Personal Branding 101 For Financial Services Professionals

As a financial services professional in today’s job market, you have to do more than sell your skills to get hired. As cultural fit becomes increasingly important, hiring managers are going to look beyond your technical acumen to evaluate the way you present your experience as well as your overall image—in other words, your personal brand.

“While your resume is still very important, it’s really only part of the package, “says Mitchell Peskin, Partner and Executive Vice President of The Execu|Search Group’s Financial Services division. “To set yourself apart from other candidates in this job market, you have to think big picture about your brand. While this may be a term that is more commonly used when referring to professionals in more creative roles, whether they know it or not, all financial services professionals have a personal brand that they’ve been building throughout their careers.”

In sum, your personal brand is what makes you unique. It encompasses your skills, experience, career goals, and industry involvement. However, if you want it to help you land a job, you first need to understand just what it is you’re selling and how to present it. To do this, here are Mitchell’s 5 tips for success:

Define your image: Defining your image is the most important part of this process. To do this, you must take some time to think about what you want to accomplish in your career, and how you can achieve these goals. To start, you can ask yourself the following questions:

  • What do I do?
  • How do I want to be identified?
  • How am I already perceived?
  • What do I want to be known for?

This short activity can also help you identify your strengths, pinpoint areas you’d like to improve or gain more experience in, and establish a few short or long term goals—3 factors that can help guide your job search as well as any talking points for interviews.

Be accurate and honest: When defining your image, it’s important to be honest about your background and job history. While it may be tempting to stretch the truth to make yourself stand out, doing so can ultimately do more harm than good. “If you want to be seen as a respected industry professional, your personal brand should be authentic,” cautions Mitchell. “This has become especially true as the financial services industry faces increased regulation. Compliance has become a major focus and your employer needs to be able to trust that you aren’t doing anything to discredit the organization.” That’s why any unethical approaches to landing an opportunity— like being dishonest about your experience or educational background—can cost you not only your job, but also your professional credibility in the long run.

Be social savvy:  If you use it correctly, social media can be a very useful branding tool.  LinkedIn, for example, is an excellent starting point for financial services professionals. “Most hiring managers use LinkedIn to research or source prospective hires, so establishing a strong presence on this site is the best place to start,” advises Mitchell. “Once you master LinkedIn, there are a lot of other great platforms to utilize.” For instance, establishing a blog or becoming a contributor to a relevant industry publication may give likeminded professionals a glimpse of your personality, while helping establish yourself as a voice in your field.

Be consistent: To successfully highlight your brand, you must be consistent in how you spread your message. This means that all forms of visual and verbal communication (your resume, social platforms/blog, how you present yourself on interviews, etc.) need to maintain a similar voice. “Financial service organizations require accuracy and strong attention to detail, so inconsistent messages in your personal branding can raise some major red flags,” warns Mitchell. “If something in your resume does not match something you have written on your LinkedIn profile, for example, the hiring manager could question your ability to do the job, or keep the organization compliant with federal regulations. As a result, something that may seem like a ‘little’ mistake could really hurt your job search.”

Get involved: Attending industry events as a guest or speaker is another great way to develop your personal brand. On one hand, they allow you to meet and connect with likeminded professionals in your field, but on the other, help you stay abreast of industry trends and keep your skills up-to-date. Some professionals even take their industry involvement a step further by volunteering for a relevant charitable organization such as Hedge Funds Care. “Demonstrating an interest in your field outside of your job is one of the best ways to brand yourself as a thought leader,” says Mitchell. “Using your expertise to educate others or give back in some way can also help you expand your audience and connect with people you wouldn’t have met otherwise.”