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Finished Up School, Now Time to Build Your Brand

Photo by Joao Tzanno on Unsplash

When I was attending coding Bootcamp while having a hiatus on my tech career, I had the opportunity to work as a representative in one of the biggest telecommunications companies. Even though I don’t have any sales experience, they chose me to work in their retention department after a few interviews and a behavioral test. Not just the interviewing process was longer than most Customer Support Representative jobs, but we also had to go through rigorous three-month training. They wanted to make sure we learned everything, and there was a lot to digest. Also, let’s say we needed to become salespeople.

It was fun three months before connecting the phones and being on the front line of one of what’s, unfortunately, the most hated companies in the country. Regardless of the customer’s behavior, it was a great company to be part of, and I learned a lot. One of the things I learned during those three months was to build my brand.

By definition, a brand is a name given to a product or service from a specific source. As time went by, the word brand became way more than branding irons used to identify cattle. Coca-Cola became a non-generic name to distinguish itself among the other caramel-colored beverages found at the time. And before our great grandparents knew it, every other company followed suit, and every product available in stores had a brand.

By the later part of the 20th century, those brands in stores started having a life of their own. Thus, having the attention of faithful consumers. Marketing was a thing, and David Ogilvy, the father of advertising, described the brand as the intangible sum of product attributes.

From learning that I am my own brand, what is a brand by definition, I realized that once I got my college degree, work experience, the Bootcamp certificate, and my projects, it’s time to take all of it and build my brand.

Before going through my suggestions, I’d like to clarify that this blog’s list it’s based on my personal experience, and the results may differ. I suggest checking other resources and making the best out of every single one of them.

So here are five tips for building your brand during your job search:

1: Keep Your Resume Short and With Style

One major mistake in my past was uploading a long 4-page resume to the job application. Believe it or not, it was four pages of confusing bullets with long sentences describing way more details than what recruiters and hiring managers need to read since nowadays recruiters go through keywords. A better practice is to have a section with skills such as coding languages, business software, and methodologies than many long sentences in the Work Experience section. Keep the bullets on the work experience short, and concentrate on the relevant keywords.

Since your resume will be one page, make it count. There are many resume templates to choose from just with a Google search. The Google docs app is free, and there are many beautiful and elegant resume templates. Remember, this is your professional resume. So we want to make it look with style without losing its professional look. Go for a different template without many colors, and maybe a column for some keywords or information.

On my resume, I added some icons as hyperlinks, including my portfolio’s favicon, which brings me to the suggestion:

2: Build a Good Looking Portfolio Site

Once you have the resume, you can share it alongside your projects on your portfolio website. You can publish your resume, a summary of the coding languages and technologies you’ve worked with, your project repositories, and your project’s video presentations.

Maybe building your website sounds challenging or intimidating if you didn’t practice enough HTML and CSS in your Software Engineering Bootcamp. You must’ve got or at least understood the basics, and it’s simpler than you might think. You can either create a basic page with some basic CSS that looks good or borrow a template. There are many bootstrap page templates around, for example, Bootstrape, Start Boostrap, and the one I used myself, WebThemez. The choices are endless, but since we are only showing off our projects, we only need something simple that’s not necessarily meant for a web store or a huge business.

Either create the template from scratch or choose a Bootstrap template and make your changes. The most important thing is to be creative. To do something you would love to show about that’s purely yours. In my case, my portfolio site contains a font I hand-picked to portray my name with a style I understood fits me. A picture of myself when I spent a year in Alaska. A very personal biography, and even a timeline of my previous work experience. Even the project pictures with the links to the video presentations and the Github repositories are edited by myself.

It is, after all, my work, and the best part of it was that it just took me borrowing a template and making slight changes and $8 for a year of using the domain www.norbertosantiago.com.

But, there’s something that’s even more important to have than a website.

3: Be Yourself On Social Media

The picture was taken from this awesome article about using social media for your own good and overcoming anxiety and depression.

In the tech industry, almost all of us have a Linkedin account. It’s become the way we communicate with each other and network in a professional environment (more on networking later). Before the big revelation on being my brand, my Linkedin account was the dullest and lifeless ever. The profile consisted of the same simple picture I used as batch id, the work experience, and a handful of skills. There was no biography, no links, nothing interesting at all.

It was until my career coach told me: “This is not you, Norberto. You need to improve your profile.” That’s where I realize I can be myself on Linkedin while keeping things professional. If you see my picture here at Medium, it’s the same as my Linkedin profile picture. Additionally, I didn’t shy away from saying I do blogging and podcasting in my personal life. Neither did I shy away from sharing all these blogs in which I do pop culture references. The secret is finding that sweet spot between being yourself and causing a good first impression to your potential employers and coworkers.

It doesn’t end with Linkedin since you can also have a presence on Twitter by tweeting about your coding journey, sharing blog posts, retweeting relevant tweets from the tech world, and using hashtags #developer, #programming, #codinglife, and even committing to the #100daysofcode. Want to use Instagram too? Of course, you can! Social media is part of our lives, and it doesn’t have to be apart from your professional brand.

It will help you with the following.

4: Networking

Your social media presence is improving. It’s time to do some networking everywhere. Networking is probably the most talked about subject in this kind of “post-Bootcamp” conversation, and probably every single article or vlog on YouTube is correct, do some networking. Talk with recruiters, other developers, and startup owners on social media, don’t lose contact with your school peers, check for Discord groups, join hackathons, check if there are meetups in your city.

During your first tech job search, you will need to meet new people in the industry. That’s when you’ll join study groups, be part of additional projects through hackathons, practice interviews, etc. There’s a lot to unveil in the Networking subject, and there are many articles about it.

I recommend this article on getting job offers to start by networking.

5: Improve Your Projects

You’re working the entire day. After you work, you spend the night working on your project, debugging, googling your issues, writing many paragraphs on Stack Overflow, so nobody is mean to you. Bootcamps are not a walk in the park. Finishing up a project before the deadline often means you’ll only reach the minimum requirements. That’s why I suggest refactoring them. Now that you completed the JavaScript and React assignments in school, you have time to learn how to improve it visually with CSS. Perhaps, you want to experiment with some tools such as Bootstrap, Tailwind, and Material-UI. Make those web apps completely responsive, and add new features such as authentication or more robust validations.

As you keep discovering what you’d like to make out of your career and how you’s like your brand to be, you’ll have an idea of how you’d like the projects from your portfolio to look. It’s fun to build an exciting brand for yourself. But, it’s also about the quality of your code, and improving your projects it’s a good start.

An actual before and after of my JavaScript project.

I hope this inspires you to build a great brand, and here’s to the best of success.

Summary:

  1. Introduction
  2. What is a brand
  3. Five suggestions to build a brand

References:

  1. McLaughlin, Jerry; What is a Brand, Anyway?; Forbes Magazine, Dec 21, 2011
  2. Rahamim, Moriah; How I got 7 Job Offers in 8 Weeks (Part 1: Please Interview Me?)

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