Personal brands aren’t just a buzzword; they’re part of the secret sauce to standing out in the job market. Not sure where to start? Here are some of the key steps to build a personal brand in tech.
Declare your niche
Tech pros thrive when they have a specialty. When you’re just starting out, this will likely be broad. But as you dig further into your studies or a new job, your niche can narrow depending on the type of projects you like to work on or techniques you like to employ. Example: “I’m a software developer who specializes in developing fintech solutions.”
Your niche is also connected to your overall goals. At what kind of company do you see yourself working? Is it a tech giant like Microsoft? A start-up? What type of job titles do you want to see on your résumé? What are your guiding values (creativity, freedom, honesty, engagement, etc.)?
All are key questions to answer when it comes to defining your personal brand. Spend some time putting the answers to these questions on paper.
Refine your résumé
Now that you’ve spent some time defining your niche, it’s time to take the first step toward putting together your personal brand. The best place to start? Your résumé.
Be sure to spruce up your skills section and add key experiences that make you not only an attractive candidate, but also align with your goals.
“You can add ‘sizzle’ to your résumé or LinkedIn profile without exaggerating or being outlandish,” says Doug Applegate, Director of Industry Engagement for Eleven Fifty Academy. “Your experience should be expressed in terms of made, saved, or achieved.”
Focus on success statements like: “6 months into my new role I identified and improved efficiencies in QA testing at a 20% increase of volume and lowered error rate 50%.”
Think about past projects you’ve worked on and their outcomes. Did it create savings? Lead to a policy change or new implementations? Did you beat your deadline?
If you’re just getting started, don’t discount past experiences! Use them as an opportunity to showcase your soft skills, like teamwork and communication skills.
Just as important as aligning with your own goals? Aligning with employer goals. Applegate suggests researching and reviewing job descriptions and company websites to fully understand their expectations and values.
At Eleven Fifty, our Career Services team is always on-hand to help you make sure your resume is in tip-top shape.
Once you have your polished résumé in hand, it’s time to translate your brand digitally.
Build a polished profile
In today’s world, social media is often considered the heart of a personal brand—and for good reason. Your profiles are basically your digital calling cards. How do you make the most of them?
Get a professional headshot. Just say no to bathroom selfies and casual vacation pics. Your profile picture should be crisp and clear, feature good lighting, and have a non-distracting background (think a brick wall or outdoor scenery like trees). And don’t forget to look put together! There’s no need for a suit, but skip the well-worn t-shirt from your high school class trip.
Start with LinkedIn. “A LinkedIn profile is truly one’s digital professional footprint in the tech industry,” says Abi Ambasco, Eleven Fifty’s Vice President of Growth. “In the Technology space, it is very likely for a hiring manager to look at your LinkedIn profile for a first impression before they review your résumé.”
Having a LinkedIn profile is, therefore, a networking necessity, and it’s one of the top items that will show up any time someone Google’s your name.
Translate your résumé onto your profile, making sure you fill out the appropriate experiences, skills, education, and certifications. This will make sure you have your best foot forward digitally while also boosting your searchability. After that, focus on one (or maybe two) other social media platforms. Focusing on too many can quickly become overwhelming and will be harder to maintain. If you’re more on the backend side of tech, we recommend Twitter. More visual tech pros, like app and web designers/developers, might consider Instagram.
Write a solid bio. LinkedIn gives you 2000 words to showcase your background, skill sets, strengths, and key information that helps you stand out among the sea of professionals. Other social platforms aren’t as generous, with Twitter giving you just 160 characters to share your story.
Start with a longer version—but definitely don’t feel pressured to write 2000 words, especially if you’re just getting started in your career path. (Here’s a round-up of some great examples from LinkedIn.) Then create a bite-sized version for the platforms with more restricted word or character counts. Keep LinkedIn a little more serious, but don’t be afraid to show a little bit more personality on other platforms such as Twitter.
Not sure where to start? Consider a few tried-and-true formulas, or mix and match to create the best version for you.
- What you do (Software developer) + a goal (looking for a job at a start-up) + a tie-in to skills or some idea of what that goal looks like for you (that allows me to use my Python skills and creatively problem solve).
- Title or aspiring title (Future software engineer) + a nod to your education or current role (@elevenfifty .NET student) + interests (love app development, all things #Indy, and my dog, Jeremy).
- Commentary about yourself (Passionate coder and dedicated recycler) + title (student at @elevenfifty) + what you do (building apps to solve complex problems and make life easier).
Develop your style
If you’re a .NET developer, having a highly defined visual brand probably isn’t all that important (though it could help you stand out!). But if web or UX design is your game, be sure to spend time building a strong visual presence with consistent colors, font styles, and imagery. Use those on your profiles.
Also, don’t forget that style is also verbal! The tone of the words you use play a role as you build bios and write social media posts.
Put your brand to work.
You’ve built a good foundation. Time to use it!
To get started, follow the companies that interest you, trade publications and blogs, and people you admire. Don’t be a wallflower; interact with them! People are quick to think a personal brand is just what you share, but it’s only half of the equation. Don’t underestimate the power of simply interacting with others’ content with thoughtful, positive, and valuable comments. Share their posts. Respond to their questions. Ask a few questions of your own! This is a great, less intimidating way to make connections, especially if in-person networking is scary for you. It’s also an ice breaker; if you’ve already chatted on Twitter a few times, it’s easier to introduce yourself at an event. (Hint, hint. You can start by interacting with Eleven Fifty Academy on Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, and/or Facebook!)
Outside of interactions, build your voice as an expert in your niche. Share your own work. Offer helpful tips and advice. Share links to articles that interest you and fit with your expertise. Pose your own questions to start conversations.
Meet and greet at networking events
In-person networking is still king—even in the tech world. Once you’ve established your brand, use your new-found confidence and get out there and mingle.
“Networking is one of the most important aspects in landing that first job,” says Sara Ferguson, a Career Services Coach at Eleven Fifty.
Make an effort to go to Meetups in your niche or larger tech community events (Powderkeg, Indianapolis Women Who Code, and IndyPy are just a few of the many options in Indy). Come prepared with a personal story based on your brand that helps you share who you are, what you do, and what kind of opportunities you’re seeking. Consider having networking business cards made which will help make a good impression on new contacts and friends you make along the way.
Intimidated by larger events? Ferguson also suggests engaging with alumni from your school or bootcamp, utilizing career services to find connections, and talking to friends and former coworkers. “Be curious!” she says. The path just might lead to your dream job.
Want to learn more about furthering your career in tech? Eleven Fifty Academy can help! Talk to one of our advisors today to learn more about tech careers and find your path.