Develop Your Professional Brand
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No matter what discipline you are studying at JCU, you will need to know how to effectively market yourself to employers.
You will be entering a competitive employment environment, so you need to stand out in order to be successful. You can do this by actively marketing your professional identity, which involves selling your unique qualities, personality, characteristics, knowledge, skills and passions.
The aim is to understand and communicate what you stand for in order to convince employers of your value to stay ahead of the competition, and land that job or industry placement. Organisations are not interested in a list of generic skills that every applicant could claim. They want to know what makes you different and interesting.
Tip: In order to market yourself to an employer, you need to know what your skills and strengths are and how to talk about them. One of the best ways to do this is to undertake a personal audit. If you would like to explore your skills and strengths, complete the You and Your Career module within JCU Employability Edge.
What is your brand?
Everyone has a personal and professional brand, whether they realise it or not. If you are unsure of yours, try these approaches:
- Ask yourself: How do I make people feel? How do people benefit by working with me?
- Ask others: What am I known for? How would you describe me?
- Online: Google yourself and see what comes up first.
- Social Media: Have a look at the last ten things you have liked, posted or commented on. What does that tell employers about you and your brand?
Now answer these questions:
- Are you happy with what you discovered?
- Are you surprised by the answers?
- Does your current brand reflect who you truly are, what you do, and where you are going?
Action: Go to your downloaded workbook and complete Activity 1
Why is your brand important?
No matter what stage of life you are in, your professional brand is important. It guides your choices about where you work, professional development, skill specialisations, and outside interests. These are the qualities and attributes that make you who you are as a professional. You want to represent a full picture of yourself (your brand), which will continue to change throughout your life as your priorities, values and interests change.
Your brand is fluid and will change depending on where you are in your life/career and who your audience is.
- If you are a student, new graduate or job seeker your audience will be employers and mentors.
- If you are an entrepreneur, your audience will be clients, financial backers and collaborators.
- If you are a leader, your audience will be your peers and other leaders in your industry.
One of the best things about your brand is that you are in control of it. So how do you build your brand?
Step 1 – Define your professional brand
- You need to know where you want to go.
- You need to know what you want to be known for.
Step 2 – Determine your Unique Value Proposition (UVP)
Remember, you are the product and you are trying to sell your uniqueness, so think about how you will get that message across.
- What are your natural talents, what comes easily to you? For example: writing, public speaking and problem solving
- What are your skills, what have you learned? For example: project management, budgeting, people management
- What are you passionate about or interested in? For example: social enterprises, international relations, environmental issues
- What impact do you want to have? For example: helping people achieve their career goals, make a difference to the mental health of teenagers, make Apps that will support . . .
Now bring it all together into your unique value proposition:
I use my natural talents of ____________ and ___________ skills to have an impact on the ___________ industry.
Tip: your UVP could also be used as your LinkedIn Headline Summary – this will help keep your brand consistent.
Step 3 – How to use your professional brand
Your brand can be used at every marketing opportunity. You want to ensure your message is consistent in all platforms and occasions, and you want people to remember you for the right reasons. Think about where you will use your personal brand:
- Job applications
- Online profiles
- Face to face and online networking events.
From Student to Professional
University students should start to develop their own brand and start marketing their attributes during their studies. Start to think of yourself as a professional in training, so you need to present a professional image.
First impressions do count. Look at the person in the image. What impression is she projecting and what do you think her brand is?
It doesn’t take long for someone to form an opinion of you, and that short instance can have a lasting impact. Simple actions, such as giving out your contact details, or sending an email or text message, need to convey the right signals to others, especially potential employers. So get into the habit of making a good first impression wherever you are – practice makes perfect.
Make a great first impression
- In non-COVID times, you should shake hands when meeting new people. To help you remember their name, it is a good idea to repeat it. Try something like this: “Hello Jane, my name is George. It is so lovely to meet you, Jane”. This will help you link the name to the face and make it easier for you to introduce Jane to others.
- When you first meet someone, it can be hard to immediately strike up a conversation – this takes practice. One tip is to ask them a question or two about themselves. People love talking about themselves and you will also gain valuable insight into who they are.
- Think about your body language. Crossing your arms can look defensive, so uncross them to look more open and collaborative. Turning towards whoever is speaking is also recommended.
Keep your professional identity and brand in mind in all your communications. The immediacy of email, text, and instant messaging can lead to throw away lines that may be misinterpreted. Unfortunately, emails and other types of messages are recorded and therefore leave a trail and can be used against you. Careers can be ruined based on a frivolous email remark.
Tips for professional communication:
- Use a professional email address. Your JCU email address is ideal and you can keep using it after you graduate from your course.
- Check your emails regularly – employers will expect you to respond in a timely manner.
- An email is not a text message to a friend – be professional.
- If you are asking for assistance, make that clear – provide enough detail for the recipient to be able to help you.
- Use simple, plain English and always be polite and respectful.
- Avoid using text speak, abbreviations, or emoticons when contacting professionals.
- Even when space is at a premium, keep your language more formal than communicating with friends
- Carefully consider and review your response before hitting the send key – never respond when under the influence of a strong emotion.
- Do not answer your phone informally – this may be your first contact with your future boss.
- Have a professional voice mail message.
The 7 C’s of communication
- Clear: Ensure the aim and purpose of your message is clear from the outset of your written or verbal communication.
- Concise: Less is more when communicating so be brief and targeted.
- Concrete: Be focused in your communication and ensure that you are specific, factual and provide the required level of detail.
- Correct: Ensure that your spelling, facts and grammar are correct. Also, ensure that the tone, language and choice of words fit the context.
- Coherent: Reread your message to ensure that it is logical and your ideas flow smoothly.
- Complete: Ensure your communication contains the necessary information required by the receiver to respond.
- Courteous: Ensure that you address the recipient politely and appropriately.