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Personal branding for career success
Personal branding for career success

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1 Job applications

Note: the emphasis here is on how to convey your personal brand effectively in your applications, not on the actual process of filling them in.

There are many online resources available to help you fill out an application form or write a CV effectively. Visit the Open University Careers and Employability page on CVs, application forms and interviews [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] to find out more.

Application forms

Most application forms require some form of personal statement, outlining how you meet the requirements for the job. The usual process is to go through the job description and person specification for the role and ensure that you address their key requirements as you write your statement.

If you find it difficult to focus on your personal brand as you write, start by responding to the role requirements first – detailing your relevant experience, etc. as you normally would. After you’ve finished the first draft, read through to check for the prominence of your personal brand and look for opportunities to reinforce it throughout.

For example, the job requires attention to detail and you also want to emphasise your person-centred values. Rather than simply stating that you have good attention to detail and giving some evidence of that, you might say instead:

I pay close attention to detail because I want to ensure that individuals can engage with the service I provide as quickly and easily as possible. They can then focus their attention on the things that are important to them and their work. For example, I recently produced a well-received user manual for our email system.

Thus, you have emphasised your personal strength – concern for others. You’ve also explained the benefit to the employer of this behaviour, i.e. saving colleagues’ time, and you have given an example that they can explore further in your interview.

The aim is to make yourself standout from other candidates enough to be invited for interview.

Competency-based questions

Some application forms ask a series of competency-based questions focusing on the key skills the organisation is looking for. In Week 5, Activity 3, you answered a question about adaptability. This is a typical example. The format is slightly different to that of a personal statement, but the same principle applies. Try to ensure that your personal brand is reflected in each answer.

Strengths-based questions

If the questions on an application are strengths based, they will focus on what you enjoy doing rather than what you can do, e.g. ‘Describe an occasion when you achieved something you were really proud of’. This is a perfect opportunity to share your personal brand. Refer back to the work you did on identifying your strengths in Week 4 and make sure to include some of them in your answer. Remember to also keep in mind the strengths the employer is looking for, so you can make your answer as relevant to them as possible.

We see a person’s hand holding a pen, poised to begin filling out an application form.
Figure 1 Filling out an application form

CVs or resumes

The personal profile or personal objective, which comes at the top of your CV, can be easily adapted to incorporate your personal brand. It should give the employer a clear introduction to your CV, grabbing their attention and encouraging them to read on.

The mistake that many people make with their personal profile is to write something vague and generic. It needs to be unique to you and contain some concrete facts to back up what you are saying. It also needs to be consistent with the content of the rest of your CV.

Activity 1 A personal profile for my CV

Timing: Allow about 10 minutes

Here is an example of a typical personal profile:

I’m a dedicated team player with retail experience. I have successfully managed a small concession in a large department store and have demonstrated my ability to make a profit. I am an excellent motivator and can work effectively with a wide range of customers and colleagues.

How could personal brand be made clearer in that profile? What facts could be included? Write your suggestions in the box below.

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The following example, which incorporates both personal brand and concrete facts to back up what is being said, would give a much stronger introduction to a CV:

I have three years of retail experience, mainly in women’s clothing. In my current Concession Manager role, I enjoy using my creativity and strong communication skills to inspire both colleagues and customers with my ideas and suggestions. This has resulted in a 20% profit increase in only four months.

An employer might draw the following conclusions:

  • This person isn’t just saying that they are a good communicator, they have evidence to back that up.
  • This is someone at the beginning of their retail career, but already with a record of increasing profits – very interesting!
  • This individual has thought about their strengths, cares about colleagues and customers and is good at coming up with ideas.
  • I want to know more about those ideas, so I’ll look further down the CV to read more about the Concession Manager role.

Your personal brand can be reflected throughout your CV. For example, you can highlight key strengths throughout your employment history and perhaps demonstrate your values by discussing your voluntary work, etc.

The key to writing an effective CV is tailoring it to each employer you send it to. Aligning your personal brand with their company values or the strengths you know they look for in their employees should put you ahead of much of your competition. If you support this approach with evidence that demonstrates when you have used these values, strengths, etc., you’ll be ticking a lot of the employers’ boxes.

In the next section, you’ll look at promoting your brand in writing during some of the more regular interactions we have in the workplace each day.