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Work in the tech sector? You need a personal brand

Posted on 13/11/2018
by Michael John Oliver


It doesn’t matter if you’re a junior developer or a C++ consultant with 10 years on the clock – building a personal brand is an essential business tactic for everyone working in the tech sector

It was an Instagram post sent from the ninth layer of Hell.

Amid the steady stream of photos was a JPEG pollutant. It showed a shirtless fella in his middle years, splayed across a hammock, sipping a glass of icy water. The caption read: “Ice water… the deal breaker.”

And that was it. That was literally it.

What was this for? Was ‘Big Water’ finally making a play for the ice cube market? No—it was a post sent on behalf of a man named Steve to plug his real estate business.

Apparently, Steve – or a slick-haired cabal of marketing experts – thought this was the best way to sell houses.

Most techies I’ve met would balk at the idea of being an ‘Ice Water Steve’. But despite it being one of the worst things ever published online, the post belied a powerful truth: personal branding matters. And it’s a huge opportunity for anyone in the tech sector to do more than ‘get your name out there#’ – and something you can easily screw up.

Your personal brand journey begins in the elevator

Everybody has a personal brand. It’s comprised of unique qualities that define you. If you’ve ever had to write out a personal statement for your CV, or introduce yourself at a networking event, you’ve thought about your personal brand.

But people are complex mixes of many things. How do you pin down that inscrutable element called you?

The first thing to do is think of your elevator pitch. Tech-brand guru Rajesh Shetty says the key to a good elevator pitch is to bring your skills and expertise to life – but not to launch into a 10 minute monologue about your job history.

“How do you expect me to remember another ‘project manager’ or another ‘software engineer’? So many people offer the same skills. Why should I remember you? What could you do or say to ‘stand out’ from the crowd in a short time? What can you do to catch my attention and encourage me to want to know more about you?” he says. 

Here are the three big things to keep in mind when crafting an elevator pitch:

  1. Keep it short, clear and simple: The key to a great elevator pitch is ruthless efficiency. Don’t get bogged down with extraneous details and technical jargon. There will be enough time to talk about the intricacies of C++.
  2. Present yourself as an opportunity: The elevator pitch isn’t merely an introduction. You’re presenting yourself as the solution to a potential business problem.  The end goal is to quickly communicate your vision in less than one minute and inspire a desire to find out more.
  3. Find common ground: You have two ears and one mouth – use them in that ratio. Take a genuine interest in what they have to say and look for key things to hook onto. The elevator pitch isn’t one-way traffic. Your personal brand is only as strong as those who buy into you – and nobody wants to listen to someone prattle on about themselves.

Ride the thought leadership wave

You’ve nailed your elevator pitch – now comes the hard part. It’s easy to get started, but maintaining momentum is another matter.

In the world of personal branding, you’re either moving forward or moving backwards—there is no middle ground.

The best way to keep moving is to build a framework to share your expertise.  What original ideas or knowledge do you bring to your job, your company, your clients, or your industry?

“What could you do on a weekly basis to contribute towards your brand? What investments can you make to yourself so that you can see measurable progress in reasonable time?” writes Shetty.

Personal brand building is not a solo sport. How can others see, touch, and feel your brand? Do you like blogging? Is a weekly podcast your calling? Or do you fancy yourself as answering questions on Quora? At which “exclusive clubs” can you play a prominent role to get your name out?

In this part of the journey, you must “walk the talk” and live up to your brand promise. Nothing is worse than making a promise and not living up to it.

The social media conundrum

Good thought leadership needs good distribution. What are some of the ways techies can use the myriad of social channels to flesh out their personal brand?

Each channel needs its own strategy. Facebook is to YouTube is to Instagram as a newspaper is to TV and to radio. You need to research what content works best on what platform, and define meaningful metrics of success.

But the best channels for developers and programmes to flesh out is Github and Stack Exchange. It’s one thing to talk about your expertise, it’s another thing to show it off. Marketing influencer Leonard Kim says this has a positive knock-on effect.

“By showcasing their expertise, [developers] can generate social proof from other developers and programmers who vouch for their work. Always remember, when you offer to help a community, the community will also help you back,” he says.

Rinse and repeat. And repeat some more.

Building a personal brand is an arduous task. It requires time, effort and patience – plenty of patience. The tactics described are good habits anyone in the tech sector – especially those looking for new jobs – should consider as a matter of course.

But techies aren’t alone. Working with a recruitment partner offers a unique and quality-driven perspective on presenting yourself. At Client Server, our work is predicated on quality. We will only put you forward for a role if we believe you meet our strong standards of skills and expertise. By building a formidable personal brand, you’re signalling that you meet that criteria.

That’s 100 times better than a shirtless photo of you sipping icy water on Instagram.

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