Companies at the moment are constantly talking about “content marketing.” The idea is simple: by creating useful content for potential customers and clients, they can establish themselves as a leader in their field, helping them gain traction in their industry which ultimately helps them land clients.
If companies can use content marketing to establish themselves in their industry, can individuals do the same? As we learned from my interview with Marnix de Groot, the answer is yes. In fact, in the current “gig economy” where even full-time salaried employees are working more like freelancers, using content marketing to establish yourself is becoming ever more critical.
We also learned from Angie from IBM that most jobs aren’t posted, so the more excuses you have to chat with the people who do the hiring at companies, the greater the chance of uncovering job opportunities. And creating content is a great way to start conversations with these types of people.
But knowing where to start can be hard, so here are a few things to consider about developing your personal brand through content to get you going.
Is Google Working For or Against You?
Imagine yourself as a manager, and before you lay two very similar resumes. As part of your due diligence in hiring, you Google both of the candidates names.
Upon Googling candidate #1, not much comes up. A locked Facebook account with a selfie as the profile picture, their Twitter account retweeting random pop culture tweets and complaining about the weather, and their somewhat filled out LinkedIn account.
Upon Googling candidate #2, you find something totally different. Their Medium account pops up, and they have over 25 posts with thoughts about your industry and people commenting on their ideas. Their Linkedin profile is active, posting and liking industry related content. Their Twitter is also active and they are engaging with industry leaders, posting links to the articles they have written, and being retweeted. You even find them published on other industry sites.
Between the two candidates, which one are you more interested in bringing in for an interview? Which one do you expect might be able to bring you more value to the position they applied for? And thinking about international work, which one are you more confident in bringing in from overseas?
In 2017, being candidate #2 is a huge advantage. Not only does your employer know far more about you as a person, it shows you are engaged in thinking about your industry and the engagement your content receives on social platforms provides validation for your ideas. Publishing high-value content online demonstrates your initiative as well as illustrates that you have important tangential skills (effective writing, basic coding, social media outreach, etc.)
So having a strong web presence or personal brand is important, but how do you develop a personal brand in the first place?
Building A Personal Brand
In the most basic sense, when we talk about building a personal brand, we are talking about content marketing. In this case, the thing you are “marketing” is yourself. Essentially, what you want to be doing is sharing your ideas about your industry with professionals and “influencers” in your field, interacting with them, asking them questions, and using your content as a reason to reach out to them and begin a conversation related to your industry and, ultimately, you.
Here is a practical scenario as an example:
You are writing a post for your [Medium, Linkedin, industry blog] related to the industry that you are interested in. You would like to get a quote from Ms. Industry, a well-known leader in the industry. So you reach out to her on Twitter (using your professional Twitter account) and ask her if she would be available for a quote for your post [via email, ReplyAll.me, Skype]. Impressed by your previous work and your initiative, she happily agrees to chat with you.
Think about what happens in the scenario above. You not only receive awesome validation of your post by featuring direct quotes from an influencer, but you also make a powerful connection in your industry that now, after talking to you, knows way more about you than a cover letter or resume could ever reveal. And on top of THAT, when you share that post on, say, Linkedin, they will likely promote it in THEIR network, exposing you to other industry leaders.
Does this guarantee that they themselves are going to offer you a job? No, of course not. But that is why you rinse and repeat. With every connection you make, every conversation you have, you begin to build a higher value network that could yield opportunities you otherwise would have never had access to.
What Do I Write About?
I am just a college student! You might say, no one wants to hear what I have to say! How can I build a personal brand!?
You absolutely do have valuable ideas to share, if not just by the sheer fact of your age alone. Industry leaders want to know what young people entering their industry think about the industry. And through your studies you are asked to provide your thoughts on your industry all the time, so why not turn those ideas into published content that can help you land a job after college?
Schoolwork itself is similar to a blog in its function as an excuse to reach out to industry leaders. Your assignment is to write about how to handle a specific industry situation? Why not contact local industry leaders and ask them about their experiences with similar situations, throw in a little chit-chat and a little “let’s stay in touch” and you have just made a great connection my friend. Want to take it to the next level? If they are local, ask them if they would be willing to chat over coffee. You would be surprised at people’s willingness to meet with younger people and share their wisdom and experience.
The same applies if you are looking for jobs internationally. How do industry leaders in your country of interest handle the situation you have been tasked to write about for your class? Again, this is a chance to make connections without the awkwardness of just reaching out to introduce yourself. It provides substance to the interaction, and it will be helpful in enticing people to chat with you. Get on Skype and start chatting.
The job market in 2017 is much more gig-oriented no matter where you are in the world. You really have to have a freelancers mindset even if you are interested in a 9-5. Remember, candidate #1 and candidate #2 had similar resumes, but one was clearly more engaged in their industry, there was more information available about them as a person and how they think, and they were social proofed via social media engagement. This, coupled with getting an early start at networking provides a huge advantage in a job market where everyone is highly educated and credentialed. It is those who are proactive in developing a network and establishing themselves that have the advantage.