Overcome the job hopping label: Personal brand to the rescue

Executives: Create your personal brand to self-insure against economic downturn and the job hopping label

Career management for six figure executives is about building and maintaining a personal brand. Take it from Audi and Iron Man. Sales for the very high priced custom-made car jumped 10% after the release of Tony’ Stark’s latest adventure. It’s about product placement. It isn’t about one incident on your resume.

Today, I received a request for information by a reporter doing a piece on job hopping. His premise, all too familiar, is that the current economy = job hopping.

Of course, this contrarian takes exception to that concept because I know many people who were laid off had been in their jobs for more than three years; layoffs and company closings are equal opportunity career killers.

To assume that a layoff or two in ones recent history signals to recruiters and hiring authorities you are a job hopper is equally bogus. It is the pattern that is evaluated. If you held jobs in your past for longer than 3 years and that is the pattern prior to the layoff, you are not seen as a job hopper.

Companies have always cleaved to the notion that an executive who has been in place long enough to see the results of decisions, make course corrections, learn from mistakes and leverage success are more desirable as employees than those who have not. With the fragility induced by the current economy, this policy is even more important.

Those executives with a visible track record will always triumph over candidates who do not have examples of their efforts to which they and others point. And that’s where you have control over your career. Establish and maintain your brand and you can overcome a few incidents of short tenure.

This isn’t a call to action to hire a branding expert or buy branding products and books. Branding for your career is straightforward and has only a few basic elements; it’s simple, but it isn’t easy.

First, establish your brand identity. What is it about your background that renders you unique and required by employers? Now, don’t slide into the typical empty phrases your competition uses: Bottom-line focused executive with track record delivering on-time, on-budget. Not only is that warn out, it is only your opinion and does nothing to distinguish you from all those other executives going after the same brand and jobs you want.

Powerful brands state your domain and special prowess: SaaS and cloud computing pioneer, world’s first scrum master, Strategic alliance guru, Career Coach with 98% success rate w/in six months for all clients, CFO who takes companies public, Director of products who gets PMs and engineers to collaborate.

Get the word out. Now that you know for what you want to be known, let the world know. Establishing a brand doesn’t happen over night. Take the steps that establish you as a thought leader in your domain.

Use Twitter. Select a name to indicate your domain. SaasGuy, MarketingMaven, PMwrangler. Get creative but make it speak for you. Then post links to articles and blogs on point to your domain. Make pithy comments and retweet other’s posts. Amass a community of shakers and movers in your domain. Be careful to be careful. Don’t post anything that may disrupt the view of you as a professional in your domain.

Use Facebook. Same as above. Manage your profile to include your recent success in your domain.

Create a LinkedIn profile. Create your presence as marketing tool for your domain. Learn to use LinkedIn to promote yourself, especially important when NOT looking for a job. Offer advice and support for those who are. Update your status frequently with links to posts and comments that indicate you are a thought leader in your domain.

Build and maintain a blog on topic. Don’t write well? Then don’t do it. Instead, use your blog as a directory to articles and blogs and commentary of others.

Comment on blogs and articles. This is a terrific way to communicate your expertise and find others who share your domain. Connect with them on Facebook and LinkedIn where possible. Forge email connections if it makes sense.

Volunteer in your domain. If you are a quality assurance executive, offer to help companies or people who struggle to get their Q/A teams up to speed with Agile. Perhaps you can conduct seminars on using social networking for marketing, or monetizing a blog.

Join LinkedIn groups. Chose those that support your domain and where other experts can be found. Participate in discussions and news.

Create LinkedIn ‘Answers’. Collect and connect to those who respond who are likely to be in positions of authority.

Write and promote white papers. Make sure it is on point and well edited. Then get your Twitter and Facebook friends to promote it for you. Invite all to use the ‘share’ function on your posts. (You can find a share bar online which you can incorporate into your piece.) Don’t want to write a white paper? Find those you feel are valuable and help promote them. Be sure to add your own comments on the value of said paper.

Volunteer at presentations and seminars. Your goal is to become part of the event and get invitations to speak or moderate at future events.

Attend local business events. Be a fixture at three or four ongoing events. Forge new friendships and don’t hang out exclusively with folks you already know. Make it a point to meet those who are standing alone. Volunteer to organize or promote such events that focus on your area of expertise.

Subscribe to HARO. Help a reporter out sends requests for experts on a huge variety of topics. Watch it daily for opportunities to be quoted in the media.

Read a book. Then go to Amazon and etc. to write a review.

Watch the local online technology press. Comment on articles where possible. Use your LinkedIn and Twitter addresses along with your blog URL.

Help others. There is nothing better to endear you to the hearts of fellow executives than lending a hand when they are in need.

Maintain and become active in your sports or country club. Hanging out with peers and those more senior in a non-work environment goes a long way towards building quality bonds. When folks ask what you do, use your brand statement. [I take companies public, I launch new products, I monetize high traffic sites, I sell advertising.]

Volunteer and take a visible position in a local charity. Those who are associated with charities are often featured in the press with mention of their day jobs.

Building your brand is important insurance against becoming invisible. Promotions come faster with higher pay when you appear to be a pillar of your domain’s community. Even during a recession and company downsizing, employers hire. They hire those people most visible with a track record that assures the hiring company you will be successful putting out their fires. Your brand is ‘fire fighter.’

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