Two coworkers once asked software developer Safwan Hak if they could use him as a professional reference. He agreed, asking if they'd each send over their CVs for him to review. When the résumés arrived, they were almost identical. "One [worker] was much more talented," says Hak. "But the CV didn't show that."
His response was 9Sharp, a profile generator that curates all of a user's social media accounts in one place. The Montreal-based company believes that one's personal brand is defined more by online content and less by what fits on a sheet of paper. "People think their last job at a big-name company makes them different, but it doesn't," says Hak. "When people start looking through the social media they use, whether it's Twitter, Instagram, YouTube--they could all be used to build a brand."
Check out his top four tips for building (and differentiating) your personal brand.
1. Have something to say
In this day and age, online content is a must. Even if a thought-provoking post isn't your style, sharing others' content shows that you're engaged in a greater conversation. "We post creative, original content online," Hak says. "Even just a 140-character tweet tells someone who you are."
2. Follow the 70/30 rule
While it's important to stay professional, don't be afraid to share some personal thoughts or information via social media. After analyzing the most successful 9Sharp profiles, Hak found that employers were most attracted to profiles containing 70 percent professional information and 30 percent personal information.
3. Go beyond what's expected
Résumés are saturated with general descriptions. Adding social media elements helps enhance the overused template. "If you're on a sales team, your CV is going to look like 50 other people involved in the projects," says Hak. Rather than just mentioning your experience, he suggests setting yourself apart by providing a video of a presentation or writing a blog post about a specific project.
4. Fake it 'til you make it
Sometimes establishing a personal brand, Hak admits, is a bit of a self-fulfilling prophecy. "Because you get to arrange your profile how you want, you determine how to present yourself," he says. If the self-made reflection isn't the most authentic at first, eventually the brand you're portraying will become a reflection of you.