By Paul Flaharty, executive director of the marketing and creative practice at global talent solutions firm Robert Half which connects professionals with companies hiring in marketing, creative, digital, advertising and public relations. His primary responsibility is to develop and oversee the growth strategy for the company’s marketing and creative contract talent solutions teams across the United States.
If you’re a designer or creative professional on the move, you’re not alone. Recent research for Robert Half’s Demand for Skilled Talent report found that 54% of marketing and creative professionals are looking for, or planning to look for, a new job in the first half of 2023.
One way to stand out from the crowd and get recruiters and managers to notice you is by crafting and promoting a personal brand that highlights your creativity, experience and professionalism. Think of it as the image you project of yourself, showing potential employers who you are, what professional skills and experience you have and why they should choose you over other hopefuls.
Consciously or not, you’re already projecting your personal brand through the content you post, share and like on social media, and perhaps even in the way you interact with colleagues. Now you need to up the ante. You need to make sure the story you’ve been telling is cohesive and compelling, something that will cause hiring managers who glance at your profile or portfolio want to look more closely.
Here are my top seven tips for building a strong personal brand.
1. Figure Out Who You Are
Define who you are as a designer or creative professional, taking stock of your skills, experience and personal attributes. Questions to ask yourself include:
- What type of projects do I enjoy most?
- Who are my ideal clients?
- Which sectors do I want to focus on?
- What motivates me?
Develop a list of words that reflect your brand — who you are personally and professionally.
Some may criticize this as making your brand all about you, you, you. But you’re not being selfish if you set out with the objective of making your brand an approach to addressing the needs of your customers or, as a job seeker, the hiring manager. Knowing yourself is vital for building a solid personal brand that’s realistic and relatable.
2. Identify Your Unique Offering
Think about what you bring to the table as a designer or creative professional that no one else does. Is it a unique perspective that makes clients sit up when you’re pitching concepts? Perhaps you’re a whiz at everything from Adobe Creative Cloud to Canva. Or maybe you stay calm and steady when everyone else is on the brink of panic. Whatever it is, make that part of your professional persona.
3. Be Your Own Client
Your brand may be personal, but you’ll want to treat this like a professional branding exercise to achieve the best results. You’re both the creative and the client in this scenario, so be prepared to throw out early ideas that don’t feel right, just as a client might. This can be a drawn-out process, so block out time in your schedule to concentrate on the project rather than trying to squeeze it in during pockets of free time.
4. Craft Your Key Message
Write a personal branding statement targeting potential employers. It’s up to you how long or short you make it, but a good rule of thumb is to aim for a maximum of three concise sentences describing what makes you unique and why you should be chosen over all the other job seekers out there.
To tell a compelling story, use descriptive, conversational language (“I’m passionate about helping clients push the envelope in their advertising campaigns”) rather than vanilla statements of fact (“I have experience in working with many clients”).
Don’t try to be someone you’re not. Stay true to yourself and have the confidence that it’s your skills, experience and personality that will stand out.
5. Personalize All Your Job Search Materials
Now comes the fun part — sketching designs to represent your brand. Whether it’s a typographical treatment of your name or a conceptual graphic, try to find a look that matches your creative niche and professional story. Aim to make your visual brand consistent across all your job search materials, including your portfolio, website and resume.
6. Create A Stand-out Digital Portfolio
To catch the eye of busy managers, showcase your skills with a digital portfolio that really pops, using your new personal branding statement as the introduction.
Start by selecting seven to 10 of your strongest samples that best represent your skills and are tailored to the target company. Include detailed caption information on each sample to add context about your contribution to the work and your creative process. Put your site to the test on as many browser versions and platform you can before sharing it. You may also want to ask a friend or two to browse through your site and offer feedback.
7. Curate and Refine Your Brand
Many employers look at candidates’ online profiles during the hiring process, so it’s important to go through your professional and private profiles and curate your posts. After all, past versions of yourself and online behavior can impact how you are perceived today.
Now that you’ve worked out your key message, add it to your LinkedIn profile and resume to achieve consistency in your branding. Far from being static, your brand will evolve as your design or creative career develops, so revisit it every two or three years to see if it needs a refresh.
An effective personal brand creates a strong impression that quickly tells prospective employers all the essential things they need to know about you. In a competitive hiring market, it can make the difference between that dream job going to you or another job seeker.