Home Online Business Blog Building a Personal Brand for Career Success: Networking, Social Media & Thought Leadership

Building a Personal Brand for Career Success: Networking, Social Media & Thought Leadership

02 Nov
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‘Branding’ is a term you may associate more with organizational marketing than career development. If you think about a brand in the traditional sense, then you'll recognize how it often has a guiding mission statement, a strong visual identity and a unique value proposition.

However, taking a structured approach to marketing yourself and your career can differentiate you from other candidates when you’re job hunting. Treating yourself as a brand, using many of the same principles, will help people quickly understand who you are, what you offer and why they should want to hire you or work with you. It can also help you build a reputation and advance throughout your career.

This blog will outline the importance of personal branding and the steps you can take to build your brand and promote yourself in person and online.1

The Importance of Personal Branding

The internet opened up many educational and professional opportunities that weren’t available before its existence, but it’s also created a far more competitive environment. When you apply for a job, you no longer compete with local candidates—you’re compared to applicants from all around the world.2

Personal branding can help you stand out in a crowded job market. With self-branding, you can create a strong professional reputation and position yourself as a leader in your field. Finding avenues to share your knowledge, skills and experience allows you to relate to your audience and build valuable relationships.3

Before you can start branding yourself, you must be clear about who you are. Begin by analyzing your skills and talents, tracking the emerging themes and determining what you want to be known for. If you’re trying to break into a new industry, figure out what skills you need. Break big goals up into smaller, achievable goals to avoid getting discouraged. Finally, define your niche so you’ll know who your target audience is. You don’t want to appeal to everyone; you want to create a solid reputation in a specific area.4

Building Connections Through Networking Events

Networking may seem old-fashioned in the digital world, but it’s a staple in career development advice because it works. Networking events don’t have to occur in person, but forging a personal connection is often easier face-to-face. When building your brand through networking events, follow these steps:

Define Your Value Proposition

Before even setting foot at a networking event, know your value proposition; that is, what makes you different and why people should want to connect with you. Whether you're a marketing expert skilled at boosting engagement or a tech-savvy coder who can optimize systems like no one else, your unique skills should be at the forefront of your networking strategy. This clarity helps you approach the right people and engage in meaningful conversations that both parties find valuable.5

Choose the Right Events

Events such as industry conferences or local meetups offer excellent platforms for showcasing your personal brand. The key is to be present and engage deeply rather than spreading yourself too thin. Select events and meet with industry influencers that align with your career goals and personal brand. The time you invest in these events should yield new relationships, fortify existing ones and deepen peoples' understanding of who you are and what you bring to the table.6

Nurture Your Connections

Use platforms such as LinkedIn to stay connected. However, go beyond the standard "Congrats on the new job" interactions. Share articles, research and opportunities that your contacts will find beneficial. Offer to introduce them to other professionals who can help them achieve their goals. By consistently providing value, you solidify your personal brand as not just self-serving but focused on mutual growth and benefit.7

Expanding Your Reach With a Social Media Strategy

Social media platforms give you the power to reach more people than you could ever meet in person. Through social media marketing, you can communicate your ideas and provide value consistently while building a library of resources. Being active on social media accounts also allows you to stay on top of your online reputation management and engage directly with your network, giving you more control over how you're perceived professionally.

Choose the Right Platforms

You’ll exhaust yourself, with little to show for it, if you try to remain active on every social media site. Instead, choose the platforms that are most relevant to your industry, and use different platforms for different purposes. For example, you can use LinkedIn to share thought leadership articles on trending topics, and use Instagram to post more personal or casual information. For business leaders, Facebook and X (formerly Twitter) are two of the top social media sites.8

Create a Content Strategy

A well-thought-out content strategy is the backbone of your social media presence. You'll need to identify the types of content (e.g., articles, videos, infographics) that align with your brand and resonate with your audience. Again, consider the platform: TikTok and Instagram are great for short videos, while a microblogging platform like WordPress is good for in-depth analysis on industry trends.

Consistency is key, so plan your posts in advance and maintain a regular posting schedule.9 Download social media applications on your mobile devices so that you can post and share with ease. However, social media users will quickly tire of you if you post too frequently. Aim for 1-2 times per week as a starting point.

Showcase Your Expertise with Thought Leadership

Thought leaders are the go-to experts in their fields. You can establish your authority in your field in many ways, but content creation and speaking engagements are two of the most efficient methods for proving your industry expertise.

Content Creation

Mixing educational content, industry insights and a glimpse into your professional and personal life will create a well-rounded online persona. A steady stream of relevant information will keep you top of mind, and any high quality content that gets shared will others will reinforce your brand—public validation is a powerful tool. When people share your work with others, you'll reach new audiences in the most cost effective way possible: organically.

Publishing original content such as articles, blogs or white papers, even if it's just on your personal website, can significantly elevate your status as a thought leader. Blog-writing lets you create material that addresses pressing issues, provides actionable insights or deciphers complex subjects in your industry, all of which can position you as a reputable resource. Each published piece serves as a tangible exhibit of your expertise and understanding. It also creates a library of valuable content that professionals in your field can reference, making your personal brand synonymous with industry know-how.10

If you want to delve into content marketing, then consider a newsletter or webinar series. Invite conversation with other industry experts and host open forums for discussion. Don't forget to use your social media posts to drive to this long-form content to increase website traffic.

Speaking Engagements

Speaking at conferences, hosting webinars or appearing on podcasts allows you to share your expertise on a larger scale and often with a targeted audience. Public speaking offers a platform to bring your content to life, engage with your audience in real time and receive immediate feedback. Don’t wait to be invited to speak; create your own opportunities, like hosting an Instagram Live session.11

Accelerate Your Career Success With William & Mary’s Online MBA Program

If you want to become a business leader in almost any industry, an MBA from the highly respected online program at William & Mary will give you the knowledge, skills and credibility you need to achieve your goals. Trained in several key business areas, you'll provide value to wherever you go.

The Online MBA program from William & Mary allows you to stand out in a competitive hiring market. Our faculty and curriculum are world-renowned, and the flexibility of our online program is designed to accommodate working professionals. Connect with one of our admissions outreach advisors to learn more.