Why professional branding may be the way forward for job hunting success

Why professional branding may be the way forward for job hunting success

In an agency setting it means you are the name on the tip of everyone’s tongue.  When a new position pops up, you hear recruiters whispering your name as the person to call with ego boosting sentiments that once upon a time, only your mum would say!

What do you want to be known for? What positive distinctions would you like people to make about you so you can put together the very best personal branding statement and start cultivating your very own professional brand across your social media platforms, in your outreach correspondence and in your day-to-day life?

In basic terms professional branding comes down to how you are perceived by others and what people say about you when you are not in the room? Eeek, doesn’t bear thinking about right!

Now that professional branding is becoming a ‘thing’, I knew I wanted to write about it, so I have been seeking inspiration for this post everywhere, then one rainy Tuesday afternoon an inspirational gift landed at my feet.

I was travelling on the train, to the Blue Arrow head office pretending to read my book while inconspicuously looking around the carriage to see who my fellow passengers were. I like to sit mid carriage with my back against the window, so I have the ideal vantage point for people watching at both ends of the train.

Have you noticed that on a commuter train the type of people never seem to change, only their faces? You can guarantee that in your carriage, no matter where you are travelling to you will be able to pick out most if not all of the same people I observed.

First up there was the perfectionist who took a table seat. She lined up her laptop, phone, pad and pen at perfect right angles with her ticket on the left next to the flask and the foldable cup. 

She was a train travelling pro, it was clear she had done this a few times and I watched in fascination as she spread her items out across the whole table. The best part was that following this ritual she just sat and looked out of the window not touching a single one of them for the entire journey.  

Sitting opposite her was the one I am always in awe of, the time-saver. The girl who brought her entire makeup bag and a change of shoes. I have no idea how she gets her make-up so perfect on the train, I can't do it properly on a stable surface, but she deftly applies her eyeliner without a care in the world, allowing for the sway and bump of the train she critically inspects the perfect cat eye she managed to create. 

Moving across to the adjacent table I could see we had a twitcher. You know the guy that wobbles his leg, vibrating all of the table and chairs in his section causing a repeating squeak sound in time to the twitch. I love trying to guess which of his fellow passengers will reach out in frustration and stop the man mid-twitch. 

Just behind me was the one I dread, the sleeper. The guy who is catching up on his beauty sleep, head back, mouth hanging open with a throaty catch of phlegm with every inhale of breath that makes you want to repeatedly clear your throat for him.

Directly over the carriage from me was another one that I try to ignore as much as possible, the eater. The one who always seems to eat the most socially offensive sandwich, egg mayo or tuna, who eats like a Labrador and excavates his teeth then inspects the findings. Ergh! 

Down the other end of the carriage was the caller. That one who makes and receives a ton of calls at full volume with no regard for the rest of us listening in to one side of the conversation, I always think he must be super important until I hear "okay bye mum". 

Just over from the caller was the watcher. The one with the laptop or tablet out, headphones in catching up on the next episode on Netflix. You get to see so many emotions travel across his face as the scene unfolds before him and I always make a mental note to glance at the screen as I walk past to see what he is watching; Geez I am so nosey. The watcher was one of my favourite co-passengers today, he had his headphones in, but they were not plugged into his tablet so everyone else could hear his programme too. Someone actually had to pick up the end of the lead to show him it wasn't plugged in - this is totally something I would do. 

From my mid carriage vantage point I had made quite a few presumptions about these people just from their unconscious behaviours, I had summarised who I would and would not be drawn to, who made me wrinkle my nose and turn away, and who irritated me.

I found myself trying to guess what they did for a living and mentally writing professional brand profiles for each of them. Just as I was trying to decide what I could say about the eater we pulled in at a station and a few more candidates joined the carriage.

This one guy boarded the train and instantly captured my attention… now before you all start with your “oooohh Caree fancies a boy” nonsense this was a strictly professional observation, it is research, honestly. Anyway, he was dressed in the effortless perfection that only someone who knows who they are and what they are about can do; jeans, shoes, t-shirt, blazer, fedora hat, designer stubble, a nice but not overly flashy watch and a wedding ring that I just happened to notice, not that I was looking for it.

So, Mr Perfect ahem, sorry I mean fedora man, selected a seat while taking the time to make eye contact with those around him and smile in greeting. Once settled, he briefly looked at his phone and slid it into his inside breast pocket, picked up his notebook and began to sketch, every now and then wistfully looking out of the window followed by carefully making notes or sketching.

I was mesmerised, he could have been a complete fruit loop in reality but he gave off this aura of calm, assured confidence that oozed creativity, it was as though a team of marketing experts had carefully crafted his entire image to appeal – this was him, this was the guy who has nailed the personal brand to perfection and was so practiced, he didn’t even know he was doing it. Screw the rest of them, I spent the whole rest of the journey watching him sketch and musing over what he might do for a living.

Is this what professional branding’s really about? I don’t mean wearing a fedora and carrying a notebook, I mean knowing yourself, being confident and so comfortable with who you are, what you do and how you do it that you unconsciously persuade those around you that you really do have it all worked out. If so, how do we act as our own team of marketing experts and communicate this into a job application where simply having a good sense of style is not so helpful?

It is all going to come down to a branding statement because of its versatility in the online job-hunting sphere. Marketers use branding statements to persuade people to buy a product. By reading or hearing a powerful and concise message the customer becomes convinced that the product is ideal for their needs, solves their problems and generally rocks their world – your job is to come up with a statement that turns the recruiter into your customer.

Start by noting down the answers to these bullet points;

  • Who – who are you?
  • What – what do you do?
  • How – how do you do it – what you want to be known for?
  • Who For – who do you do it for?

Top tip: Try to include some powerful words relevant to your skills, industry or audience.

Once you have your basic answers noted down you can start to figure out how they can all fit together.

Using the fedora man from the train as an example and taking quite a bit of artistic license, here is what his professional branding statement might look like if he was a Corporate Brand Designer.

“Creative and charismatic corporate Brand Designer who is always seeking inspiration and concepting new designs that evoke an emotive response, effortlessly crossing the divide between industries, genres and markets.”

Taking another fellow passenger, the perfectionist, as a slightly different example, her professional statement might look something like this;

“A highly skilled Admin Assistant recognised for an unerring focus on the finer details, an eye for accuracy and organisational prowess, I am committed to developing a career in office productivity and time management systems within SME’s where small changes can make the biggest difference.”

In both cases they deliver a clear concise message about who they are and what makes them tick. The good thing about these two statements is that their subconscious behaviours back up their statements, both are totally believable.

It is no good creating a statement that you can’t naturally pull-off, the whole point of this is to be a lasting brand, one that develops and marinades and the only way for that to happen is through longevity. It would be like the sleeper passenger describing himself as

“A highly trained Personal Security Specialist who is always on duty, alert, focused and diligent in observing his surroundings at all times.”

I think someone may see through this quite quickly, don’t you!

Once you have created your statement you can use it in so many ways, you could use it on your social media and LinkedIn accounts, a business card, a cover letter, networking outreach, CV intro, you could even create your mini video by delivering your statement to camera.