On the Windows Services team, we hire a lot of SDETs (Software Development Engineers in Test). Since SDETs at Microsoft are software engineers who love to break things and solve big problems, it is important that they can demonstrate their ability to code, as well as their passion for problem-solving and technology. If even one of those things doesn’t come across during the interview, they likely won’t be hired.
All of those elements contribute to the issue of personal branding. When you apply for jobs, it’s important to ask yourself: “What is my brand?” If you think about marketing yourself in the same way that companies think of marketing their products, you’ll realize that it’s not a good idea to try to be everything to everyone. You’ll never succeed.
Instead, if you narrow things down to specifics, you’ll be successful. Consider:
Who…is your target audience? If you’re a recruiter, will your audience be potential candidates or other recruiters? Two totally different audiences will be interested in very different topics. So if you’re a software engineer, keep in mind which audience you want to receive which message.
What…is your specialty or niche? You cannot be everything to everyone. Figure out what you know best and go with that.
When…will you interact with your audience? What is the optimal time? This may take some A/B testing to really get a feel for the time that’s most effective.
Where…does your target audience live? Facebook? LinkedIn? Twitter? Meetup groups?
Why and How….will you reach them? What is your strategy? I think the cornerstone of personal branding is to have a consistent theme across every channel you use. Having a blog is also a critical piece of self-branding as it provides a platform to share your knowledge at a deeper level. The other social channels can be seen as the distribution system for promoting your blog and any high-level ideas, article shares, and so on.
Your passion and skills should come across at every level—resume and online profiles (with links to side projects) and during interviews (genuine energy when talking about technology). When I see that someone has links to side projects, for instance, it is a pretty good indicator that they are passionate about what they do and they have an insatiable desire to learn and build things outside of their 9-to-5 role.
As with any type of branding, it is important to do research and develop a strategy before jumping into it. You have to know what you want to be and who you want to be it to.
Which of Microsoft’s top three software development roles is right for you? Find out, and meet Kory Gill, who left Microsoft for a startup and came back to Windows happier than ever.