As Millennials came into the workplace, they started hopping from job to job at a faster rate than previous generations. Since 2020, professionals of all ages have been making career changes and moving to different locations to chase their passions. Another Millennial-era idea has emerged as a winning job search strategy; personal branding.
One of our guests at a Career Conversations webinar in 2020 became a thought leader on personal branding after successfully transitioning from her job with the federal government to the private sector. Kanika Tolver talks about personal branding in terms of Career Rehab, the name of her career coaching business, and her book, which is available on Amazon.
Kanika advises her clients to consider their job search and personal branding efforts like a home renovation or remodeling project. It’s about gutting out the things that aren’t useful anymore and putting in fresh and relevant elements. She points out that you’ll miss out on a lot if you rely on your employer to make you happy or provide all the opportunities you need to accomplish your career goals. She urged our webinar attendees, “Don’t put your career goals in the hands of others.”
Kanika’s own Career Rehab journey started when she realized she wasn’t satisfied with her federal government job. She wasn’t exactly sure what she wanted to transition to, but she knew that switching to the private sector required a complete overhaul of her resume and online presence. This was when she started to learn about personal branding.
After the first rewrite of her resume, Kanika started making new connections on LinkedIn and “became a networking junkie.” She researched tech companies that seemed like a good fit for her skill set and had the kind of work environment she was looking for. Eventually, Kanika was connected with employees at those companies. She found out what additional training she needed and invested in a bit more education that wasn’t available through her government job. Kanika saw that to get attention from these new contacts, she had to think and talk about herself in a completely new way, and the beginnings of Career Rehab were born.
Step 1: Rehab You
Before you can rehab your career, you have to do a bit of restoration work on yourself. This begins with self-evaluation: are you happy at your current company? Where would you like to be, or what aspects of your ideal career are missing? What education and certifications do you need to get to your next step? What skill sets are you lacking?
Career changes are commonplace, so hiring managers are generally open to considering outside-the-box candidates. The best approach in these cases is to determine which skills are transferable and be honest about why you’re making this change now. Certifications and training can help compensate for lack of experience, but in any case, try to find a link between your past and your future to make sense of the shift.
After taking some time to self-evaluate, it’s time to create a Career Blueprint, as Kanika lays out in her book. Identify the specific salary and location you’re looking for, whether you want to work for a big or small organization and your strategy for making new connections that will get you one step closer. It’s critical to create your plan and get prepared before you jump on LinkedIn or Indeed.
Step 2: Market Yourself With ADS
Kanika’s ADS acronym stands for Accomplishing Dominating Success, but it works a lot like the ads you see on billboards for recognizable brands like Starbucks and Target. Your LinkedIn profile and resume are like blank billboard spaces that you can fill with attention-grabbing ADS. One of Kanika’s ADS was her AWS Cloud certification: once she added it to her LinkedIn profile, she started getting messages from recruiters looking for that specific skill.
In addition to certifications, LinkedIn newsletters or blog articles are ADS you can create for free. Research what people are talking about in the industry you want to be in and write articles on anything you’re knowledgeable about. See if you can volunteer to present at a networking event or book speaking engagements in your areas of interest. Creating and sharing original content is a great way to get noticed and build credibility with industry leaders and recruiters. However, it’s also important to recognize that all of your public social media accounts are available for hiring managers to look at. Be careful how you present yourself, even in your personal profiles.
Step 3: Negotiate for More than Your Salary
If you thought landing a job offer was the last step in the Career Rehab process, you’re missing something big: negotiation. Your salary is the most obvious thing to negotiate for, and it helps to use tools like Glassdoor and Payscale to understand the market in your city and state. Most people don’t realize you can (and should) negotiate for paid time off, training opportunities, and work/life balance as well. Most companies base paid time off on years of experience and have a set budget for training per employee. Since the pandemic, you can also negotiate for hybrid or remote work.
Use the online job search tools mentioned above to find out what similar companies are offering their employees. It’s much better to ask and be told “no” than to accept less than you made in your previous role. This is especially important for women and marginalized groups: employers are more concerned these days about creating an equitable employee experience, and some are proactively creating new pay equity programs. Take REACH, for example; we just interviewed a few HR leaders about the rating analysis system they created and implemented at this Oregon nonprofit.
Personal Branding for Career Advancement
We’ve already seen that personal branding is more than a passing trend. Millennials and Gen Z have a natural advantage because they have experience using social media and creating content on digital platforms. It only takes a bit of research to find out how to apply the skills you already have to your personal branding and job search efforts, and older generations are quickly learning to reinvent their brand for today’s job market.
Personal branding is more like a shift in career transformation that’s happening across most industries. It’s especially helpful for those who want to advance their careers by moving through several companies instead of staying in one place. Anywhere you go, most companies are looking for the same three things: education (formal or informal), experience, and exposure to ( challenging work projects, tasks, responsibilities, leadership positions, or communication skills). The storytelling you do in your resume, LinkedIn profile, and other job search materials create a strong personal brand by showcasing these three elements.
Finally, you must learn to show up differently to get promoted in remote work environments. Since you can’t talk to people face to face, you need to be responsive in whatever channels are available. Respond to emails as fast as possible while maintaining accuracy to show that you’re present. In virtual meetings, be sure to speak up and ask questions. Turn your mic on, make sure they can hear you, and turn on your camera when you want to make a strong impression. Doing high-quality work and asking for weekly meetings to check in with your manager is helpful, too.