Your career relies on one thing and one thing only: your personal brand.
Just look at the evidence. Gary Vaynerchuk is 1,000 times more popular than his first company, Wine Library. Today, he has a net worth of over 160 million.
The only reason Vaynerchuk is able to maintain that level of success is because of his personal brand. Well, that and his relentless ambition.
His no-BS attitude combined with his consistent and direct marketing techniques is exactly how his voice became heard over the crowd. It’s how he moved beyond Wine Library and into his bigger success stories such as: becoming a New York Times best-selling book, the chairman of VaynerX, and the CEO of VaynerX and VaynerMedia.
What about Ashton Kutcher? The goofy guy from That 70’s Show is now one of the most prominent up-and-coming investors in the U.S. And while he may still be acting, his personal brand is one of the reasons why his non-profit, Thorn, has been able to acquire millions in funding.
You don’t have to become famous to future proof your career. You just have to get people to know who you are— and remember you.
Your brand is how others perceive you. This is why a personal brand is worth a million times more than your business brand. It’s how you can scale and earn more from multiple streams of revenue.
But how can you get to that Gary V level of notoriety? How can you future-proof your career?
How Your Personal Brand and Career Go Hand-in-Hand
Before I give you my personal step-by-step advice, let’s discuss why your personal brand has such a monumental impact on your career.
Think about the first job interview you had. Your parents probably told you to look presentable and to spruce up your resume. You may have even practiced answering typical interview questions in the mirror before the big day.
It’s probably not very different from the feeling you had when you interviewed for your big corporate job right out of college. Or the time you interviewed for that promotion you’ve been working towards for half a decade.
As teenagers, they teach us that those things (the resume, the interview outfit, the college degree) are what helps you get the job.
In reality, it’s none of those things.
Your personal brand is what lands you the job. And while those things certainly play a factor in how your future employer perceives you, it’s the way you present yourself in that interview that ultimately gets you that new paycheck.
It’s how you carry yourself, how accurately you display your level of expertise, and nowadays, it’s what you post online.
Future-Proofing Your Career and Social Media
When I graduated college, I didn’t have to worry about having a social media presence to land my first job at a Fortune 500 company. But you better believe that if I were trying to get that same job today, I would be blasting my expertise all over social media.
So why is it that social media is such an essential aspect of future-proofing your career?
It’s not so much social media as it is your personal brand. Your brand is what people find when they Google you. The less they find, the less likely they are to hire you (or invest in your company).
Entrepreneurs make this same mistake. They think the key to getting more business is going viral on social media.
But when you depend on an obscure factor-like going viral (a.k.a luck) to build your business or to get you that job, you’re risking the very likely outcome of not becoming successful at all.
If you want to future-proof your career, you need to take matters into your own hands. That means focusing on your personal brand and providing valuable content so that your employer or your ideal clients see you for the expert that you are.
How to Future Proof Your Career: Corporate Edition
My primary clientele is CEOs for large corporations. Suffice to say that I’ve postponed myself and my brand in such a way that these corporate leaders trust me enough to hire me to elevate their personal brand.
So how can you get those same corporate CEOs to hire you? I can tell you from our one-on-one conversations that these people rely heavily on their employees’ personal brands.
These days, corporate CEOs want to hire people who can help elevate their company. Being active on social media, believe it or not, increases your chance of landing that job.
According to Social Media Today, “If an employee shares branded content, that content will receive eight times more engagement than when shared directly by the brand.” Naturally, this means that companies are looking to hire people who aren’t afraid to be active on social media so that their company content gets a broader reach.
Like it or not, if you’re somewhat of an influencer in your industry and you have a certain amount of clout, it’s beneficial to companies looking to hire. You can also use it to your advantage if you’re looking to move up the corporate ladder. If your managers don’t recognize your hard work, use your personal brand on social media to create your own platform.
If you can do that, your bosses will have no choice but to stop and take notice (or risk losing you to another company).
How To Impress CEOs with Your Personal Brand
Need an example?
Let’s say you’re a recent college graduate looking to get hired at a corporate law firm. How can you use your brand to help you land that job?
There’s plenty of ways you can prove to your “dream job” employer that you’re the right person to bring to their team.
Option #1: Share your journey
What makes a personal brand stand out is the story you tell. Your journey to becoming a lawyer is likely full of ups and downs. All of which, of course, lead to your graduation day. Showing off this transformational journey can help your personal brand stand out.
You can showcase this in a video resume, but a better use of your time would be to share your inspirational journey on your blog and social media. This can get your name in front of hundreds of law firms or, at the very least, be a part of your “social media resume” to further prove why you’re fit for this position.
If you really want to get ahead of the game, do this while you’re in college. If you can cultivate a decent-sized audience on social media and your blog, this is going to be a lot more impressive than a few internships on your resume.
Option #2: Give tips
Your personal brand is all about proving your expertise. This lawyer, for example, has years of education and internships under their belt.
Don’t let all that hard work be a blip on your resume.
If you genuinely want to get noticed by these corporate CEOs and future proof your career, put your knowledge on display. As a lawyer, maybe you can give tips on how to get through law school. Or perhaps you can provide insight into your specific area of law so that these CEOs can see how you work one-on-one with clients.
Obviously, for these scenarios, you’ll need to stay away from giving away blatant tips on the law since there are restrictions on that particular industry. But if you’re looking to get that chef’s position at a 5-Star restaurant, a cooking YouTube channel can boost your resume to the top of the pile.
Option #3: Give kudos to the company you want to work for
Whether you’re new to the corporate world, still in college, or looking for a promotion, a great way to get noticed by CEOs is to be strategically vocal in your personal brand content.
What I meant by that is, you need to let the company know you’re an option. By occasionally tagging the law firm or restaurant you want to work at, recruiters are more likely to recognize your name.
I know that many corporations use AI to sift through those giant resume piles, but once you get to that in-person vetting process, that vocal admiration on your social profiles won’t go unnoticed.
You don’t want to be too obvious with this strategy. That’s why I only recommend occasionally tagging your top employer choices on social media.
That recent law school grad, for example, can take a law firm’s recent blog post and explain why it’s so helpful to their followers on social media.
The chef wanting to attract that 5-star restaurant can take one of their menu items and review it or put a unique spin on it.
How to Future Proof Your Career: Entrepreneur Edition
Here’s the main question you should be asking yourself: Are you looking to get hired by a company or start your own?
Honestly, with your personal brand, it can go either way. That law student may have started their personal brand strategy to attract a big-name law firm, but maybe that hard work allows them to make a full-time career as a law blogger. Or made they’ve built their personal brand platform in a way that allows them to start their own firm.
The strategy to future-proof your career as an entrepreneur is pretty much the same. The thing that changes is your target audience.
Instead of trying to attract corporate CEOs, you might be looking to attract an audience, the press, and even investors.
Showcasing your expertise is the best thing you can do if you’re an entrepreneur looking to gain recognition in your industry.
This means you need to keep showing up and giving out tips (yes, for free). This helps you attract the right audience. And the right investors.
If you can prove that you are the key selling point behind a product or service, investors will be intrigued and delighted by you. Most investors recognize that their investments are better off in the hands of people who have taken the time to build a solid personal brand.
Finding Focus with Your Personal Brand
Your goals will help you find the right direction to take when it comes to future-proofing your career. Keep in mind that as long as you have a personal brand, you won’t be limited to what you can do job-wise.
Like I mentioned before, Gary V started off selling wine on YouTube. Now he’s a staple digital marketing expert with a vast platform. He’s not tied down to a particular niche or a specific industry anymore.
But here’s the critical thing most people don’t recognize when they hear success stories like this: it didn’t start that way.
Based on the many personal branding consultations I’ve had, most people have difficulty finding focus.
They want to be a CPA, but they also want to be a Tik Tok influencer who reviews products on Amazon. Clearly, one has nothing to do with the other, so which route do you take?
Here’s my advice: pick a lane and stick to it. For now.
You have to pick a niche in the beginning. However, if you brand yourself as you and not a business brand, the sky is the limit.
So maybe you start as a CPA, and you give financing tips on Tik Tok. As long as your Tik Tok channel name is your name, you have room to expand your niche down the road.
As you start to grow, you can begin reviewing some items off of Amazon that can help ideal clients become financially organized (desk accessories, filing cabinets, etc.). It still ties into your job as a CPA, but now you get to have a little fun with your personal brand.
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How To Future-Proof Your Career
So whether you’re looking for a promotion at a corporate gig or you’re trying to build your startup, it’s all about your personal brand.
If you want to truly future-proof your career, you need to be posting valuable content online. This helps everyone (no matter your target audience) see you as an industry expert, which gives you leverage for the remainder of your career.
As a side note: never tie yourself to one platform. Being dependent on social media is why some entrepreneurs fail. If that social media platform goes down (e.g. Vine), so does your personal brand platform.
So, make sure you have a personal brand website!
Alright, we have the basics covered. But what steps can you take to actually make sure your personal brand is one that can get noticed?
It’s all about these 5 steps I’m about to show you. Your future (and your career) depends on your brand, your audience, your platforms, your recognition, and (maybe most importantly), your willingness to show up.
1. Work on your personal brand
As a personal branding strategist, I feel the need to warn you that I could talk about the importance of your brand until the sun goes down.
However, I have plenty of resources on developing your personal brand so I won’t talk your ear off too much in this section.
Here’s what matters when it comes to your brand. It’s not how elegant your logo is or how many followers you have on Instagram.
It’s actually about what you’re saying.
Whether you use blogs, YouTube, Instagram, or even Tik Tok to promote you and your business, your logo and your follower count is not what people are paying attention to.
Believe it or not, they’re actually listening to the words coming out of your mouth.
That’s why you need to know what to say. You need to know what you stand for, what you’re able to provide to your audience, and how you’re going to give it to them.
Don’t get me wrong. This should be implemented into the facade of your business like your logo and your website. In fact, your brand colors, imagery, and overall aesthetic speak volumes about your professionalism. If your graphics are eye-catching, people are more likely to perk up and listen. And they’re more likely to remember you.
But what you’re saying (and how enthusiastically you’re saying it) plays a role in how many people will listen to you.
So, become a thought leader. Don’t just recycle the same industry tips over and over again. People won’t remember you for that. They’ll remember you either by your personality or by your out-of-the-box concepts that will help them achieve their goals.
Stay Out of Drama
You also need to be wary of what you as your brand are willing to say and what NOT to say. Especially in 2020. You don’t want to end up in a scandal like Jenna Kutcher or Marie Forleo.
While these ladies have (seemingly) scraped by with just a smudge on their reputation, things could have gone a lot worse.
That’s why I always recommend steering on the side of caution. Speak up when you feel morally obligated, but don’t thrust your political (and non-political) agendas down peoples’ throats. All it takes to make sure you don’t completely tarnish your personal brand (and the future of your career) is to be respectful and open-minded about your blind spots.
2. Let people get to know you
On that note, it’s still important for people to get to know you. People in my Personal Branding Masterclass come to me because they simply do not know how to present themselves to their audience. With all of the digital backlash looming in the background, it can be intimidating to use your voice to break barriers.
However—that’s exactly what your personal brand is all about. I’m not saying that you need to be loud and obnoxious. In fact, I’m saying quite the opposite.
You just need to be vulnerable. You need to be open and be willing to make mistakes.
People are over seeing highlight reels of businesses on social media and in the news. Like it or not, they want to see the real, the successful, and the ugly aspects of brands.
Just like in real life, people want to get to know the person they’re meeting for the first time. It won’t happen overnight, but somewhere down the line, they’ll make that connection with you and want to form a relationship. Now, you’re someone they can trust.
How can you find the line between sharing versus oversharing? Here are a few tips to get you started:
- Tell people how you started your business (relatable)
- Tell people a hurdle you overcame in the past before starting your business (emotional)
- Recite a recent story about feeling overwhelmed and how you overcame it (inspirational)
- Share your upcoming launches, news, or client reviews. Repeatedly. (excitement)
- Post pictures or videos of your pets, your family, your friends, and your favorite things (you’re a real person, too!)
3. Build your platforms
We’re getting into the thick of it now.
Chances are you already started your business and you’re on social media.
However, are you on the right platforms?
Your social media strategy is just one corner of your personal brand that will catapult your career. Do you think Gary V’s success came from just posting on social media?
Of course not.
He hopped on every single social media platform, wrote blogs, and posted 20-30 times a day on each one of them.
Don’t worry— I’m not telling you that you need to do that same thing. That would be insane.
What you need to do is narrow down 3 platforms you want to be on. I recommend your website (blogs), a visual platform (Instagram or Pinterest), and a video platform (YouTube or Tik Tok).
This prevents you from spreading yourself thin across your website and every single social media platform. By narrowing down where you spend your time, you’re more likely to build that close-knit community of potential buyers faster and more efficiently.
As you spend time on your social media platforms and blog, you’ll learn there is an entire “tech” side to getting noticed and getting those followers. SEO.
SEO on social media is one thing, and SEO for your blogs goes a little more in-depth. I recommend learning the bare basics of both. That’s really all you need— the basics.
Figure out which hashtags you want to use (the less they are used— the better. Trust me). If you want to be an industry expert, blogs are going to be your bread and butter. Using SEO in your blogs is also more likely to earn you clients (and clout) months down the line.
That’s simply not possible on social media platforms.
4. Show up
Once you know where you want to be, you have to be consistent.
In other words, you have to show up.
The further you get into your career, the more difficult this becomes. I get it— I’ve been there.
You might start questioning why your social media posts and your blogs are all that important. Especially if you haven’t seen a return on investment in it.
Here’s the truth: your content is just one aspect of your personal brand. The content is what you’re putting out to show your expertise. It’s showing people who visit your website or your Instagram that you know what you’re talking about. When you can do that, people are more likely to pick up the phone or send you an email.
However, people also need to make that connection with you as a real, reliable human being.
Which means you need to engage with your audience. If they send you a direct message or leave a comment on your post, you need to answer it— quickly.
Engage with your audience
More than that, you need to be taking time out of your day to do the engaging. Hype people up, show them that you care, and selflessly lead them to your platforms so they can get to know you.
I know it sounds like a time pit. It is. But it’s time worth investing. Today’s sales process takes 22% longer than five years ago, and the best way to see an ROI in that sales process is by engaging with prospective buyers.
All it takes is about 15 minutes a day. Use your social media platforms to share your expertise on a routine basis. Then, use that 15 minutes to find and talk to your ideal client or customer.
Look in hashtags they’re most likely to use, look at who follows other leaders in your industry, and look at your own follower list. Those are the people worth connecting with on a daily basis.
Eventually, you’ll be able to outsource this type of tedious work. But make no mistake, it will always need to be done. Just look at millionaire, Jasmine Star’s Instagram posts. You’ll be able to see that she absolutely has a social media manager behind the scenes. Despite her success, she still responds (or has someone responding) to hundreds of comments and DMs a day.
This engagement is what keeps her personal brand top-of-mind and it’s what keeps her business circulating by word-of-mouth. Trust me when I say that those engaged fans are ecstatic that she is taking the time to reply to them.
5. Get your personal brand featured by the press
When it comes to the future of your career, there’s really only so much that you can handle on your own. While outsourcing should definitely be on your radar, another overlooked strategy is to get yourself featured in the press.
It doesn’t matter if it’s your local city’s paper or a feature in Forbes. This type of recognition will do one or two things for your business:
- The article will go viral, and you’ll see piles of referrals coming in… hot off the press.
- The article will serve as a highlight on your website and social media, further convincing potential buyers that you’re an expert in your industry.
If you make press outreach a habit in your personal brand strategy, then you’re even more likely to seal your career’s fate. Even if that first press feature doesn’t go viral, it will set the tone for future journalists you pitch to. They’ll be more likely to grab a quote from your brand because other journalists have already vetted you as the expert. The more press features you have, the more chances that your brand could go viral.
How can you get in the press? You have three options:
- Pitch yourself through platforms like HARO
- Connect with journalists online. Remember that engagement I talked about? Bond with writers on social media for a better chance of them accepting your quote.
- Have a presence online. That means having an aesthetic, a consistent schedule, and helpful content that speaks to your ideal client
Your personal brand is the key to your career. If you don’t put much stock into it, then you’re destined to remain at the status quo for a very long time.
It can be scary to loosen that grip and really promote yourself. When you do, however, you will be able to seamlessly increase industry recognition, deal flow, and press opportunities.
And that, my friend, is how you future-proof your career.