Why strategic personal branding is vital to career management
At the end of last year, I wrote about my experience adapting to a dramatically changing culture and new methodologies in my own field of executive search and career coaching. Although the central theme, slightly egocentrically, focused on my own challenges and frustrations of dealing with the concept of high on-line visibility, now a.k.a. Personal Branding, there was actually a key, underlying core message. The need for strategic forward thinking and preparation.
What is clear now is that we all need to develop and maintain on an ongoing basis, a personal brand and career strategy, regardless of our current age or place in our careers.
The recent recession has highlighted not just unemployment trends, but shifts in workplace employment and recruitment practises. Some companies have been forced by economic circumstances to re-engineer their policies to reduce their salary bills and employment costs, just to stay afloat. Other organisations have simply used the downturn as an opportunity to introduce workplace flexibility to instantly enhance bottom line results .
Job loss has slowed down going into 2010, but job creation still lags behind. Permanent positions in companies have been reduced and are unlikely to return to previous levels. Fringe activities such as outsourcing to low-cost employment areas and the reduction of a permanent workforce to what Business Week calls “Perma-temps” is on the increase and now becoming mainstream . The growth in interim assignments at a senior level is also rising, attracting not just the early retirees who wanted to do a “spot of consulting,” but senior professionals with no other source of income.
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In 2009, according to the UK Office for National Statistics there was a 31.5% rise in unemployment for people over 50, so at this age, there is a one in six chance of being out of work, compared to Gen X where the unemployment rate increased by 21.6 %. However, even if you do have a job David Autor of MIT , suggests that the chances of older, more highly educated professionals being employed in lower skill level positions has also increased. At the other end of the spectrum, Gen Y struggle to get even unpaid internships. Their unemployment figures have hit 18% with predictions that they will not be fully integrated into the workforce until 2014 with all that implies.
This means that competition for permanent positions in strong, stable organisations will continue to be fierce, long after the recession is officially over. At all levels. The need to raise our visibility and generate a personal brand as part of a planned career strategy will be more important than ever.
Brian Tracy suggested ‘ Invest three percent of your income in yourself (self-development) in order to guarantee your future ” The reality is that most people don’t do that in terms of their career. They might take golf lessons or learn to paint, but the average person probably spends more time planning an annual vacation and invests more money maintaining their cars, than planning their careers. So because they are unprepared, any crisis (redundancy, firing , lay-offs, promotion disappointments) produces a flurry of activity, not specific or focused, but usually frantic and urgent. Deadlines become short-term, limited to weeks or months, rather than anything longer term. CVs are dispatched and uploaded, networks contacted, headhunters emailed and sometimes in extremis, even career coaches sought out. We would never think of taking off on a road trip in an un-maintained car ( at least not once out of college), yet we constantly look for jobs with un- maintained careers and wonder why there are difficulties!
Avoid brand prostitution
@TomYHowe: suggested in response to my post “I think therefore I exist…Wrong , think again” that on going brand managemen could lead to “Life as sales” and he is indeed correct , if not applied strategically. There’s no reason why it should involve on- line soul selling and become brand prostitution. That would come dangerously close to some of the publicity stunts I mentioned required to market celebrity scent.
Return on Relationships
Nor does it necessarily mean as @wpbierman: amusingly quipped becoming ego related: “I am being followed – therefore I am”. Behind that funny one-liner there is for me an excellent thought, that once again comes back to strategy. I am definitely in favour of return on relationships and for me the key message is what Rory Murray describes as “maximising your reputation in the marketplace through the effective use of your network of contacts for mutual benefit“.
Measuring success only by the volume of connections/ followers/friends can be misleading. Lisa Brathwaite covers this concept beautifully in her post suggesting that some of the so-called on line experts can be some of the poorest users, simply because they do not engage.
But for job seekers and headhunters alike there is a great deal of strength in a weak network. It is the new, global Rolodex and why I think it’s important to start developing that visibility and personal brand as wisely, strategically and as early in your career as possible, as the competition for permanent jobs hots up .
Why? To stand out in a crowded market place
- to make sure you appear in on-line searches run by people like me. That’s how you get noticed
- To build up a strong on-line presence and reputation. This is what differentiates and extends your reputation and how you get those calls from people like me.
- Build up a strong network as part of an ongoing career management plan.
That’s how you avoid crisis and improve your job search chances.