Personal branding is a pretty hot topic right now. With such an unstable job market, a lot of people are starting to think about the image they’re projecting to the world. Job seekers especially are doing everything they can to make their personal brand as impressive as possible.
But when you’re forming your personal branding strategy, are you focusing on branding yourself for the job you want right now? Or are you looking further ahead?
There’s a well-known saying that employees should “dress for the job they want, not the one they have”. It implies that by dressing like employees in higher positions, you’ll send a subtle signal to your boss that you should be promoted as well.
This applies to personal branding as well. You should form your personal branding for the job you want in three years, not the job you have right now.
Why three years?
When your goal is three years in the future, you have time to actually plan a strategy to get where you want to go. You don’t need to throw your personal brand together – in hopes you’ll luck out and project exactly the kind of image your potential employer needs. (Because most of the time, you won’t get lucky.) You can objectively ask yourself what you want to achieve, and figure out what it will take to get there.
When you brand yourself for three years in the future, it makes life a lot easier. You can admit at the beginning that you have a lot to learn, and write about what you’re doing to gain knowledge. It gives you plenty of time to develop your style, and hide those awful first posts on your blog. By working hard, you can even become a leading voice in your field.
Since you have a long-term goal, you don’t have to kill yourself trying to build your brand immediately. Instead, you can steadily chip away at it, with each small step getting you closer to your goal. This will lower the risk of burning out and abandoning the effort entirely.
Plus, you have time to develop genuine relationships with the movers and shakers in your field. If you don’t need their help immediately, you can relax and just concentrate on connecting with them. This gives you a chance to provide value by commenting on their blog, alerting them to good articles they should read, and supporting their projects. Then, when you’re looking for a new opportunity, they’ll be happy to help.
Increase the chance that your dream job will come to you
With a longer-time frame, it also increases the chances that your dream job will come to you. An employer could read something you’ve written, and realize you’re the perfect person for their company. A connection could hear about an opportunity, and tell the hiring manager you’re the perfect person for the job. Or someone could come across you on the Internet, and hire you for a speaking or consulting gig. If any of those happen, you’re in a much better bargaining position than if your resume is just part of a pile.
That doesn’t mean it will necessarily take three years to achieve your goal. You could do it in two years, or less than one. Your personal branding efforts will work for you from the moment you start them. When you plan further ahead though, it’s much easier to figure out what you need to do to get there – and actually make it happen!