There are around 2 billion millennials in the world and, this year, we’re said to have the most spending power of any generation. Ever. We’re the first generation to grow up with social media and we might forget to put on matching socks in the morning but we’re never, ever going to misplace our smartphone; or so they say.
We’re probably the generation most aware of our personal brand and how important it is. Most of us, though, value it from a be seen perspective which is probably why other generations perceive millennials to be narcissistic. Since their strategy is to be as visible as possible, they focus more on likes and less on what those likes mean and how they can leverage them to build a strong personal brand, people will want to work with.
Try not to look like a job-hopper
One of the biggest issues hiring managers have with millennials is that we’ve been labeled job-hoppers and we’re, therefore, seen as a permanent flight risk. While some people might really just be spoiled brats who jump ship as soon as it gets tough, most millennials are hard-working, ambitious people who see their careers as something much more proactive. This means that if they can’t pursue their goals in this company, they’ll find another one in which they can. It’s a tad bit ironic since most job descriptions do list being proactive as a requirement but then managers expect people to be happy in the same dull role.
So, what can you do to make you look less like a career job-hopper if you’ve had a number of jobs in the past few years. First off, if you’ve had more than two jobs in the past year or have several positions, that aren’t internships or project-based, which you’ve been in for a few months only, I encourage you to consider removing some of them. It’s better to explain why you’ve held several positions face to face, rather than let people make their own assumptions when checking out your CV.
Having had quite a few jobs in multiple companies can look even worse if you’ve not bothered to detail what your role, responsibility and results in that position were. It’s also a great opportunity for you to casually explain why you moved on. Were you working as a generalist and wanted a more specialised position? This is your chance to say it.
Be smart about using LinkedIn
Millennials make up 38% of LinkedIn’s global user base, with over 2 million of them holding marketing roles, 30% of whom are decision makers. So millennial marketers understand the value of building a strong personal brand on Linkedin but a lot of millennials in other industries, tend to be quite happy to use the network as a repository for a barely-there CV.
This is quite surprising as we’re more than happy to showcase our personality, hobbies and the causes we believe in on other social networks. So what’s wrong with us on LinkedIn?
“We are not a generation of suits and ties, but rather creator and entrepreneurs.” – Page Williams, Senior Manager, Member Marketing & Communications, Social Media, LinkedIn
Well, LinkedIn is a professional network and, when it comes to a professional environment, not many of us have found that authentic middle ground that enables us to confidently use our personality, hobbies and the causes we believe in to differentiate ourselves in the workplace. But we have to.
While you do have to keep it professional, that doesn’t mean that your LinkedIn summary, position descriptions, headlines and posts have to be stone cold and corporate. Craig Japp’s profile doesn’t shy away from getting personal or introducing humor into the conversation but because there’s no jargon, no cumbersome explanation about what he does for a living and there’s a wee bit of personal experience included in the descriptions, making him more relatable as a person.
But there’s more to building a strong LinkedIn profile than just creating a profile. LinkedIn is a social network and unless you learn to be just as social as you are on Instagram, Facebook and other networks, it won’t do your personal brand much good. More on that here.
Think like an entrepreneur
Millennials are very purpose and value-driven. We are far less likely to buy something because it’s convenient. Rather, we focus on value (Goldman Sachs, 2017). A lot of brands capitalise on this but very few millennials do the same for their personal brand.
In 2014 alone, millennials launched almost 160,000 startups and made up nearly one third of all entrepreneurs in the US. The same mindset that enables you to set up a business and help it grow, will help your personal brand thrive. We are equipped with a bottomless pit of marketing tools that we can use to promote our personal brand and, through them, our businesses.
This means articulating the same concept you look for when evaluating a product, a brand or a job – value – for your own business and personal brand. Think about what you want to offer, to whom and how it’s going to improve their lives and, how the global reach of all the tools you fiddle around on your smartphone on a daily basis, can help you achieve it.
Traditionally, companies have taken a step back whenever social and political issues come into focus. That’s often because their audience spans across both sides of a debate and taking a stand would mean antagonising a segment of their customer base. Well, as brands try to humanise their image and develop a strong connection with their public, that’s not going to fly anymore.
A recent Sprout Social study found that most consumers want brands to weigh in on social and political issues. If people expect brands to have an opinion, it’s not that far-fetched to assume that they want personal brands to have an even stronger voice.
We know that wellness, work-life balance, environmental issues are only a few of the biggest topics millennials feel very strongly about. Still, aside from a handful we’d call activists or people who position themselves as gurus, personal brands don’t tend to discuss the issues they feel strongly about. So you might see a personal trainer talk about healthy food but you’re not likely to see a marketing manager trying to open a conversation about global warming.
Canva’s Chief Evangelist and Keynote speaker, Guy Kawasaki, regularly discusses political issues on LinkedIn, with significant engagement on almost every post. Let’s face it, politics is a tough topic but, as a personal brand you can’t always pick the safe road, especially since so many other brands already do. Having a strong voice about the things you believe in, doesn’t just mean you stay true to yourself but it also enables your audience to see you as a complete human being they can relate to.
The Bottom Line
As millennials, we already have a lot of tools in our toolbox and, having grown up in a time of technological change and globalisation, we already have a mindset geared towards using technology to drive change. We’re also a lot more comfortable with expressing our individuality, all of which are valuable assets in establishing a personal brand.
But personal branding isn’t something you can figure out in an afternoon, over a latte. It’s a very dynamic process that challenges you to get out of your comfort zone, think like an entrepreneur and figure out the value you can provide for your potential clients, business partners, employers and peers. Our goal isn’t just to improve business outcomes, and the way we work but also our awareness about everyday issues and how we face the challenges they pose.
So grab your smartphone, brainy specs, triple grande nonfat white mocha and let’s get to work!