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Personal branding for career success
Personal branding for career success

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2 What are employers looking for?

The job market is constantly changing, so keeping on top of the latest trends and topics can be very useful if you’re trying to promote yourself to employers and want to be a step ahead of your competitors.

Of course, all employers will be looking for different things, based on the culture of their organisation, the work they do, the industry they represent, etc., but below are some issues that are common to many.

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Figure 2 Looking carefully


This is a topic that has gained traction with employers in recent years. Utilising the strengths of their employees is a win-win situation – staff who use their strengths experience greater job satisfaction and are more committed to the company, and organisations benefit from their higher levels of engagement.

As you’ve already spent some time identifying your strengths in Week 4, you are in a stronger position to promote them to potential employers. When you can align your strengths with those prioritised by an employer, you know that you’ll be a good fit for their organisation.

TargetJobs (n.d.) explains another reason why recruiters of new graduates are particularly interested in strengths:

It is also argued that strengths-based interviews and assessments provide graduates from all socio-economic backgrounds with an equal opportunity to succeed. The answers to the questions don’t require you to have multiple examples from extracurricular activities or internships – examples that might be easier for students from more advantaged backgrounds to obtain.

They go on to list some typical strengths-based interview questions, including:

  • What motivates you?
  • What would your perfect day look like?
  • How do you judge success?
  • If a colleague was struggling to make a complex decision, what would you do to help?
  • Given a choice, would you prefer to be giving a presentation or double-checking data?

Key skills

There are many reports that look at the skills employers need. Some are sector specific, and others are more generic. For example:

  • a.Following a recent survey of 2000 business leaders, LinkedIn Learning (Petrone, 2018) presented the following top four soft skills they’d like to see their employees learn:
    • Leadership
    • Communication
    • Collaboration
    • Time management

    If any of these are your strengths, promote them clearly in your personal brand.

  • b.The CBI/Pearson Education and Skills Survey (2017, p. 13) reports that over a third of employers surveyed were dissatisfied with the self-management skills and resilience of their graduate recruits, as well as their lack of business and customer awareness, and international cultural awareness. If these are strengths for you, highlight them in your personal brand.

It is important to note, that while using your strengths is a key element of achieving greater job satisfaction, your other skills – gained through previous learning and experience − also play a crucial role in your daily life at work. Even if something doesn’t fill you with energy and enthusiasm, that doesn’t mean you can’t be good at it. The point is that choosing a role that allows you to feel highly engaged for some of the time, motivates you to deal with the less interesting stuff.

Work style

As the workplace becomes more flexible, the standard 9-5 day in the office is changing.

For example, with the explosion of digital communication, an increasing number of organisations are encouraging their staff to work remotely.

Another facet is the ‘gig economy’, where workers get paid for the ‘gigs’ they do. More of us are working for ourselves and companies are starting to realise the advantages of bringing in freelancers to work with permanent employees for key projects. This way, they can benefit from your expertise without paying into your pension or giving you annual leave etc., but you can also benefit from the variety and flexibility this gives you in your career.

Also, a short-term contract gives the employer an opportunity to assess and be impressed by your skills and experience, and can potentially lead to longer term employment, if that’s what you are looking for.

If flexibility appeals to you, be sure to research their attitude towards it when you conduct your target audience research. Some employers will be more flexible than others.

Activity 2 Analyse an organisation

Timing: Allow about 25 minutes

Find an organisation that you would be interested in working for. Look at their website or social media pages and try to analyse what they are looking for from their employees. For example:

  • What is their vision or mission?
  • What are their values?
  • What are the skills/strengths they prioritise when recruiting? (You could look at their current job adverts and associated job descriptions to identify common themes.)
  • What issues are they are facing at the moment? (Social media feeds can be useful for that type of commentary.)

Make some notes in the box below:

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Now think about the personal brand story you put together in Week 4, Activity 6 [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] , where you highlighted your values, strengths and personality traits. Are there any parallels?


This is a good way to assess whether your brand aligns with that of the organisation you are reviewing. It will rarely be a perfect match, but if there are several similarities − for example they list your strengths as skills they are looking for or you can see your values reflected in what they say − it could be worth adding them to your target audience list.

When you know what sector or industry you want to work in, focus your attention there. Professional bodies and trade journals will often commission relevant research, such as about sector skills shortages, that will inform your own engagement with employers in those areas. If you have a strength that fills a skills gap in your sector, highlighting that will make you an even more attractive candidate.

As stated at the beginning of this section, the job market is in a constant state of flux, so it will be important to keep up with how things continue to develop in the future. Read on to find out more.