What you should do to remain relevant and even stand out in job market

A man browsing work opportunities online using job search computer app. [Getty Images]

I recently read this captivating post on social media: “A 500ml bottle of drinking water is sold by a hawker at Sh20; a supermarket sells the same quantity at 50; a bar sells it at 100; a good restaurant in an uptown location sells it at 200; and the airport, a prime location, sells it at 500. Now see, same product, same brand. What has changed is the location.”

Changing your location does not mean literal change of residence or business area. It is about doing things differently. It means repackaging yourself. It is about changing your personal brand!

December was awash with graduation parties. My good friends, the Rasugus, invited me to one such party. Two of their sons were graduating along with their two cousins. I got an opportunity to give a short speech and I told them about two key things that matter in the job market.

One is qualifications, which they now had; and the other is suitability, which they must strive to get. One way to achieve suitability is to stand out from the crowd. What makes one different from others in the same field or industry? This is applicable to not only fresh graduates, but also to seasoned professionals. Even a sharp knife from the shop gets blunt with time, and so we have to keep on sharpening it. It is all about personal branding.

Elizabeth Harr defines personal branding as the combination of an individual’s visibility and reputation among their customers and peers. It elevates a person’s visibility and improves their reputation. As they become better known and respected, they grow in eminence and earning power. To grow in eminence, one needs a personal branding strategy. In his book ‘Help! My Chocolate is Melting’, Wale Akenyemi, tells how he has met many homeless and soon-to-be homeless emperors of business and organisations who have built their palaces on the prevailing conditions of the day.

When they are building, the weather is favourable. Technology is favourable. The political climate is favourable. These emperors come up with great strategic plans for the future. Akinyemi says that nearly eight out of 10 emperors he has met confessed that their model was either almost irrelevant or obsolete before the duration of the strategic plan ran out. This is largely because technology and external conditions grew faster than their strategy. He can almost hear many of the emperors crying: ‘Help! My chocolate is melting’.

According to Harr, for one to take their reputation to highest level, there are five levels of visibility. The first is being a Resident Expert. These experts are well respected within their organisations and by their clients, but have little visibility outside of those audiences. Most individuals  start their journey here. Level two is Local Heroes. These individuals are beginning to become known outside of their organisations. They are more active in their local business communities, often speaking at business functions and blogging.

The third is Rising Stars. These experts have developed a regional reputation. They are fairly well known among peers in their area, and they speak and write frequently on their area of expertise. Level four are Industry Rock Stars. They are well known across the nation for their niche areas of expertise. As a result, they become significant assets to their organisations. Finally, level five are Global Superstars. These are the world’s elite experts, they have broken out of their niches and become recognised more broadly in their industries.

Your first task is to figure out which of these levels describes you today. Then you need to decide what level of expertise you would like to achieve and what strategies you will employ to prevent your chocolate from melting. What is it that will make you relevant in the face of changing circumstances?

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