Imagine your professional self as a company. Sounds kind of weird, right? After all, businesses are something you work for, not something you actually are.
In fact, the line between individual and company is already blurry: think of the thousands of freelancers, contractors, and self-employed whose entire business is themselves. The most successful of them operate under the exact same principles as massive multinationals, and it is these principles that regular employees could also benefit from implementing.
Indeed, the secret to successfully developing your career is to corporatize it. Skeptical? Read on:
Why do companies pour so much time and money into their brand? Because in this digitalized, globalized world of nearly limitless choice, you need to stand out from the crowd in order to attract attention. No matter how good you are at your job, there will be hundreds if not thousands of other people who are equally competent. To be chosen by hiring managers and clients you need to go a step beyond the rest, and you do that by cultivating a winning personal brand.
Our personal brand is something we’re already developing unconsciously. We project to others the sort of person we are by everything from the clothing we choose to wear to the locations we choose for our holidays. Seizing control of it allow us to influence the way we are perceived. Want to project a serious, corporate vibe? Delete that Bebo account from the 90s and throw away the garish ties. Want to come across as creative and unique? Dye your hair blue and decorate your desk with kawaii figurines. And so on.
Talking about the market value of people can sound a little mercenary, but essentially that’s what employment is: you flog your services for the highest price a bidder is willing to pay. That price, incidentally, is not just gross salary, but all the other work perks and preferences you would like to maximise – such as short commutes or flexitime.
In order to up our market value, we first need to understand what it is. How in-demand are our skills and experience? What is our USPs, and how do they make us more valuable than our competitors in the hiring process? Finding your market position means researching things such as the typical salary for your role, the prevalence of people with your qualifications, and the shape of the job market in your area.
If your research suggests your current employer is undervaluing you, it’s probably time to ask for a pay rise or to look at positions elsewhere (on average, each job-hop corresponds to a 10-20% increase in salary). Understanding where your value lies will also help you successfully negotiate everything from promotions to work perks to starting salaries. Such conversations can be scary, but they’re worth it: research suggests that failure to regularly negotiate your salary can cost you $1 million in lost lifetime earnings.
Being clued up on your personal market value will also help you increase it. If your industry research reveals that knowing a particular software or other skill will move you up a level, that’s a strong incentive to enroll in the relevant course or request extra training from your employer.
Smart companies put a great deal of thought into their online presence, and smart individuals should too.
At a minimum, that means regularly Googling your name to check that the results paint you in a good light. It also means setting privacy settings on personal social media accounts and removing anything embarrassing, morally dubious, or downright illegal. Remember: 6 in 10 employers research job candidates on search engines and social media, and almost half check up on their current employees.
Ideally however, your online branding efforts will go beyond removing the inflammatory to actively promoting yourself via the internet. For example, taking time to make your LinkedIn profile top-notch is a good idea: 92% of recruiters use it to headhunt.
Moreover, with over two-fifths of hiring managers turned off by a lack of online presence, it pays dividends to use the internet to showcase positive aspects of yourself. Whether it’s using WordPress to create an engaging travel blog, Twitter to pass thoughtful commentary on current affairs, or Flickr to post photos from your mountain biking hobby, letting your personality shine through will make you memorable and interesting to employers.
For some careers, creating your own website and/or online portfolio is a great idea. It makes you look polished and professional, and is an easy way to show off your best work. If you’ve ever considered going freelance, working on building your online presence now will make everything easier if and when you do decide to take the leap.
Well-run businesses know where they want to be in one year, ten years, and fifty years. Do you?
Having a good idea of where you want your career and life to be heading helps you ensure that you’re currently working towards these goals. If you want to be a director in ten years, for example, work out the number of promotions you’ll need to get from your current job, assign yourself a time frame to achieve each of them, and be prepared to hunt them out aggressively. Great opportunities rarely fall into our laps, so without clear goal setting and continual momentum you’re unlikely to achieve all the things you want to.
Of course, plans can change, for individuals as much as businesses. That’s fine. Having a growth plan doesn’t mean you’re committed to it forever. Instead, it’s about ensuring your career trajectory follows the path that best meets your needs and desires at every point in your life.