Become your own brand

The days of lifetime employment at one company are gone, notes Senior Tech Editor Dan Heber, PE, so it's up to you to maintain your value in the marketplace by strengthening your personal professional brand.

By Dan Hebert, PE, Senior Technical Editor

Dan HebertA while back, we discussed how to build a company brand [“McMachines, Thousands Sold”]. Last month, we explored how you can increase your value [“Less Staff = More Leverage for You”]. Let’s keep going and talk about how you build your own personal brand as a technical professional.

Most consumers will pay a premium, or at least select a comparably priced product or service, based on a strong brand and a good reputation. The market for job seekers has some parallels. In this case, consumers are the hiring managers. They look at dozens—even hundreds—of resumés each year to make their hiring decisions. Consciously or without realizing it, they’ll add or subtract value based on their perceptions of your brand and reputation.

Randall Hansen, Ph.D., of Quintessential Careers says there are five steps we can take to build our brand: gain experience/track accomplishments, complete education/training, promote yourself, become an expert, and build relationships. Let’s spend a few minutes looking into how these steps apply in our machine-builder community.

Gaining experience and tracking accomplishments is something that we all do in our day-to-day jobs. Keep a current resumé, and add a bullet point each time you accomplish something significant. Writing it down not only strengthens your resumé and brand, it also adds to your sense of accomplishment.

Completing education and training is critical to brand building. When I was a hiring manager, I saw resumés that indicated the job seeker had started a technical degree program but had not finished his or her education. I considered this a major red flag, and tossed out the resumé. If someone couldn’t complete an important task like finishing school, it was hard for me to see him or her sticking with a tough project.

I went to school at night for five years to get my MBA, while working two jobs and raising a family, so I know how tough it can be. However, there’s really no excuse for not finishing what we’ve started. If you’ve started but not finished a degree program, leave the information off the resumé until the degree is granted or is again in progress.

Promoting one’s self does not come easy to most engineers and technical professionals, who tend to be humble by nature, and believe self-promotion is a negative trait. This might be true socially, but it doesn’t work professionally.

Your best tool for self-promotion is, again, your resumé. Keep this in mind when you create or revise it. Most firms have a formal review process, so make the most of this opportunity, and don’t be shy about touting accomplishments.

Another great tool for self-promotion are online search engines. What happens when someone Googles your name? Do you come up first or not at all? If the answer is not at all, you need to increase your online presence. The best way to do this is to write technical material that gets published on the web. This leads right into our next step.

Becoming an expert is not as daunting as it sounds. I worked in industry for 22 years, but no one thought of me an expert until I started to contribute to print and online publications. I have a better overview of the machine-builder industry now, but my specific technical knowledge isn’t as strong as what most of you possess as professionals currently working in the field.

You’re the expert about automating your machines, and a publication like Control Design not only wants your input, but will publish it, too. From case studies to our back-page guest column to feature articles to blogs, there are many ways to establish a strong on-line presence.

Building relationships is something many of us don’t think about until we need a job, but it’s always easier to build and develop a relationship when you aren’t asking for something. Our annual AutomationXchange events provide a great forum for building relationships with peers in the machine builder industry and with high-level supplier executives.

The days of lifetime employment at one company are gone. It’s up to you to maintain your value in the marketplace by strengthening your personal professional brand.

An added bonus to brand building is it can improve your job performance by keeping you more up-to-date with the state of automation in the industry. A strong brand also makes you more confident, which is a key asset when it comes time for annual salary negotiations.