I’m always amazed at the amount of traffic personal branding stories generate for CIO.com. My last story on the topic, 6 Personal Branding Mistakes that Can Threaten Your Job Search, turned nearly 16,000 page views in its first week.
The numbers tell me that CIO.com readers are hungry for information on this subject. To understand why, I spoke to two personal branding strategists who have experience working with IT professionals. They explained why personal branding is such a hot topic right now as well as IT professionals’ most common hang-ups around the practice.
Randi Bussin, a certified career coach and Reach personal branding strategist, attributes IT professionals’ interest in personal branding to the competition in today’s job market. They realize that landing a new job requires a lot more effort than searching the web and sending out resumes, she says of her clients in IT.
At the same time, she adds, they’re seeing and hearing a lot about the role personal branding can play in their job searches, but they don’t know how to put the principles of personal branding into practice for themselves.
“People are realizing you have to do this,” says Bussin. “It’s a non-negotiable. If you can’t say what makes you unique from everyone else applying for the same job, you’re going to have a hard time rising above the noise.”
Personal branding is equally important to IT professionals who want to increase their job security, if not advance their careers with their current employers, notes personal branding strategist Catherine Kaputa, who is also a speaker and the author of You Are a Brand!
“In the business world, soft power trumps hard power,” she says. “The farther up you go in a company, the more important these soft power skills are.”
These soft power skills, which include leadership ability, communication skills, presentation skills, and relationship-building skills—combine to create an individual’s personal brand.
Despite the advantages personal branding confers to IT professionals, the practice can be painful for them. Here are four common pain points IT professionals experience around personal branding:
1. Some don’t want personal branding to matter in their career advancement.
“A lot of information technology people are struck by the fact that the school rules no longer apply in the business world,” says Kaputa. In school, she says, the student grind pays off: Their intelligence and hard work leads to good grades and academic recognition. But in the business world, she adds, intellect and hard work aren’t always enough to yield a promotion or job offer, and this bothers some IT professionals. Candidates often need to showcase exceptional soft skills and have good reputations as well.
2. They don’t like the idea that their appearance matters.
Like it or not, your personal brand is inextricably bound up with your appearance—the way you dress, whether or not you wear glasses, your grooming. “There’s a lot of evidence that packaging plays a strong role in how people view you,” says Kaputa. If you want to be a VP, you need to dress the part, she says,
adding, “You can’t be wearing gym clothes.”
3. It’s hard for them to see the big picture.
Bussin says IT professionals have trouble identifying what’s unique about them—the lynchpin of their personal brands. They tend to be, by nature, so focused on details that seeing the forest through the trees is hard for them, she adds. Another challenge: Figuring out how to talk about the projects they’ve worked on as success stories.
4. They don’t like to promote themselves.
Self-promotion comes naturally to few people, yet it’s a key component of personal branding. To make it easier for IT professionals, they should think of self-promotion not as inauthentic boasting or beating their chests, but as a way of communicating the skills and expertise that they take such great pride in and that could help others.
Are you interested in personal branding? What aspects of personal branding are hard for you? Stay tuned for a profile of an IT director who worked with a career coach to identify her personal brand.(The profile is now online! Check it out: Developing a Personal Brand for Your Job Search.)