Start Developing a Personal Brand, Not Just a CV

What does branding have to do with job-hunting?! A lot actually. It’s all about who you are and where you want to be. Marketing yourself to employers is a skill worth honing during the job application phase. Start building your personal and professional brand from day one. Approaching job seeking as a brand building exercise will help further you career and build a platform on which you can build professional credibility. Here’s how your social media profiles and personal story can impact you finding work.

What’s already out there?

Employers will regularly screen candidates based on what they find online so be clear on what is already out there. Search for your name in search engines and see what they unearth (scary). Remember that society memberships, blog posts, sports clubs, blog comments and old social media profiles may all come up.

  • Have a spring-clean and see whether you can remove anything that doesn’t look great. If you are in charge of a page, you can ask search engines to not index it, so it won’t be found by browsers.
  • If you can’t remove it, create new digital assets like social media posts and profiles that will naturally outrank some of the things you’d rather not promote.
  • Be cautious, or at least mindful, of what your name is associated with online. Especially things that are politically controversial may be detrimental to your future.
  • Create a positive online trail– write a guest blog for the local charity you work for or offer to be featured on their blog. Employers will be impressed if they see you’ve been involved with the community.

Have a targeted and clear profile on your CV

Maximise a vital marketing opportunity at the top of your CV by having a clear and interesting profile. Your CV’s opening statement should be short, punchy and industry-relevant. It’s your chance to put your spin on your entire experience and future prospects, so devote time to getting it right.

Don’t go with something generic like “Recent History graduate looking for interesting role in a dynamic organisation”. Favour something targeted that cites your specific areas of interest and highlights your strengths like “Analytical and process-driven Chemistry graduate looking for a laboratory technician role with growth potential in the agrochemical industry.”

  • Write different profiles to tailor your CV to specific roles and industries.
  • Make your profile short and punchy, rather than overtly descriptive. One or two sentences is best.
  • Be creative and use humour if the industry and role demand it.
  • Avoid using cliché words recruiters see over and over again.

Be creative with CV formatting

You might need to do more to stand out from the A4 CVs that land on recruiters’ desks. Whether you create a portfolio website, a video CV, an art folder, or play around with CV formatting – being different pays off.

  • Match the CV to the industry – video production will definitely benefit from a more creative approach.
  • Any job application that involves creative work will need a portfolio, so gather up any projects or snippets in a user-friendly format.
  • Don’t format your CV so that it becomes unclear – make sure it still answers people’s questions.
  • There are plenty of creative CV designs and templates out there you can use. Check out creative CVs on YouTube for inspiration.

Optimise your social profiles

Social media is increasingly becoming a place to get hired, but it’s also somewhere where employers go to screen potential candidates.

  • Make any ‘messy night out’ photos friends only or opt out of them all together– it’s best practice to only ever keep the bare minimum publicly visible (maybe just your name, location, profile picture and cover photo).
  • Have a good LinkedIn profile with plenty of information, a recent photo and endorsements and testimonials.
  • Here’s a great guide from Michael Page on how to optimise your different social profiles for both job hunting and job screening.
  • Be wary about adding people from work on social media immediately, especially if your profile isn’t professionally- oriented.
  • You should never share sensitive company information online.

Target industry thinkers

Follow influencers, brands and businesses on social media and engage with their content. Plenty of people find work on the strength of their social following and digital brand, so start building up a professional online profile now.

  • Separate out personal and professional accounts if you need to.
  • Follow and engage with key industry thinkers.
  • Curate content in a specific niche to carve out your own area of expertise (like drone filming or equine health).

Think about your narrative

Employers will question any CV gaps or unfinished projects. It’s OK to change your mind, but just make sure that you have an explanation. You don’t have to be a full-on spin doctor, but you will need to put a positive spin on any wrong-turns. Just explain that you’ve learnt from the experience and you now know what you want to pursue.

  • Talk about learning experiences instead of failures.
  • Have answers ready on any potential tricky gaps or experiences before the interview, so you won’t be caught off-guard.

Make the right impression

Getting things right online should translate into getting things right in person. Go in to an interview prepared, dressed well and ready to impress.

  • Try to calm your nerves and act as naturally as you can. Arrive a little early to give yourself time to steady your nerves and always have water with you.
  • Listen, stop, and think before you launch into an answer during an interview.
  • Shake people’s hands and look them in the eye.
  • Try to remember the names of anyone you are introduced to in more detail.
  • Do interview follow-ups and ask for feedback.
  • Respond to any feedback emails and thank people for their time.

Try to think about your job search strategically and market yourself effectively online, on paper, and in person by being prepared and professional. Good luck!

-Kayleigh Töyrä has worked at the University of Exeter Career Zone as Global Employability Support Officer where she helped students with their CVs and job applications. She now works in marketing as a writer at GWS Media in Bristol.


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