SELF-BRANDING IN A COMPETITIVE MARKETPLACEIf you work in an industry that is saturated with viable talent, you need to take extra steps to set yourself apart. Assuming your resume is already up to date, and highlights your niche skillset in detail, your next steps are to identify your brand and begin your marketing campaign. First, take a moment to think about your personal brand and create a plan that supports your goals. You want to highlight your best assets and downplay your growth areas, so it’s important to identify what both are. Once you have identified what your focus is, you want to make sure your personal brand realistically reflects who you are, and is aligned with the needs of the industry. Next, focus on social media. Online presence is critical and pervasive in the corporate marketplace, and you want your presence online to reflect your personal brand. LinkedIn is a well-respected professional networking site where you can upload your work experience and highlight any professional accomplishments, like articles you’ve published, or conferences you’ve spoken at. Be sure to take advantage of this free publicity. Your profile photo should show you looking both professional and polished, even if your industry does not require business professional attire. Your image should be a headshot, but it doesn’t need to be stuffy. Wear a bright color, vibrant tie or an ornate necklace, but make sure your background is uniform, or at minimum, not distracting. You should be the only person in your photo. Pictures with friends and family are best saved for other networking sites like Facebook. Looking professional in your photo creates the perception of a skilled employee, which is a critical part of your brand. Perception is reality, and if you look the part, you’re on your way to proving your worth. A good example to follow is Chip Luman, COO of HireVue. You want to be aware of your online footprint and take efforts to make as many social networking sites (intended for friends only, like Facebook, Google+, Instagram, and Twitter) private, so only your intended audience can view what you post. You may want to Google yourself to see what pops up, and see if the content is something you would want a prospective employer to see. Once you’ve eliminated any unwanted material, your next step is getting your brand out there. Networking and referrals are the most critical part of bringing attention to your brand. Your cohort in school, friends and family, former and current colleagues, are all vessels to move your brand forward. You need to sell your image to everyone you interact with, and in turn they will facilitate job opportunities – if they think you are a good fit for their organization. Referrals are well-known for being hired faster, and more often, than applicants applying in the general pool. As such you want your network to want to refer you, which is a direct reflection on them, so you need to demonstrate a proven record of competence and professionalism that warrants a referral. In this vein, it’s valuable to realize that every interaction with every colleague is one that should accurately portray your brand the way you envision it, and act accordingly. Lastly, in some industries it could be beneficial to have a vast social media presence, and a helpful way to network and share your brand. If you like to tweet, strive to build a large following on Twitter, and share content that is relevant to your field and profession on a regular basis. Demonstrating yourself as a thought leader will help to further your brand, and reach new people to network with. Ben Martinez (HR Director at HireVue) @HRHound, is a good example. As always, don’t give up. Building your brand is a marathon not a sprint, and is something you need to invest in now, to realize the fruits of your labor later. Have a question on how to brand yourself? Ask Carol, or follow her on Twitter @CarolEichengrun.