There is a popular joke going around in the IT industry about a software developer who found himself unemployed after losing his job for Twitter – apparently it was the worst 15 minutes of his life. What makes some experts sought after in the labour market, while others have to proactively seek employment?
Obviously, objective knowledge and experience is an important factor. Nevertheless, it is crucial to have a personal brand nowadays. What is it and how do you build it?
Not just the bare facts.
LinkedIn is full of identical profiles. Full name, a photo and a brief description of your career – nothing more than your job title, company name and time frame. Sometimes there are endorsements of skills written by your collaborators. This does not sound particularly interesting. Today’s IT job market calls for more.
Sharing your knowledge.
As part of your personal branding, it is a good idea to pursue educational activities that are not directly related to the workplace, but which oscillate around the sector. One good example of this approach is our very own Kacper Szurek, a specialist in information systems security. By profession, he is a pentester, which means someone who searches for potential security gaps in controlled conditions so that they can be patched before they are targeted by cyber criminals. On top of that, he runs a Youtube channel where he talks about the history of security for various IT systems (and more), and suggests to listeners how they can minimise the risk of a cyber-attack.
Albert Einstein said once that ‘if something can be understood at all, it can also be made comprehensible’. In other words, if you educate others and achieve some success in this field, it means that the issues you raise are in no way a mystery to you. We give testimony to our expertise and our name is becoming increasingly familiar in the sector.
Industry meetups and conferences.
I could only put one word in this paragraph: networking. Meeting people, establishing contacts, exchanging ideas freely. By attending industry events, you can build your brand – not as a regular specialist, but as someone who speaks up, shows a real interest in the development of the sector and wants to know even more. Whenever possible, it is a good idea to give speeches, present your ideas and engage in discussion with others. Attendance at conferences and meetups, however, is not limited to sitting in an enclosed room with eyes fixed on the speaker and the screen displaying the presentation. A great deal happens after hours, at the afterparty. This is the time to get to know people privately, exchange e-mail addresses or LinkedIn profiles.
Blogs and other independent projects.
As with many other industries, an employee’s portfolio is extremely important in IT. Being a software developer using a specific language and working for a particular company is not a factor that will set you apart on the job market. Projects produced at home and not published anywhere will also be of little use. A personal brand should be associated with something that makes you unique. You can be a regular developer writing iOS apps – or you can be Jay Freeman (Saurik), familiar to anyone who owned an Apple smartphone between 2007 and 2010. You can simply be involved in cyber security – or you can make a name for yourself with PlayStation 3 reverse engineering, such as George Hotz.
Creating your own website with a blog is another effective personal branding tool, somewhat related to the activities listed above. You can keep a sort of diary there to document the subsequent stages of the end product. Educational activities touching on various aspects of the IT industry – which is basically what we do on the StackMine blog – is another example of how a platform like this could be used.
What’s the point of all this?
A personal brand is more than a person and their skills. It is an image that makes people of the sector want to get to know you. It is the impact you leave behind when you walk out of a meeting. Effective personal branding changes the perception of a person – from being a member of a team or an employee of a company to an independent expert. After all, no one wants to employ amateurs.