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Rani Wise, DMSB’11, is the Founder and CEO of Rani Wise Consulting, a boutique marketing and consulting agency that specializes in supporting women and minority-led small businesses. Rani has worked with small business owners for over a decade, taking leadership roles that directly contributed to their growth. She has a unique understanding of the challenges small teams face to grow, and the need for solutions that address limitations in time, resources, and budget. Rani has participated in new business launches, successful crowdfunding campaigns, half a million dollar fundraisers, the winning of local awards and national press recognitions with her clients. She also hosts and produces the, “Woman-Owned Woman-Operated” podcast, which puts a spotlight on hardworking and inspiring female founders navigating the day-to-day of their small businesses.

For job seekers these days, a paper resume is not enough. As more and more hiring managers look to the internet to learn about the candidates they are considering, job seekers have an opportunity to present themselves in more creative ways, extending beyond past experiences and schooling, and presenting themselves as their brand. Companies use branding through social media and websites all the time to tell consumers who they are and why they are better than the competition. They become so distinctive that you recognize logos, slogans, or even colors.

Apply a branding strategy to your professional image to convince others you are the best person for the role. It will distinguish you from other candidates and position you to create connections with the people you need to achieve your goals. Using this five-step guide, create your professional brand and use it to land your dream job.

Step 1: Define your professional and career goals

Whether you’re aspiring to take on a new position at your current company or looking to enter a brand new industry, define tangible goals to help focus your efforts and save time. You should know without a doubt when these goals are accomplished, so avoid more general statements like, “loving your job.”  These goals should be specific and measurable, and may include personal goals that affect your professional career.

Example goals:

  • A financial goal, “I’d like to make $150,000 a year plus an annual bonus”
  • A promotion goal, “I’d like to make partner by my third year as an associate”
  • A personal goal, “I’d like to move to California in the next 3-5 years”

Step 2: Identify your unique qualities and accomplishments

When applying for your dream job, you need to stand out from other applicants while possessing the required job qualifications. Start by identifying what makes you unique from others who will likely apply for the role. Do you have specific experiences that make your approach to the work or company different from others? Have you won awards or received recognitions in the past? This list can also include personality traits that make you distinctive. Be sure that your resume bullets reflect your impact and convey your unique skills and expertise. For interviews, think about 5 things you want interviewers to remember and develop examples that illustrate your strengths.

Example strengths:

  • For new graduates, “I studied abroad in Spain and therefore am comfortable with new languages and cultures.”
  • For lawyers, “I specialize in data privacy and possess unique knowledge and experiences in the field.”
  • For freelancers, “I am self-motivated, entrepreneurial, and work very well independently.”

Step 3. Develop personas for the groups of people you need to achieve your goals

To best communicate with the decision-makers who will help you reach your goals, you need to know more about who they are and what they value. First, make a list of the people you want to target, who can help you succeed. This could be firm partners, hiring manager, development team, your current boss, or others.

Then, for each group, identify the following characteristics to the best of your ability:

  • Demographic information: age, title, location
  • Day to day activities: responsibilities, their goals
  • How they gather information: newspapers, industry publications, billboards
  • What they value: education, experience, network

By understanding these decision-makers and their behavior, you can position yourself to communicate your professional brand more effectively.

Step 4. Create the foundation for your brand

Write a tagline and biography that incorporates the unique qualities and skills identified in Step 1, while focusing on what is valued by the personas in Step 3. Adapt each when adding them to your online profiles and resume based on who is most likely to read it. Remove or hide online profiles that are not consistent with your professional brand and may distract from the important qualities you are featuring.

Examples of creative taglines from Twitter bios or LinkedIn headlines:

  • For a community leader: ‘People always talk about communities, but I actually build them” @isadwatson
  • For a consultant/educator: ‘Because not everything fits into a box’ @AkIkwuakor
  • For a marketer: ‘Popularized unicorns in marketing’ @larrykim 

Write your biography in the third person and provide more details on your education, experience, motivation, and vision. These can be added to your LinkedIn bio or used on a company website.

Step 5. Grow and refine your brand

Identify the qualities and experiences valued by the personas in Step 3 that you don’t currently possess and work toward them. This will help you choose how best to spend your time and see results in a shorter time frame. If having a professional image is important, invest in a professional photo, website, or logo. If having references from past clients or managers will make you stand out from other candidates, collect them on sites like LinkedIn. If you need published work to validate your writing skills, submit articles to publications or start a blog. Set short-term goals for yourself that will help grow the list in Step 1. Remember that your career path will evolve, so assess your identity and goals often to keep your professional brand relevant and working for you.

Start building your professional brand today, and use your resume, online profiles, and publications to share your professional journey with others. The more people believe in and understand your professional brand, the more likely they are to present you with valuable opportunities and experiences.