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How To Boost Your Career With Online Personal Branding You'll continue to harvest the benefits of your personal brand once you lay the groundwork, plant the seeds and nurture it well.

By Shakir Akorede

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Personal branding has become the heart of career success. At every stage of your career -whether you are seeking an entry-level job, a freelance contract or a promotion to the C-level- you are being screened online.

According to a survey by SHRM, 84% of executive recruiters and HR professionals use social networks for recruitment. Researching potential candidates online, 70% of them reject applications based on what they find on the web. Nearly half say that compelling digital footprints, not resumes or cover letters, influence their decisions.

What is personal branding and why is it central to career success?
One succinct definition by PwC puts it thusly, "Personal branding is about standing out while being yourself—your best self." It is the art of painting yourself in the most spectacular image that separates you from the rest of the world. And in the words of Jim Joseph, chief marketing officer and president of Cohn & Wolfe, "As I watched people wrestle with career and personal decisions, I began to realize one thing: managing a career is like managing a brand." How then do you achieve a career edge through branding?

For many years now, I've been researching and implementing the best answers to this question in the race to foster my career and establish myself as a thought leader in the process. I don't have all the answers, but here are the best hacks I've found so far.

1. Craft a standout online presence
Creating a personal brand is a thousand-mile journey. Here's your quick guide:

Start a blog/website
Blogging is a powerful way to amplify your expertise and build a brand off of it. Google processes over 40,000 search queries per second, making over 3.5 billion online searches every day. That's a goldmine if you can create a blog that meets the need of a given audience (business coaching, mental health, career advice, etc). Alternatively, you can leverage or Quora to reach the same goal.

To go a notch higher, get a standard website. Freddie Figgers, founder and CEO of Figgers Wireless, is a worthy example in this regard. Welcoming visitors with an attention-grabbing video on the lander of his website, the 29-year old entrepreneur takes you through the journey from when he was abandoned in a dumpster at birth to how he built a telecommunications brand valued at over $62.3 million.

That's exactly how to maximize a website for personal branding. If you're eloquent, creative and full of ideas, YouTube, Facebook and Instagram videos are the best available options to create a successful vlogging career.

Be social
In today's hyperconnected world, social media is at the heart of branding. For the hacks and tricks, The Art of Social Media by Guy Kawasaki and Peg Fitzpatrick remains a go-to resource. Here are the takeaways to master:

  • Start by using an authentic screen name.
  • Use a professional, uniform headshot across platforms.
  • Craft a biography that summarizes your value proposition: key expertise, experience, career goals and feats.
  • Distill your value proposition into a compelling slogan like Ramit Sethi's "I will teach you to be rich."
  • Link to your blog/website.
  • Build and engage your audience on all platforms by sharing consistently helpful content.
  • Join professional groups—on Facebook and LinkedIn.
  • Grow your influence by reaching out to top influencers in your field.
  • Offer help before seeking any.

2. Take a kite to the "global level'
With the above, you have set your career brand on a winning trajectory. The next thing is to get on the global stage. From Tim Ferriss to Arianna Huffington, personal brand exemplars have long proved the value of blogging. Yet, their success stories show that contributing to world-class publications delivers faster, infinite results.

Here's a personal illustration. Contributing to platforms such as Entrepreneur, I went from being an intermittent hobbyist to a syndicated international writer with my articles translated into French, Chinese and Norwegian among others. Moreso, writing for these platforms played the ladder role in my becoming an agenda contributor to the World Economic Forum and recently a Communications Associate at BudgIT, Africa's most innovative civic organization. And it's still opening doors.

If you want to become a well-known authority in your field and thus shoot your career to the top of the pyramid, contributing to recognizable publications is a step in the right direction (read tips here).

3. Give your virtual brand a real-life existence
"A personal brand is like a garden," writes Jayson DeMers. You'll continue to harvest the benefits once you lay the groundwork, plant the seeds and nurture it well. Now, the final thing is consolidating your brand and pitching yourself to top leaders in your career domain. The hows abound but experts like Steve Jobs conclude that the best way to consolidate an online personal brand is by improving the physical connection with people.

Here's a tip from Havard's Gill Corkindale: "A few ways to do this include networking, signing up for high-profile projects, showcasing your skills in presentations or workshops, volunteering for committees or panel discussions at a conference." Of all recruiters, 95 percent assert that the job market will remain -or even get more- competitive. The case isn't different in the business world either. Let's face it, if you don't make an indispensable brand of yourself, you're putting your career at a big disadvantage. The better you amplify your skills and passion, the greater your chances out there.

Related: The Importance Of Personal Branding For MENA Entrepreneurs

Shakir Akorede

Founder of 501 Words

Shakir Akorede is a writer, digital entrepreneur and the founder of 501 Words. He's equally a researcher and a young professional in foreign policy.


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