Creating a personal brand
March 23, 2022
When you hear the word ‘brand’, what comes to mind?
Most likely, your head is flooded with images of L’Oréal models whispering ‘because you’re worth it’, or Nike athletes telling you to ‘just do it’. Perhaps you have a fleeting mental image of Pretty Little Thing’s baby pink, unicorn-bedecked London black cabs, or Coca Cola’s classic red bottle in the hands of a jolly, flushed-cheeked Santa Claus.
Company branding is all around us, defining our experience as consumers. Having a strong brand is crucial for companies to build a genuine relationship with their clients, transforming the sales process from a brief exchange into a truly engaging experience.
But if you think that branding falls exclusively within the remit of businesses, think again.
Due to the prevalence of social media, it’s possible for candidates to establish a unique and personalised digital presence on professional platforms in order to make themselves visible to potential employers. Not just possible, but expected. According to BBC research, 43% of recruiters frequently check digital profiles, and a CareerBuilder survey found that 70% of all employers research prospective candidates online at any given point. In order to attract attention against a sea of competitors, it’s crucial to build a personal brand in order to stand out from the crowd.
But what does that really entail? As of late, ‘personal branding’ has become quite the buzzword that we hear echoing all around the LinkedIn community. But what does it truly mean and how do you go about achieving it for yourself? Read on to find out.
What is personal branding?
Personal branding is the act of creating an online professional presence that showcases your skills, achievements, and talents to a particular target audience. Though often tailored with prospective employers in mind, a personal brand is not exclusively built around the objective of finding a new job. You could simply want to reach other people in your industry to create a platform of like-minded thinkers.
There are many avenues you can go down in order to build a personal brand. Whilst LinkedIn is perhaps the most obvious choice, many people opt to create their own website or blog. This serves as a dedicated space for you to highlight your offering. Personal branding is by no means limited to the internet; you can work on your personal brand in the real world too, by networking at events and conferences.
Long gone are the days of sending off a faceless CV through a portal and hoping for the best. By harnessing the power of the internet, you can build a dynamic online profile that puts you in the spotlight.
A personal brand is formed through any and all platforms at your disposal – your cover letter, your LinkedIn profile, your CV, your website, your blog, even your interviews – they all fit together seamlessly to create an overall picture of who you are. You can paint a portrait of yourself as a skilled professional in your field, making sure that your personality shines through in the process.
The most effective company marketing campaigns place an emphasis on personality. We’ve all had a giggle as we scroll through TikTok and come across the Ryanair plane with animated human features lip-syncing to some trending audio, or the employee dressed up in the Duolingo bird costume lumbering down the hall and chasing their co-workers, wreaking havoc in head office. As Gary Vaynerchuk explains, these famous companies ‘don’t sell – they brand’. And you can do the same.
Tips for building your personal brand
Identify your USP
Just like businesses, you need to have a clear understanding of what your unique selling point is before you start marketing yourself online. When crafting a strong digital presence, lay bare all the key information about you that sets you apart in your field.
Make it distinctly clear to people who visit your online platform what industry you’re in. Let them know what particular skills you bring to the table, what certifications you have, what your specialism is, and what your strengths are. These factors all come together to form a strong personal brand; when you think about these key considerations, you’ll know which tone to adopt going forward when telling your story. Spell out who you are and what you’re offering to your target audience.
Map out your long-term plan
When building a personal brand, it’s crucial to have a sense of where you want to be in a few years’ time from the get-go. Create a five-year plan in order to determine how you can mould your online personality accordingly.
If you know where you want to be in the long-term, you can find and follow role models who are achieving some of the goals you aim to achieve. These individuals can then serve as a source of inspiration; they can guide and inspire your personal brand. What are they posting? How are they putting themselves out there and getting noticed?
Just be sure not to model your personal brand too closely off of theirs. Remember, the key to personal branding is remaining genuine, unique, and true to you. The reason companies such as Gymshark and Dunkin’ Donuts are so effective in their marketing is because they approach it in a unique way that is completely personal to them. Whilst they respond to trends and viral topics, they do so with their own personal flair, keeping brand identity at their core.
Don’t be afraid to make yourself heard
Piping up and expressing an opinion on a platform such as LinkedIn can be daunting. The site is dominated by the voices of industry top dogs and thought leaders. Trying to make your voice heard may feel like you’re in the audience of an opera, shouting at the top of your lungs but drowned out by the piercing voices coming from the stage towering above you.
Likewise, posting on your own website or blog can be incredibly intimidating, particularly if you don’t have an established audience. We’ve all been there; getting little to no traction on a piece of work you’ve put your blood, sweat, and tears into can feel like a fruitless endeavour.
Disheartening as this may be, it takes real determination and grit to put yourself out there in this way. And it’s crucial to keep in mind that everyone has to start somewhere. There’s nothing stopping you from posting content on these platforms; your opinion is just as valid as anyone else’s. If you have something creative, helpful or insightful to say to your target audience, post content directly onto your platform or else engage with others via comments on posts that come up on your feed. Even if only one person happens upon your content, they’re sure to be impressed by your passion and active participation on the platform. Fleshing out your online profiles with value-add content is a sure-fire way to attract positive attention.
Both on – and offline, embrace networking opportunities as a means of putting yourself out there. Engage with others in your field to cultivate a valuable network, whether that be at conferences or more informal events.
Going into these networking settings, make sure that you have a clear sense of your personal brand. Once you’ve decked out your online profile, you’ll be able to translate your personal brand to the real world. So, by the time someone comes up to shake your hand, you’ll be able to introduce yourself whilst communicating your key skills and strengths concisely and effectively.
Remember, anyone can build a personal brand. But it’s important to keep in mind that you should always remain genuine; constructing an artificial personality for the sake of getting hired is transparent and ineffective. And it’s crucial to remember that cultivating a personal brand is an ongoing process; as digital platforms evolve and develop, so you must adapt your online presence accordingly.
On the absence of women in the data sector
March 12, 2022
We’re likely all aware that men disproportionately outnumber women in the data field. Women constitute just 26% of the global data and AI workforce; there is only one female data analyst or scientist for every four of her male counterparts. This is a worrying statistic, considering the significant role that data plays in our lives. In order to avoid bias in data models, society needs to collectively pave the way for more women to enter the data sector. As International Women’s Day is now upon us, let’s seize the opportunity to address some of the factors contributing to this issue, and examine some potential ways of overcoming it.
The stigma of STEM subjects
A lack of women pursuing careers in data and analytics is a symptom of a broader societal problem. As it stands, women constitute just 14.4% of all people in the UK working in a STEM-related industry. This is a deep-rooted issue that spans all the way back to childhood, as many young girls are implicitly conditioned to believe that they should steer clear of STEM subjects.
Girls opting to avoid studying STEM subjects beyond school level has nothing to do with a lack of ability on their part. In fact, in gender-neutral countries where an emphasis is placed on equality, girls actually tend to outperform boys at school in subjects such as maths and science. For example, in Iceland, according to one study, the maths scores obtained by girls actually surpassed the grades of the boys by 14.5 points.
An invisible barrier has been constructed around women entering STEM. Whilst there is no biological reason for men rather than women to pursue STEM subjects, women are frequently less confident in their abilities than their male counterparts. Despite performing better in class work in science and maths classes, girls typically do not perform as well as boys in an exam setting, as stated in a Guardian article describing the study. As part of a survey by the OECD, when posed with the statement ‘I am just not good with mathematics’, 41% of girls agreed compared with just 24% of boys. We tend to be drawn towards the careers which think we would be most competent in.
This is a problem embedded in educational institutions. This, alongside sexist messaging in media and in society in general, all combine to impose gender stereotypes on children from a young age. When one survey asked children what they thought the most important traits in girls and boys were, the overall consensus was that the second most important trait for girls to possess was ‘being caring’, which can in part account for the large number of girls who go on to pursue HEED subjects (health, elementary education and domestic). It’s clear how gender conventions can contribute to this absence of women in the STEM sector.
In order to see more women entering the data field and STEM-related careers in general, we need to be encouraging girls from a young age to consider STEM subjects, instilling them with confidence and empowering them to change the narrative.
Breaking down barriers
In order to break down the barriers of entry into the data world for women, companies need to be aware of the importance of hiring female data scientists and analysts. It would ultimately lead to more accurate consumer insights.
Data has an impact on all areas of our lives. And when this data is exclusively in the hands of men, it will naturally be limited and leave out certain important factors and considerations. A diverse group of analysts is needed in order to cultivate truly representative data models.
In a world where 49% of people are women, it is in the interest of companies to have female data scientists working for them, in order to cater to a wider audience. Women can offer a unique perspective on the world of data. In the past, there have been numerous scandals involving AI algorithms and data models giving biased outcomes due in part to the inherent male outlook of many data scientists and analysts.
Companies should also re-evaluate their expectations from people seeking to enter the data field. As it stands, it’s very difficult for recent graduates to meet the expectations perfectly for an entry level data job, as they’re often expected to possess a number of technical skills, some level of experience, and a prestigious degree to match. Research shows that whilst men apply for jobs where they meet just 60% of the requirements, women do not apply unless they match the requirements 100%. This means that more men are taking a leap of faith and receiving job offers in the data sector. In order to break down the barriers for women, companies hiring for data roles should be more open-minded to employing people with different skillsets and from different academic backgrounds, taking the time to train individuals who show potential.
Many women avoid data jobs from the outset due to the negative perceptions associated with it. According to BCG research, 81% of women studying a data-science related subject regard the field as ‘significantly more competitive’ than other career options. The data field requires an image overhaul in order to appeal to a more diverse group of prospective employees.
One potential cause of the absence of women in data science is that data roles may not even appear on their radar; they might lack information on what a career in data would entail. Young women should be surrounded by role models in the data sphere who they are able to look up to. This exposes them to the potential paths available to them in the future.
Conferences and events hosted by organisations dedicated to seeing more women in data roles (such as Women in Big Data, Women in Data and Women in Analytics, to name just a few) play a crucial function in cultivating a community of women in a male-dominated industry, who can motivate each other and increase awareness of data roles. These events allow women to share their experiences working in the data sector and inspire others. They’re platforms dedicated to the championing of women in data.
By hosting inspiring, motivational and informative events, these organisations inspire women to seek opportunities in the data industry.
An important feature of many of these organisations is that they are not open exclusively to women. Equally as important to the cause is male allyship; men working in the data field should also be supporting their female counterparts.
Despite the current gender inequality in the data sector, things are moving in the right direction. As long as society works to shine a spotlight on the issue and pinpoint potential solutions to this imbalance, positive change could be on the horizon, but it will not come without an institutional overhaul and significant attitude shifts from those already established in the data sector.