Redundancy is hitting millions of people right now; people who this time last year would not have imagined they would ever be in this position. It’s natural that to feel confused, lost, scared and unsure at this time. However, it’s also the moment when we need our personal brands more than ever. Our brand – what differentiates us, makes us unique and compelling — is what is going to get us through to that interview and sign that contract.
Having a strong personal brand can also help us through the difficult times; it can help us feel grounded, remind us of our path and what we want for the future. Let’s have a look at how we can do this.
Step One: Reconnect with your values
If you’ve been made redundant it can be tempting to rush into getting a job, any job, but this could potentially leave us feeling unfulfilled and in the wrong place if we end up with a role that isn’t aligned to our values.
Values exploration is an important part of personal branding. Values bring purpose and meaning into our lives. They represent our fundamental beliefs – what’s most important to us. They embody what we want to be in this world, what we want to stand for, and how we want to relate to others.
If you know your values, you’ll be instinctively drawn towards the right job for you in the right organisation. If being respectful of the environment is one of your core values, you’ll be able to spot those organisations that cross this line and avoid applying for them, as an obvious example. If your own learning and education is one of your values, then enquiring about opportunities for training and development is something that would be important an interview, for instance.
When evaluating personal values, here are a few important questions to consider:
What do you want to stand for?
What sort of person do you want to be?
What really matters to you, deep in your heart?
What types of initiatives or causes do you want to align yourself with?
How do you ideally want to behave?
It’s really helpful to look at a list of values and narrow them down to your top ten. Here’s one example of a values list.
Of course, values exploration requires putting aside some time for personal reflection. However, what it will bring to your personal brand — and your life — will be well worth it.
Step Two: Work on your confidence
Confidence is something that may well have taken a hit as the result of redundancy. We can get stuck in thoughts of why me, especially if we were one of a small few that were let go. Here are my top strategies for how to build that confidence back up.
- Take action anyway
Oftentimes, people ascribe to a “rule” that says that they need to feel confident before doing something important to them, e.g., “I need to be confident before I can apply to this job that feels a bit out of my league at the moment”.
This very rule is often what keeps people stuck and prohibits them from developing confidence. However, you don’t need to be confident in order to achieve your goals. In The Confidence Gap, Russ Harris shares the golden rule of confidence building: “The actions of confidence come first; the feelings of confidence come second.”
Harris makes an important differentiation between these actions of confidence and “fake it ‘til you make it”: a big part of confidence building is about being true to yourself (as opposed to faking it), while taking effective action in the direction of your personal values and goals, regardless of your self-doubt. You can still behave like the person you want to be in the situation and take action even while feeling fear and uncertainty.
There’s a great exercise in the book that asks us to imagine ourselves in a world with unlimited confidence. In my private practice, I usually use this exercise as a visualization with clients. By imagining a confident version of ourselves, we can start to take steps in that direction. If you had unlimited confidence, what jobs would you consider, what companies would you approach, what career change could you envisage?
This of course is easier said than done. It takes practice, time, and a lot of effort to work through negative self-talk and effectively handle feelings of fear and discomfort. But the idea here is that by practicing confident behaviours and stepping out of our comfort zones, genuine confidence will follow. But first, it has to be earned.
- Get back to the moment
When our heads are filled with negative chatter, and/or we become more preoccupied with what others think of us or how we “should” act, we become disconnected from the present moment, which can set us up for a big confidence wobble.
As a first step, try identifying the content of this chatter. Are these worry thoughts about what might happen? Do they start with “what if”?
Are these self-sabotaging beliefs or self-criticisms? If so, you can put these thoughts in the “unhelpful category”, as they are most likely of no use and costing you confidence.
Try to shift focus to what you can control while building acceptance around what you cannot. Is there a skill you can improve upon or practice more (be careful of the perfectionist trap here)? Is there additional preparation or other measures you can reasonably put in place? Can you get more familiar with tech for instance, to allay your fears that you won’t be able to compete with someone younger and more tech friendly?
A confident person is one who is engaged…in the moment, with the audience, in the conversation. One effective technique for this is mindfulness. Mindfulness, in a nutshell, is the practice of engaging in the moment with attention, openness, flexibility and curiosity. The ability to be present, in the moment (and not constantly distracted by negative chatter), also opens up space for positivity and self-belief.
There are so many great resources out there to cultivate mindfulness: Apps, YouTube, books and countless websites.
- Be authentic and own it
Finally, the ability to “own it” – who you are – resides at the core of a confident brand. What I mean by this is that when you own it, you have accepted and are comfortable with who you are in your present experience, not who you “should” be or who others want you to be. You are just you, unapologetically. In other words, this is about owning what makes you authentically you…your thoughts, opinions, quirks, and feelings, both positive or negative.
By “outing” the feelings that sabotage your confidence and owning them, you allow them to have less power over you (which paradoxically has an empowering effect).
People who own it tend to exude a certain charisma and magnetism. They don’t try to be something they are not. Instead of being people pleasers or trying to fit in, they create and follow their own path in life. There is something extremely liberating about owning it, as you are genuinely at peace with yourself and the present moment.
Needless to say, there are many more variables that factor into confidence — one’s personality, ability level, mental health, etc. — however the actions listed here can be practised by anyone to move towards building a more confident personal brand (with the key word being practise), you need to put in the work.
Step 3: Do a little work on your outer-brand
Your market will be the companies that you want to work for, and this is where we will turn to your outer brand. Your outer brand is what you portray to the world, and this can include everything from how you appear in your Zoom interview to your digital footprint.
While it’s important that you are authentic and true to your values, your potential employer needs to feel that you will fit in – that your personal brand complements their company brand and values. Steps to help promote this include looking at their values and incorporating them into the covering letter, or a personal style that fits the industry or company (you may need to do some research here of course).
Your outer brand also includes how you come across during your interviews. You might want to record yourself on Zoom to see how you come over on camera (it’s highly likely that many of your interviews will be online at the moment), and get a second opinion from a trusted friend, coach or someone who knows the industry. Don’t forget to take an objective look at what’s in the camera frame. You want people to be looking at you, not drawn to the kitchen cupboards, knickknacks and what’s bubbling away on the stove behind you.
Finally, any recruiter will be taking a look at how you portray yourself to the world. You may want to ensure your Facebook profile is private, update your LinkedIn content and profile photo, and edit out those Instagram posts you made when you were hurting from your breakup. A definite no no is anything you’ve publicly said against your previous employer, however unfair you think they have been. Delete and move on.
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