become more noticeable. You can have a social network profile, just like any celebrity, company or product. Social networks and blogs are free to start, and allow us to make a name for ourselves, at the cost of our time.
5 tips for building your personal brand
1. Claim your name
Just as in the domain-name craze, people are rushing to social networks to register their user names. If you wait too long, someone who shares your brand name will take what you think is rightfully yours. Aside from registering yourname.com, you'll want to create your Google profile (google.com/profiles), own your Twitter handle (twitter.com/yourname), your LinkedIn profile (linkedin.com/in/yourname) and other social networks in your industry.
2. Establish your profiles
Just having profiles won't give you much traction in the job market. By having a branding strategy, which states what you want to become known for, your expertise and what you're passionate about, you can fill out your profile information with confidence. You want people to know that you're looking for a job and details about what type of job you're interested in. This is something you want to highlight in your profiles.
3. Have a consistent brand presence and promise
Don't just brand yourself for the sake of doing it or you won't get any results, nor will it be authentic. Instead, focus on what makes you remarkable, and consistently promote it on all of your Web sites. This means that you want to use the same picture, brand name and positioning on everything that you touch, both online and offline. By doing this, people will be able to follow your digital tracks and offer you targeted job opportunities.
4. Build your network before you need it
This may be an old saying and cliché, but it works just the same online, with collecting Twitter followers, LinkedIn contacts, Facebook friends and blog subscribers. You never know when someone you know or don't know can help you get a job. "If you want to find your dream job, you better start building your network through Twitter, LinkedIn and blogging," says Ryan Healy, co-founder of BrazenCareerist.com.
5. Conduct a people search
Of course you should apply to jobs on sites like Careerbuilder.com, but there are other strategies you can use in combination. First, you need to name the top three to five companies where you want to work. Second, use social networks to find people who work for those companies. Finally, build a relationship with those individuals by joining their community, asking for an informational interview and then for a job. "I like to think of Facebook, LinkedIn and other social networking sites as like virtual cocktail parties -- when you interact and socialize online, you meet people who can open all kinds of doors for you, including job leads," says David Meerman Scott, author of "The New Rules of Marketing & PR."
The result of building your personal brand is employers coming after your experience, instead of you just applying for jobs and waiting for an answer. You are empowered right now to make a difference in your life and get the job of your dreams. Take a giant leap today and get started!
Dan Schawbel is a personal branding expert for Gen-Y. He is the author of "Me 2.0: Build a Powerful Brand to Achieve Career Success" (Kaplan, April 09), as well as the publisher of the award-winning Personal Branding Blog and Personal Branding Magazine.
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