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Whether you’re a soon-to-be graduate embarking on a job search or an experienced professional looking for a change, you may have discovered this about the finance and accounting job market: You can put your all your credentials and employment history in your resume and cover letter, but when it comes to the rest of your story, you need a personal branding statement.
It’s a story hiring managers want to hear. Forty-three per cent of Canadian CFOs interviewed in a Robert Half survey said they give equal weight to both specialized and nontechnical skills when evaluating candidates for staff-level accounting and finance positions.
They’re looking for more than skill sets. Your personal/professional brand also involves your experience, where you've worked, your career aspirations, your industry and your social involvement. In other words, your personal branding statement combines your resume and goals, and brings them to life for your job search.
What’s challenging is finding the best way to present such a complete picture of yourself. Making a personal brand statement that covers it all is worth your time investment. So what do you need to do to create this as you gear up for a new job?
1. Know yourself — and who you want to be
Creating a personal brand is essentially establishing a reputation that you’ll then market. So the first step is to decide who you are and who you want to be. It may help to think in terms of adjectives. What do you want to be known as? Hardworking? Approachable? Analytical? Dependable? Innovative? Adaptable? A leader? A visionary? Someone who instinctively sees the big picture?
The clearer picture you have of what you want to be, the stronger your personal brand will be — and the more you’ll impress hiring managers.
Also ask yourself how your view of yourself matches up with how others see you. Personal branding is the art and science of working to make these two perceptions line up exactly. One way to understand how others view you is to ask yourself: What is it that coworkers ask of you, in terms of advice? What positive reinforcement have you received in performance reviews? Is there feedback you’re getting that doesn’t quite line up with the self-image you want to present? If so, adjust and improve your performance until the outside perceptions align more closely with your own.
2. Start selling a product: you
Personal branding is essentially establishing a reputation that you can market online, with social media, blogs and other forms of virtual communication that you can use to display your career goals, successful projects and industry connections.
You’re likely to find a receptive audience with this content. In addition to matching candidates’ professional qualities with the job description, hiring managers are looking to match personality traits with the corporate culture at their organizations.
When you gear up to hit the job market, take a step back and consider how you want to market yourself in your application. Have you historically been a loyal employee? A trendsetter? Think about how you add value to your team and your company, and identify the skills and attributes your coworkers rely on that you bring to each project. Highlight these qualities when you draft your personal brand statement.
3. Make sure the stars align
One way to present yourself strategically is to make sure you create consistent profiles on social media that present the brand you want to showcase. Scrutinize your head shots and messages to make sure they are consistent, from LinkedIn to Facebook to Twitter. Social media platforms are excellent forums for networking, so list your interests, career aspirations, industry experience and community involvement, in addition to your skills. Just make sure to optimize your profiles and keep your personal brand consistent.
If you’ve set your sights on a senior-level finance career or CFO role, you may want to portray yourself as a thought leader. So be sure to produce and display original research, follow and comment on important industry trends, and build a strong reputation by becoming an active member of the finance community. You might even want to build your own website, with a blog that showcases your expertise in your profession.
When you search for your name online, the search results should present you in a professional light and tell a cohesive narrative. We’ve all heard stories about reputations hurt by inadvertent missives on social media. In finance and accounting, you’re dealing with your company's or your clients’ money, and that alone may nudge them to do a Google search for you. Be certain that none of your posted content is offensive or makes you appear as anything less than a mature professional. Keep your personal brand intact by setting your privacy settings so only close friends can view your political opinions and out-of-office antics.
4. Enliven your resume
Developing a brand is a good way to emphasize and support the declarations you make in your resume. If you say you have strategic-thinking strengths or excellent report-writing skills, then establish examples throughout your online presence. As far as your resume and cover letter, showcase your written communication skills and attention to detail by making sure these documents are error-free, clear, concise and esthetically pleasing. Promising to wow your new employers with innovative presentations while submitting a poorly formatted cover letter full of clichés won’t impress anyone.
In accounting and finance, it takes more than just a solid background to succeed. A personal branding statement can help you stand out from the crowd by demonstrating to prospective employers that you’re one of a kind. An accounting and finance career may begin with your diploma, but personal branding will take you to the next level.
Once you’ve designed your personal branding, it’s time to make it part of your daily actions. Practice presenting yourself in person the way you want to be seen. That is, bring your brand to life.
Looking for more employment tips? Check out more articles on the Robert Half blog.