There isn’t a career advancement discussion today that doesn’t include the importance of professional branding—a distinction that defines an employee at work and in their industry. So how do you promote your brand when you’re no longer employed? Kaplan Mobray, career consultant, motivational speaker, and author of The 10Ks of Personal Branding: (K)reate a Better You (iUniverse Inc; $28.95), says that being unemployed is a time when you can redefine what you’re known for. “Most people think of promoting what they do and who they are,” he explains. “The reality is your brand is really your contribution and your impact. That’s irrespective of your role and title. When you have impact, people remember it. The biggest thing I talk about in the book is how to be known for something. Even with a title and a role you may not be significant unless you create impact.” Mobray offers several suggestions for strengthening your position.
Volunteer your services.
“When people lose a job they lose confidence. Their confidence is tied to a role or a title they had when they were employed—particularly in metro cities where the first question you get when networking is, ‘So, what do you do?’ Volunteering allows you to continue to recognize your contribution. Then the skills that you are employing every day will help you build a brand to be known for something.” Mobray suggests volunteering your services based on your expertise. “If you’re a computer programmer, go work at the Boys and Girls Club and help them to redesign their computer systems for kids in the neighborhood. If you’re savvy with social media, go and work at a restaurant and help them build a social media campaign for new clients and customers.” These efforts give you a “conversation piece” for networking, he says, and opens up your network. “It ties you to other people who can now network on your behalf. Your job search is not something you should do alone. You should have multiple people in your network who are working on your behalf. That’s how people get back to work.”
Don’t focus on being unemployed.
In network settings, Mobray recommends not presenting yourself as unemployed. “When people are out of work, they take on an out-of-work persona: ‘I’m so-and-so and I’m unemployed.’ I advocate that you come from a foundation of strength and skill. Describe yourself as a professional. Your credibility as a professional doesn’t stop by not having a job. ‘I’m a skilled technician or expert in this particular area.’ Come from a position that you are skilled and have a reputation in a particular area.”
Share what you’ve done.
Aside from volunteering, Mobray also suggests writing a blog, articles, etc., and finding forums—online or at events—to further showcase your expertise. “Now people can connect to you in ways they didn’t before. You have new value. And you have a new way to talk about yourself instead of saying ‘I’m an unemployed worker.’”