How to Build Your Personal Brand

By Lt. Col. Paul Capicik (USAF, Ret.), American Sentinel University

The most traditional and longstanding tool employed by jobseekers is the resume. It’s expected that you’ll have one, and it’s a good place to begin summarizing your education, skills, and accomplishments. But in today’s economic environment, a resume is not enough. To help you stand out among the other job candidates, you should consider personal branding.

Your personal brand is the public expression of everything you stand for – your identity, values, skills, abilities, and personality. As you identify and strengthen your personal brand, you’ll be able to communicate your unique value as an employee.

Managing Your Online Presence is Essential to Branding

Anytime you apply for a job, you can assume that your potential employer will perform an Internet search on your name. Every Web page, picture, profile, or blog post that comes up is a direct reflection on your beliefs and character, so you should manage your online presence carefully to reflect your personal brand.

One of the best ways to build your brand online is through a personal Web site. It can be a simple online portfolio that contains your resume, examples of your achievements, work samples or case studies of projects, mission statement, testimonials, letters of recommendation, awards, etc. If you write well, you could add a blog in which you share your thoughts or expertise about new developments in your area of interest.

Always include links to your Web site on your business card and in your email signature line.

Building Your Personal Brand Through Social Media

LinkedIn is a social network with a business focus (www.linkedin.com). You can create a professional profile there, and it will automatically be indexed on Google and Yahoo, ensuring that anyone searching for you by name will find it. Maintaining a strong and active presence on LinkedIn is an excellent alternative to creating your own Web site, although it’s a bit less flexible in terms of design and content.

After registering and creating a basic LinkedIn profile, the next step is to build a network of contacts; this has the advantage of linking you indirectly to other professionals who may be useful to you in a job search.

LinkedIn also makes it easy to build an online resume with a chronological format, and to collect testimonials from colleagues, clients, and former bosses. You can also connect with other professionals by joining alumni, industry, or job search groups within LinkedIn.

Once you’ve built your network, you can use the update tool to share info about yourself: job search goals, your thoughts on industry news, and articles or blog posts you’ve written. These updates can be automatically linked to your Twitter feed, if you have one, allowing you to reach an even broader audience as you promote your expertise. Another tool, LinkedIn Answers, gives you the opportunity to browse questions that other users in your field are asking, and to weigh in with your thoughts or advice.

Whenever you post a photo in conjunction with your Linked In profile or Twitter page, opt for a professional headshot, rather than a caricature, vacation shot, or photo of your pet.

Promoting Yourself Offline

While your online presence is key, the image you project to your network of contacts is equally

important in building your brand. Try to maintain positive relationships with everyone in your network and be sure they’re aware of your most recent endeavors – think of it as word-of-mouth marketing.

Wherever possible, try to position yourself as an expert or “go-to” person in your field. You can do this by writing articles for newsletters or the trade press, blogging, giving presentations at meetings or conferences, and playing up any awards or recognition you’ve received.

Attending networking events and professional development sessions within your industry will help you expand your networks of contacts. If you’re not currently employed, consider volunteering at a non-profit organization that’s in need of your skills – it can help you form valuable liaisons with people who can help you reach your goals.

Making Military Experience Part of Your Personal Brand

If you’re making a career transition from the military to a civilian job, you can integrate your military experience with your personal brand, but you have to be savvy about it. In Corporate America, employers don’t necessarily understand what it means to be a commissioned officer or to manage a munitions account.

Instead, as you catalogue your skills for your resume and LinkedIn profile, you should translate your military experience into cutting edge civilian lingo, carefully avoiding military jargon and acronyms. The Military Skills Translator (http://www.military.com/skills-translator/mos-translator) is a tool that allows you to search by keywords, rank, or MOS code to find equivalent civilian occupations. It can also help you identify any further education or certifications you might need, and it will suggest civilian terminology to include in your resume.

The military transcript is another tool you can use. All the military services provide these at no cost, and you can request them online.

  • Army: http://aarts.army.mil/
  • Navy, Marine Corps: https://smart.navy.mil/smart/dodMandatoryBannerForm/submit.do

The benefits of a military transcript can be summed up in this excerpt from the AARTS Web site (although it’s specific to the Army, these benefits translate across all the armed forces):

AARTS is a computerized transcript system that produces official transcripts for eligible soldiers upon request by combining a soldier’s military education and job experience with descriptions and college credit recommendations developed by the American Council on Education (ACE).

What benefit is an AARTS transcript?

  • Saves time and money: Based on a survey conducted by the American Council on Education (ACE), the average number of academic credits awarded from an AARTS transcript for 1998 was 14 semester hours. This saves tuition dollars and classroom time.
  • Provides a description of military schooling and work history in civilian language.
  • Serves as an aid in preparing resumes and explaining Army work experience to civilian employers.

Named a Military-Friendly School by GI Jobs for the third year in a row, American Sentinel University offers outstanding military benefits for service members, spouses and veterans, including reduced tuition rates, an expansive transfer credit policy, no-cost books for active-duty, and personal support for the unique military lifestyle. American Sentinel provides accredited, quality Bachelor’s and Master’s degree programs for high-job-growth industries, combining the flexibility of its100% online platform with dedicated personal support. Programs include IT, computer science, GIS, nursing, business intelligence, management, and IT industry certifications.

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