If you’re unemployed, your number one focus is probably on finding a job. Why, you might think, should you even bother thinking about your “personal brand” at a time like this?
Well, “when it comes to job searching, personal brand is everything!” says Career Coach Angela Copeland. If you’re going to find a job, you want to project your best self, which is what your personal brand is all about.
After a confidence-rattling period of unemployment, though, projecting your best self can be a challenge. However, it’s also a big opportunity. Now that you’ve stepped back from the working world, you have the chance to reinvent yourself however you see fit, which is key in helping you land the right job.
Not sure where to start? Try these nine tips.
1. Update Everything
“Your resume, cover letter, LinkedIn profile, and online portfolio website are all part of your personal brand,” Copeland says, so updating them all to reflect your latest achievements is key. Beyond just listing your experience, though, make sure that all of these materials tell a cohesive story of who you are as an employee.
A couple additional items you may want to consider: “a one-page networking resume is a necessary tool when you attend meetings to onboard new and advertise to prospective clients,” says Resume Writer & Career Transition Coach Wendi Weiner. And if you’re further along in your career, consider “pairing it with an executive bio as this is the perfect complement to an executive portfolio, particularly for speaking engagements and publications,” Weiner says.
2. Monitor Your Online Reputation
For better or for worse, recruiters and hiring managers don’t just look at application materials when evaluating candidates — they’re also increasingly turning to the internet.
“Every element of a job application — resume, cover letter, references, etc. — along with anything that can be found online about you are all associated with your personal brand. Potential employers will look up your online presence to understand more about who you are, so it is important that you run periodic online searches of your name to see what pops up,” advises Mary Grace Gardner, career strategist at The Young Professionista.
Don’t like what you see? “Check the privacy on your social media accounts,” Copeland suggests. “In today’s political climate, you want to be judged for your skills and expertise, rather than your opinions about the latest news.” In addition, “ensure you’re using a professional looking profile photo on sites such as LinkedIn. Be sure your LinkedIn profile is up to date and represents you in a positive light.” And “if you don’t have an online portfolio site, this could be a great time to create one… check out services such as Squarespace that make building a website fairly straightforward,” Copeland says.
3. Consider Consulting a Professional
If you find yourself stuck in a rut after unemployment, unsure of where you want to go and how you can make yourself attractive to employers, you may want to “consult with a certified resume writer and career coach,” Weiner says. “They will see grey areas of your career and help [you recognize] your best talents and skill sets as well as how to communicate and convey them properly.”
After all, Weiner points out, “today, a resume is more than just a career history. It has to be a strategic marketing document that effectively markets you.”
4. Educate Yourself
Gaps in your resume might make employers nervous, but if you can prove that you spent that down time constructively, then you’ll be in a much better position.
“What you do while unemployed speaks volumes about your personal brand. Did you waste time or seize the opportunity to continue growing?” Gardner says.
One of the ways you can make the most of periods of unemployment is by “enrolling in a class to sharpen your skills, volunteering for an organization you care about, or attending events in your industry,” Gardner suggests. “Not only will it help keep yourself busy, but it will also help with building positive momentum and adding to your personal brand.”
5. Look to Influencers
If you’re having a tough time revitalizing your personal brand — perhaps you’re unsure of exactly what message you’re trying to convey, or simply don’t know how to convey it — try turning to others for inspiration.
“Spend some time looking up influential people in your industry: What’s on their LinkedIn account? What books are they tweeting about? What issues do they care about? Pay close attention to discern how you can apply these things as you revamp your own social media accounts and job application materials,” Gardner suggests.
6. Boost Your Confidence
Unemployment can seriously shake your confidence, but when you’re searching for a job, you certainly don’t want that self-consciousness or uncertainty to become part of your personal brand — it’s a sure way to turn employers off. To combat that, you’ll have to prepare yourself mentally.
“First you must have an attitude that [you’re] adequate in applying for whatever you are going for… that supports you ‘expecting acceptance’ for who you are and what you bring to the table,” says Debra Benton, Executive Coach and author of The Leadership Mind Switch: Rethinking How We Lead in the New World of Work. “If you don’t expect acceptance they likely won’t give it to you. If you do expect acceptance, you just might get it.”
“Remember what makes you unique and valuable to an employer and to those you work alongside,” adds Weiner. Continue to reiterate positive self-talk on a daily basis.”
If you’re still struggling to project confidence, there’s nothing wrong with faking it until you make it.
“Stand up straight and tall, keep your head level on your shoulders (not tilted to one side), look people in the eye and above all keep a small smile on your face. Doesn’t have to be a big ole grin but a look that is ‘awake, alert, alive, confident, and comfortable’,” Benton says.
7. Don’t Give Up
Nobody likes being rejected, but the odds are that you’re going to have to apply to a handful of companies before you get a job offer — so you have to maintain optimism throughout the whole process.
“Experiencing unemployment is not only financially challenging but mentally challenging as well. Even if you left your previous employer willingly, you may find yourself in a state of vulnerability once you expose yourself to the possibility of rejection,” Gardner says. “The most important tip to overcoming unemployment is to be persistent in your job search while continuing to grow your skills and tapping into your network.”
It may take a while before you find the right fit, but once you do, it will all have been worth it.