The final Be Inspired workshop of the year revealed how aspiring female retailers can hone their personal brand and remain authentic both online and offline.
What does it mean to be authentic? How can unique talents be identified and accurately presented to employers? Why are networks and social media important to defining a career path?
A panel featuring Made chief creative officer Jo Jackson, Dorothy Perkins and Burton head of global marketing Stephanie Legg, AS Watson customer and people director Joanne Mackie and Dell retail business lead Debbie Johnson discussed these questions.
Authenticity and consistency
To create an authentic personal brand, future leaders need to accurately present themselves to colleagues and peers, be comfortable in their own skin and understand what that means for their future career in the business world.
There’s nothing to be gained from “over-fluffing your feathers”, says Jackson, as lies on a CV, job application or LinkedIn profile will easily be exposed, either in the interview room or on the office floor, ultimately resulting in a waste of time for both parties.
Legg says it is about consistency: does the profile on page or screen match up with the person in real life?
“It’s important not to put anything on social media you are not willing to defend: truly believe in every representation of yourself you make online”
Debbie Johnson, Dell
With social media at the forefront of a prospective candidate’s online presence, it’s important to cultivate an online persona in keeping with the brand.
“Being online is vital,” says Johnson, “but it’s important to remember not to put anything on social media you are not willing to talk about or defend: truly believe in every representation of yourself you make online.”
It is also important to be honest and authentic in person. Today, retailers are much more understanding about mental health problems, personal struggles and requirements for flexible working.
Communicating about issues and setting out a clear framework on how to overcome them will better serve everyone’s interests in the long run.
Remember your unique strengths
A job interview isn’t simply a sales pitch, but interviewees who know how to explain their unique talents and strengths are more likely to succeed.
“There’s a difference between bullshit and ambition,” says Jackson. “Being able to fully admit what you can and can’t do garners respect. The ambition comes when you maintain: ‘I can’t do that, but I have experience here that I think I could apply and learn from.’”
Women can find it particularly hard to talk about their strengths, often taking on a character to command authority in a role.
“There’s a difference between bullshit and ambition. Being able to fully admit what you can and can’t do garners respect”
Jo Jackson, Made
Legg and Jackson had different career journeys and coping mechanisms, which ultimately ended in the same conclusion.
For Jackson, her continuing stream of leadership roles meant she felt the need to lead the room and direct her team. Instead, she learned to relax, admit to human error and encourage the honesty of her co-workers.
Legg, on the other hand, felt she wasn’t taken seriously, having worked up from a junior position, creating a need to prove herself and find validation. By staying true to herself, and her sense of fashion, she was able to move past this to command the respect she holds today.
Create a digital footprint
Having a presence online is essential in the modern retail job hunt, but it’s OK to separate the personal and the professional.
As long as a company or employer is able to find professional information about a prospective candidate online, there is no need for personal social media to be publicly reviewed.
Mackie claims that AS Watson recruits 80% of its roles on LinkedIn, so it’s important to maintain an accurate and interesting profile on this platform.
Making connections, both online and offline, can be invaluable for current and future career prospects.
Legg concludes that “the more time you give to people, the more you get back. Getting inside the heads of colleagues and counterparts can help you do your own job better”.
Rachael Glynne, lead client solutions manager at LinkedIn, shares her top tips for a great profile
- Make sure you have a good photo, representative of the industry you want to work in.
- Write an authentic and concise summary of your passions and accomplishments, using keywords to help employers find your profile.
- Detail all work experience with a short description of what the role entailed.
BONUS: Add examples and links to your work.
- Add skills that match the keywords in your summary. Remember: LinkedIn is a social network, where you and your contacts should reciprocate each other’s support. Don’t be afraid to ask colleagues and former colleagues to endorse you for certain skills.
- Establish yourself as a thought leader – share your own content, share that of others, offer comments of support or debate, or even like a post. Use your activity to showcase who you are.
- Reach out to contacts from every stage of your career. If you meet someone interesting at an event, add them – they might be useful in future.
- Keep learning: LinkedIn is a hub of content – follow companies and influencers, and streamline your feed so you’re reading what interests you.
- Schedule time to invest in your own brand, embracing your uniqueness and making sure your tone rings through your profile.