It’s not just Instagram influencers who need a strong personal brand. Employers are starting to take a closer look at how job candidates present themselves online.
And while your online persona won’t replace a traditional resume (at least not yet), branding yourself in an authentic way could lead to more interviews, better job offers, promotions and more connections in your industry. A personal brand isn’t just a logo or website, but who you are and who you want to be. It’s what people think about when they hear or see your name.
So how do you narrow your identity down to a personal brand? It won’t happen right away, just like you can’t go from zero followers to social media influencer overnight. But no matter what your current digital footprint looks like, you can get started creating a personal brand right now.
Here’s a roadmap to building your brand (and landing a job you love along the way), with inspiration from tech pros who’ve done it successfully.
Table of contents
- Why brand yourself?
- First, ask yourself these questions
- Set yourself up for success
- Where you should be online
Why brand yourself?
70% of employers look up job applicants online to get the scoop on their online identity. By creating a personal brand, you won’t just survive being Googled by an employer, you’ll actually boost your career success, show off your unique value and give employers reasons to hire you.
You’ll also gain visibility, which means recruiters can easily find you—with minimal effort required on your end. Recruiters who reach out to you based on your personal brand are more likely to come to you with the right opportunities that match your skills and career goals.
When applying for jobs, you can even point out and link to elements of your personal brand (e.g., blog, social media accounts, hackathons) to stand out, add credibility and highlight your passions. After all, if a hiring manager is forced to break a tie between two great candidates, the one that shows their enthusiasm before they ever say a word will most likely win out.
However, landing your next big job opportunity is just a side effect of branding yourself. It can also help you build friendships, learn or improve skills, build authority and even get to know yourself a little bit better.
First, ask yourself these questions
Before you buy a domain name or open any online accounts, get clear about what your personal brand is. Below are a few questions you should ask yourself to take an inventory of your career plans, personality and passions.
What are my career goals? Think about where you are and where you want to go. Do you want to level up as an engineering manager, move into a software architect role or switch careers entirely?
What type of company do I want to work for? A big name like Microsoft? A startup? Yourself? A 100% remote company?
How do I want to be seen? The most memorable personal brands are really specific. What do you want to be known for? It can be a niche language like Julia or Haskell, a specific field like AI or mobile development, or a few in-demand languages like Python or Kotlin.
How do people see me right now? Ask friends or coworkers for a few adjectives they’d use to describe you. Use answers to this question (and the previous one) to determine if there is a gap between how you want to be seen and reality.
What am I passionate about? You don’t want to brand yourself around something you don’t enjoy—otherwise it’ll feel like a chore. Your passion doesn’t have to be a coding language or APIs. It could be the intersection of tech and the environment, or tech and fashion, for example.
What’s my story? In other words, what makes you unique? Are you a bootcamp grad, career changer or self-taught coder? Have you been coding since you were 11? Put your story into one or two sentences that make you human.
Here are a few examples of personal brand stories to help you create your own:
- David Venturi’s story: “I dropped out of one of the best computer science programs in Canada to teach myself data science using online resources like Udacity, edX and Coursera.”
- Aisha Bowe’s story: “If Aisha Bowe had followed her guidance counselor’s advice, she would be a cosmetologist. Instead, Aisha is an aeronautical engineer and entrepreneur managing multi-million dollar defense contracts and private-sector technology clients.”
- Jeremy Schifeling’s story: “As a lifelong nerd, I always dreamed of working in tech. But after starting my career as a kindergarten teacher, I never thought I’d make it.”
Set yourself up for success
Now that you’ve uncovered your personal brand, let’s get started with some housekeeping before sharing your voice with the world.
Choose your social media handle and domain name
If you can, snag the same name for all of your online accounts (e.g., GitHub, Stack Overflow, Twitter, etc.). That way, you’ll be recognizable across the web, and potential employers can find you without having to go three or four pages deep in search results.
You don’t have to use your first and last name, either. Instead, you might want to choose a different handle to represent you. Lots of tech pros, including Mayuko Inoue (@hellomayuko), Sasha Tran (@sasha.codes), and Marie-Philippe Gill (@girlknowstech) have done this successfully.
For your website domain name, however, it’s good practice to use your first and last name so you’re easily searchable.
Tidy up your online presence, Marie Kondo style
Before launching your personal brand, clean up or bury any of your digital dirt or anything that no longer sparks joy (e.g., unused accounts, unflattering photos). It’s also a good idea to change your privacy settings on accounts you want to keep, but that don’t match your personal brand.
Create design and branding collateral (optional)
While optional for most tech pros, this is an especially important step if you’re a designer in any capacity (e.g, UX designer, web designer, front-end developer). This is where you establish your brand colors, logo, typography, design style, etc. to be used across all your online profiles so that your personal brand is consistent, recognizable and unique to you.
Career coach tip: Give your personal brand a face by getting a headshot or even using a cartoon avatar.
Check out Masha Zvereva, founder of Coding Blonde, for example. Her brand design expresses her personality, helps build a connection with her audience and boosts her personal brand recognition.
Estefannie, a tech influencer and computer scientist, even has her own logo that makes her instantly recognizable across all of her social profiles.
Where you should be online
For any branding campaign, visibility is the very first step. For big brands like Starbucks, Target or Coca-Cola, that typically means TV, social and print ads that get millions of impressions. But you’re probably not running your own Super Bowl ads.
Here’s how to leverage social media and other online communities to get your personal brand out there.
Quick warning: Don’t open every account possible. Only focus on what makes the most sense and impact for you. If keeping up with your personal brand becomes a 24/7 obligation, you’ll probably burn out before you have a chance to accomplish anything.
You might be using GitHub as a project management tool already, but it’s also a great place to show off your code, whether it’s pet projects, works in progress or contributions to open source code. Stars, forks and followers can also help generate social proof that will appeal to employers.
Adam Bertram, founder of Adam the Automator, says on his website “I’m passionate about solving technical problems through automation and sharing my knowledge with the world.” But he doesn’t just say it and hope people believe him. He’s active on GitHub, proving that his personal brand is authentic—not just made up of meaningless buzzwords.
Career coach tip: Make sure all the commits you’ve made in private repositories are public on your profile.
Recruiters also source tech candidates like you on Stack Overflow and GitHub, so you might get job opportunities coming to you just by putting your expertise and skills out there.
Michelle Tilley is a great example of someone who’s cultivating her personal brand on Stack Overflow. She’s answered 1,000+ questions in her specialization of web programming and scripting, especially Node.js, React and Flux/Redux.
Blog or Medium
Don’t just write code. Write blog posts, too. A blog is the heart of your personal brand. Creating content you’re passionate about (and being consistent with posting) will help you show up in a recruiter’s Google search, build up an audience and provide evidence of your skills.
What should you write about? Anything from the skills you’re currently learning to coding tutorials and tech tips to your thoughts on the latest tech gadgets. You can even re-post your article on Medium for more exposure. Additionally, if you’re writing on a highly technical topic, choose a subject that doesn’t already have tons of posts so you’re more likely to show up higher in search results.
Another great example is Kathryn Hodge (@blondiebytes), who posts helpful, creative and often hilarious programming tutorials on Medium, including one called Dear Taylor Swift, #LookWhatYouMadeMeCode.
Want to get your content out there? Shoot us a note to get featured on the Seen blog.
Where else can you get direct access to nearly every high-profile member of the tech community?
Start by crafting a Twitter bio that reflects your brand, which could include your role title, an accomplishment or your story. People on Twitter want to connect with real people so don’t be afraid to reveal your personal interests outside coding. While you might not want to include something like “avocado connoisseur” on your resume, it’s perfectly fine to include it in your Twitter bio.
Tweet useful content daily about your niche and industry, follow people you admire, retweet others and answer questions. Instead of focusing on your follower count, focus on learning from others, providing value and letting your personality shine through.
Ben Halpern, for example, shares industry news and other tech-related stories, but his tweets also reveal that he’s relatable, friendly and funny.
Owning a personal website helps you control your online persona. Since it’ll likely be one of the first things that pops up when an employer searches for you, make sure to include an “about me” section (using the personal brand story you created earlier), your contact information and links to your projects, social media accounts, resume and blog.
Other ways to amplify your personal brand online
The great thing about creating a personal brand is that you get to choose where you live online based on your interests, career goals and talents. Other personal branding tools to consider include: LinkedIn, Instagram, YouTube and Quora.
You could even start a podcast (or appear as a guest on one) or create an online course in your niche, like Mosh Hamedani who’s built his personal brand on teaching people to code.
Where you should be in real life
Growing your professional circle and getting your name out there virtually is important, but that doesn’t guarantee anyone will find you online. That’s why you have to connect with the tech community offline (via formal and informal networking events) to boost both your credibility and visibility.
Attend meetups, events and conferences
Whether you find a local meetup in your niche through meetup.com or travel to a new city to attend a tech conference, summit or expo you found on Eventbrite, attending in-person networking events is a great way to to make lasting professional connections that could lead to your next job offer.
Beyond that, it’s also an excellent way to build your reputation and extend your online persona to the real world.
Career coach tip: It may seem like an outdated practice, but consider making custom business cards with your name and links to your social profiles. Instead of handing them out to everyone (which might make you look like a salesperson), give them only to the people you make genuine connections with.
Step up to the podium
Beyond just attending a meetup or event, consider speaking yourself. You might think you have to wait until after you’ve earned industry recognition, but that’s not always true. Start small. Volunteer to speak at a local meetup first to build your confidence, and then set your sights on something on a grander scale, like a tech event, a panel discussion or a workshop.
Participate in hackathons
Not only can hackathons help you sharpen your skills, but you’ll meet fellow coders, build your confidence and come away with solid projects you can add to your portfolio.
Take Gwendolyn Faraday, for example. She attended six hackathons in less than a year and now hosts her own hackathons for beginners. Not only did Gwendolyn leverage hackathons to help build her personal brand, but hackathons have now become a large part of how she presents herself online.
Check out Hackathon.com to find one near you.
Branding isn’t just for companies
Whether you’re looking to break into tech, get that promotion or land your next big opportunity, creating a personal brand isn’t just an option for taking your career further, it’s a requirement.
The tech world is constantly evolving, which means your tech career will, too. And as you meet new people, learn new skills and get to know yourself and what makes you happy in your career, realize that your personal brand will likely shift too. Just make sure it continues to reflect who you are and where you want to go.