You’ve taken all the right steps. You came up with your personal brand, made business cards, customized your resume, wrote cover letters, accumulated recommendations, compiled a portfolio/blog/website, completed your social media profiles, and set up your professional, brand-compatible email account. You’ve networked, applied for jobs, and put yourself out there.
But after all that work, you’re still sitting at home, twiddling your thumbs and drumming your fingers. Why?
Maybe your social media profiles aren’t presenting your brand the way you want, or your resume doesn’t accurately reflect your top skills. Whatever the reason, one thing is clear: your personal brand isn’t working.
So what can you do?
Review your resume. Look over it again. Make sure your experience is up-to-date and all your responsibilities from each position are clear. Eliminate unnecessary wordiness and try to avoid padding your resume. Get rid of summer jobs and leadership positions from high school. If you’re more than five years out of college, toss out your freshman and sophomore years of college as well. Unless the experience really highlights something essential, drop it off the resume. While resume-pruning can be scary and seem unnecessary, future employers will thank you when they don’t have to weed through padding and extraneous information.
Revisit social profiles. Take another look at your social profiles and how they present your brand: you. Are all your college photos — you know, the one of you bonging a beer that your best friend added out of nostalgia — hidden? Have you made sure to remove yourself from groups that might present you in a negative light? It’s okay to remove yourself from that group your freshman hall made in solidarity when they stopped serving fried chicken. Weed out groups that don’t represent who you are anymore, or that might appear in conflict with your brand.
Also, go through your LinkedIn profile. Are you a member of your industry’s group in your community? Most groups are open to join, and if not, requesting an invitation can never hurt. Join professional groups to build your network but also to demonstrate to employers your different interests. Make sure any volunteer experience or unpaid positions you may have held are listed on your profile. Even helping your friend’s mom set up the website for her new business counts as experience and builds your resume. You want to position yourself as an expert in your field, so the more experience you have — and visible to potential employers — the better.
Proofread! Proofread everything. Make sure your cover letters don’t have typos, your electronic signature shows up properly at the end of emails, and your portfolio or webpage layout displays correctly. These may seem like little things, but to employers, they display a lack of follow-through and potential sloppiness. Always, always, always proofread everything you send out or post to the Internet. Have a friend, or a few friends, look over any new content or work samples. Keep in mind that potential employers are looking for you to prove yourself, so don’t let a little mistake keep you from the dream job.
And, when all else fails, talk to a professional. It is perfectly acceptable to ask for help — encouraged even. Ask your boss from your last internship, a connection you have in the industry, even your parents, for help setting up your brand. While it should be someone who knows you, professional connections with less one-on-one contact can still have helpful tips. Whoever you ask, give them everything. They can look it over with a fresh set of eyes and tell you from an objective perspective what your brand says about you. If it’s not the image you want to present, ask them how you can fix it. Ask them to advise you on what social media sites you should, if you’re not already, be on, which niche communities you should be joining, and who you should be networking with. See if they can set up any introductions with people they think may be helpful in furthering your career.
So take a step back, take a deep breath, and try to look objectively at your brand. Chances are, if it’s not working, it’s because of something little. Follow these steps, and get ready to build the greatest brand of all: you.
Is your personal brand working?
Heather R. Huhman is a career expert, experienced hiring manager, and founder & president of Come Recommended, a content marketing and digital PR consultancy for organizations with products that target job seekers and/or employers. She is also the author of Lies, Damned Lies & Internships (2011),#ENTRYLEVELtweet: Taking Your Career from Classroom to Cubicle (2010), and writes career and recruiting advice for numerous outlets.