A PERSONAL brand is a culmination of life experiences, unique character, ethical standards, values and personality. Freepik
Investing in and building up a strong personal brand can count in your favour when seeking employment. But job seekers should be careful of what they post on social media, as an inappropriate tweet or “like” could count against you, says Elite Risk Acceptances managing director Christelle Colman.

She says building a personal brand is one of the most important things to separate yourself apart from the rest of the pack.

“We are living in a highly competitive world, where jobs, especially good jobs, are hard to come by. South Africa’s unemployment rate for the first quarter of the year soared to its highest level since 2017 and is now at 29percent.

"Of that, 6.7million people are unemployed in South Africa, which is 29percent of everybody,” says Colman.

She adds that South Africa’s gender pay gap is widening. The gender pay gap is particularly marked for women in leaderships, she claims.

“In South Africa, we see that women earn, on average, about 27percent less than their male counterparts, and that gap widens as you go into the top income earners. There the gap is about 39percent and then if you go into the executive role women don’t just earn far less but are also not represented in a 50:50 manner,” she says.

On whether more women were starting to fill positions in male-dominated industries such as the automotive, IT and also the financial services sectors, she says there is still a significant gender gap.

“There are traditional industries that have been dominated by men in the workplace and the movement is quite slow. What I found in my career is that for you to really stand out from the crowd and to be considered for a role that I would not normally be considering before, adding to the value that you bring to the table when you go for an interview or when you are being considered for a role, if you do have a strong personal brand, you’ve got a better competitive advantage in an environment that is normally quite male dominated,” she said.

Colman says it has become easy to build a brand, but people underestimate the power of it and how quickly it can be taken away, particularly with the use of social media.

“from a professional perspective it is very important to remember that everything is in the public domain, so instead of focusing on the negative, you should focus on the positive. If you apply for a role, nowadays recruiters and employers go on to the social media platforms to see what people are doing,” says Colman.

She says a personal brand is a culmination of a person’s life experiences, unique character, ethical standards, values and personality. “But it’s how well you communicate this brand to the world that will ultimately differentiate you from other professionals.

"This is particularly important for women. The truth is it really isn’t that difficult and it doesn’t have to cost much either, so you’ve got nothing to lose and everything to gain.

"If you want to stand out from the crowd, you have to do things differently to show your value in innovative ways.

"Building a strong personal brand is doing just that, because your brand makes you influential and if you are influential, you are hard to ignore and even harder to turn away,” she says.

Colman says building a personal brand comes down to putting yourself out there. “Use whichever tools are available. If you're in a position to educate people on a topic, that’s where you start. Share your expertise by putting yourself forward as a spokesperson within your company.”

HOW TO BUILD YOUR BRAND 

Christelle Colman’s five tips for building a personal brand:

1.Building a personal brand is a marathon, not a sprint. Your personal brand will grow with you and be refined over time. Your brand should remain consistent with who you are as you mature.

2. Maintain your personal brand. Handle with care. Your personal brand, which takes time to build, can be ruined in a moment through one public blunder. Everything you say in the media, write on a blog or share on social media, adds a little building block to your growing personal brand.

3. Uphold a level of professionalism. Keep your private life private, at least to a degree. Avoid potentially controversial political and religious comments and emotional outbursts.

4. Keep it real. The most important aspect of personal brand building is authenticity. Sharing well-curated personal information from time to time can help to create a meaningful brand that people can connect with.

5. Your voice, your power. Once a strong personal brand has been established in addition to distinguishing yourself professionally, use your voice to talk about challenges that you have faced in business and in life, as well as how you have overcome them.

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