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Advice / Job Search / Finding a Job

Unemployed? The Right (and Wrong) Way to Brand Yourself

I recently came in contact with a former technology executive turned job seeker. He was navigating a lengthy, frustrating job hunt, and not surprisingly, he was mad, depressed, and growing somewhat panicked.

I knew this about him before we’d even talked, because he’d been all over a couple of the LinkedIn Groups I follow, lambasting the world for not realizing how amazing he is.

But interestingly, when I actually talked to him—for as loud as he was coming across via social media—he didn’t seem at all confident in what he had to offer. He wasn’t clear on his target market. And he certainly wasn’t going out of his way to earn favor with the influential technology players in his city.

Instead, the unemployed job seeker was branding himself, all over the Internet, as a difficult, indignant guy who hated recruiters and hiring managers.

That’d be a prime example of how not to brand yourself when you’re unemployed.

So what does the other end of the spectrum look like? As terrifying as it may be when you’re out of work, this is no time to run for the hills or come undone. Instead, consider these key strategies to help you brand yourself well.

1. Believe in Your Value

If you aren’t convinced of your own professional value, how on earth do you think you’re going to brand yourself as a confident, capable candidate? Stop at nothing to believe down to your core that you’re worth the opportunities you’re pursuing, and that, while you may be in a tough situation, you’re still an exceptional professional and human being. If you can’t muster this, you won’t have an easy time convincing others.

2. Be Mindful of How You Present Yourself on Social Media

I see the biggest “personal brand sabotage” violations in LinkedIn group discussions. Newsflash, job seekers—the discussion threads you’re jumping into to bemoan your situation? Yes, we hiring managers are participating in (or at least monitoring) these same discussions. Your personal brand will be much stronger if you use these same social media outlets to present yourself as passionate in and informed about your field. Start interesting discussions, share relevant articles, and talk about something other than your job search.

3. Come to Networking Events With Goals

Even if it’s hard to muster the energy to attend a networking event, if you’re going to invest the time in going to one, plan in advance what you want to convey, accomplish, and get out of the deal. Don’t just show up hoping that something magical will happen—magic is much more likely to happen if you’re prepared. How will you communicate who you are and what you’re seeking? Who do you want to be sure to meet? What information do you want to leave with? The most impressive people I’ve met at career networking events were those who demonstrated zest, were clear about their missions, and made a genuine effort to engage in the event and conversations.

4. Add Value to Others (Especially People Who Could Help You)

When you’re unemployed, it’s absolutely understandable if you’re in “all about me” mode. But you’ll serve yourself far better if you find every opportunity to help and add value to people who could help you land the next opportunity. Give to get—but really, give to give. It can pay off handsomely in the long run, sometimes in the most unexpected ways. Share an idea, lend a hand, or make an introduction that could be beneficial to another person. And watch what starts to happen.

5. Know When to Let Go

As a recruiter, when a job seeker calls or emails me 14 times (after I’ve said I’d be in touch with her just as soon as I have any news), she brands herself as a non-appealing candidate. You don’t want this. Certainly, it’s fair to touch base after whatever time period you and a recruiter or interviewer agreed upon as the timeline needed for the process. But you will do nothing but ruin your shot (and brand yourself as desperate) by doing a full court press on the decision makers. Give it your all, and then let go.

Navigating through unemployment can require nearly every last cell of energy and confidence you’ve got. But with strategy, stamina, and an unfailing belief that you’re truly magnificent at what you do, you can brand yourself as an all-star.

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Photo of man looking for a job courtesy of Shutterstock.