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How thought leadership and your personal brand can open up job opportunities

On the journey to becoming the ideal employee, candidates wonder what the impact a personal brand and thought leadership will have on their chances of getting the job. Do potential employers expect to be able to assess a person's value based on their online presence? Is a candidate only as good as their next innovative thought?

Let’s consider this as we explore the world of digital recruitment.

What is a personal brand?

In their 1999 classic Be Your Own Brand, David McNally and Karl D. Speak explain that “Your brand is a reflection of who you are and what you believe, which is visibly expressed by what you do and how you do it.” In a modern context, this refers to how you market yourself online in terms of your values and how you want to be perceived by the public. 

Since creating a personal brand is a deliberate and purposeful process, is it possible that the image people project of their brand is too contrived and has no validity? The importance of branding yourself stems from allowing people to see more of who you are, not what you think you should be. So something to be wary of when building a personal brand is the risk of sounding inauthentic. 

How personal should a personal brand be?

Like it or not, recruiters will be screening your social media profile before you even set foot in that interview room. Johnny C. Taylor, Jr., CEO and President of SHRM-SCP, equates evaluating your online presence to evaluating  your resume and cover letter. 

He goes on to state: “71% of hiring decision-makers agree that social media is effective for screening applicants. And more than half have found content on a candidate’s social media pages that ended up costing the person a potential job offer”. 

Purging your pages of “inappropriate” content may seem censorious but there’s a good chance the values you express could get you kicked off the shortlist if they don’t align with those of your prospective employer. 

Privacy settings limit access to your content but if you want to make a name for yourself in the digital world, you need to be intentional about posting and following companies and people that reflect the qualities you’re passionate about. Your personal brand could pave the way to position you as a thought leader in your industry so best to keep it clean.

Defining thought leadership

Thought leadership is the expression of unique and innovative concepts that trailblaze in their respective industries. Thought leaders are perceived as authorities in their fields who inspire and lead the way for others by adding value to their areas of expertise. There are three types of thought leadership:

  • Industry thought leadership

Here, subject matter experts are forward-thinkers and problem-solvers in the spectrum of their chosen field.

  • Organizational thought leadership

Sharing a vision with their company, organizational thought leaders reflect the company’s culture and give insight into their future plans.

  • Product thought leadership

In a series of tutorials and best practices, this type of thought leadership campaigns for the best solutions.

Personal brand and thought leadership go hand in hand with a personal brand setting you up to become a trustworthy source in your field. From there, thought leadership development requires exemplary education, a lot of passion, patience, and dedication, and a comprehensive thought leadership strategy

Becoming a thought leader

Positioning yourself as an industry expert takes a lot of time and effort to establish. Once you’ve decided on the area you’d like to specialize in, you need to stick with it to cultivate the credibility needed to become a go-to resource. 

There’s no expectation of being fluent in every aspect of your industry. A good thought leader is willing to continuously educate themselves by keeping up with trends and listening closely to other experts in their field. 

Many thought leaders also put their business agendas on hold when embarking on this course. While the free appearances at conferences and events as well as the cutting-edge advice that’s gratis to anyone who follows you won’t fatten your bank balance, it will increase your reputational wealth. 

However, after all this work, do employers actually want this from an employee?

What employers want from employees now

A  survey of 125 UK and US recruitment specialists found that 82% of employers state that being active online as a thought leader is more important now than in pre-COVID days. When it comes to hiring, 64% of recruiters say an established thought leader is more likely to get a role as opposed to a candidate with the same qualifications but no thought leadership history. But why is this? 

As Martin Rowinski, CEO of Boardsi explains, “Thought leadership makes you and your company stand out as authorities in your field, demonstrates empathy for others through your desire to share insights and attracts more people to your business.” 

As a thought leader, your credibility and trustworthiness carry over to your new employer, enhancing yours and their brand. Along with being a renowned resource, thought leaders are trendsetters in their industries, offering up innovative opinions that put the companies they represent ahead of the game and differentiate them from the competition. 

A McKinsey survey has found that customer preferences have shifted from traditional interactions to digital ones since COVID hit and that it’s most likely going to be a permanent change. Companies need to establish themselves as forerunners in their industries with expertise like thought leadership that consumers can rely on.

Final thoughts

In this digital age, the possibility of being hired is just a search engine click away. With more and more job opportunities being filled before they’re even advertised (thanks to referrals and word of mouth), you need to make yourself stand out from the hundreds of potential hires when recruiters start passively searching for candidates. 

As a thought leader with a solid personal brand, companies will seek you out as a brand representative. According to the survey, 56% of recruiters agree that candidates established as thought leaders can command a premium, so not only are you in high demand, but you’ll also be able to set your worth thanks to your hard work and perseverance.

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