WASHINGTON — Amanda Miller Littlejohn’s father lost his job several years ago, and despite being “a brilliant engineer,” he had trouble finding new work.
“I watched him go from this vibrant, lively person who was contributing to society, to someone who was depressed and could never really get back into the game and back into the swing of things,” said Littlejohn, who is a personal branding adviser and author of “Package Your Genius: 5 Steps to Build Your Most Powerful Personal Brand.”
The ordeal made her realize that while her father was an excellent engineer, he wasn’t a marketing specialist. He had all the skills and experience required for a new job; he just needed someone to notice them.
“It doesn’t matter how good you are or how smart you are if you don’t know how to connect with the people who need you,” said Littlejohn, who is based in D.C.
The start of a new year is a time when many set goals for the months ahead. And if taking your career to the next level or tapping into a passion project is on your list, Littlejohn has some advice on how to build your brand.
Find what energizes you
First, think back on the last few years of your career and identify the projects, products or moments that energized you. Also, take note of any volunteer work or personal interests that instilled the same excitement.
Next, “look at what the world is mirroring back to you,” Littlejohn said. What do others thank you for, or come to you for?
“Both the ‘thank you moments’ and the ‘ask for your help moments’ are clues to the value you are already providing others,” Littlejohn said.
Update your online resume
Once you’ve isolated what motivates you and how you help others, it’s time to update your LinkedIn page, which Littlejohn said is one of the top hits of any personal Google search.
“You want to find words and phrases that capture the global essence of what energizes you and what people thank you for, and you want to craft a narrative that speaks to not only what you’re good at doing, but what you love doing and what people want to see you doing, because they’re coming to you to get your support with it,” she said.
Make sure your summary captures where you’ve been, what you’ve done and what you hope to do in the future. If what you’re doing has a visual element, utilize other social media platforms, such as Instagram.
“It really depends on what your goals are and the audiences that you’re trying to reach,” Littlejohn said.
Making a pivot
It’s one thing to love baking, but it’s another thing to make a living off it. If you’re considering a career pivot to pursue a passion project, Littlejohn recommends reflecting “back to those ‘thank you moments’ and those ‘ask for your help moments.’”
“Because a lot of times when people identify something that energizes them, I encourage them to make sure there’s a match on the other side with the external world,” she said.
Start small. Littlejohn recommends testing your new service out on a few people before you go full-scale, but don’t be afraid to sell yourself and your talents.
“So many of us don’t take the opportunity to pitch what we’re doing to people who may need it,” she said.
“The idea is to think of how what you have to offer is a solution to someone’s problem because people pay for solutions.”
Don’t hold back, don’t stay silent
Littlejohn said too often, she sees professionals who are hesitant to make a splash — but that won’t get you anywhere.
“We have to toot our own horns because who else is going to do that for us?” she said.
“It’s not obnoxious to connect someone with a resource or solution that helps them solve their problems. And if you’re not willing to talk about how you can help people, and how your product or service can support them and help them face the challenges that they have, then how will people know about it?”
For those reluctant to jump in with both feet, Littlejohn recommends starting small. Write a short article or record a short video and break down solutions to problems you’ve solved with a few tips to get your brand out there, by way of a LinkedIn article, a Facebook update or an Instagram post.
“If people don’t know the projects that you’re working on, if you’re not speaking up and reminding people and sharing those case studies of [what you’ve done and the value that you’ve added], when it comes time for your performance review, people suddenly get amnesia, and it’s just hard for you to get ahead,” she said.
“We have to speak up, and stand up, and let people know that we’re here.”