Monday Author: Susanne Skinner
“Regardless of age, regardless of position, regardless of the business we happen to be in, all of us need to understand the importance of branding. We are CEOs of our own companies: Me Inc. To be in business today, our most important job is to be head marketer for the brand called You.” ~ Tom Peters
In today’s business world we are all entrepreneurs. Employment has no five-year plan or gold watch. It is fickle, arrives and departs on a whim and is consistently inconsistent. Job descriptions demand skills that stop short of spinning straw into gold, and applicants respond with resumes that make them jacks of all trades and masters of none.
Resumes are still the most effective method of summarizing your capabilities, but they are part one of a two-step process. As a member of the workforce you need more than a stand-out resume, you need a personal brand. Your brand is just as important as your resume. It is your unique voice, created to make you recognizable in a wide field of competitors. That makes creating your personal brand essential to your job search.
Writing a resume is hard. The tendency is to become a generalist, capturing every key word listed in a job description. Don’t do it. We can be good at lots of things, but there are critical skills in each profession that deserve to be focal points. These are abilities that set you apart and get noticed—accomplishments that show an employer what you can do for them.
Once you create your professional summary you need to sell it. You are no different than Pepsi or Microsoft. Learn to differentiate yourself and provide reasons for people to do business with you. Employers are going to choose somebody, so convince them to choose you. Market yourself and your career accomplishments by creating a personal brand.
A note about personal brands—you already have one. If you have a digital footprint, you have a personal brand, even though you may not be aware of it. The question you must ask is “what does it look and sound like”? Do you post cat videos every day, change jobs once a year and run with scissors or are you known for creativity, thought leadership and well-placed professional connections? Remember that you live in the social age and the internet is forever.
This is about cultivating a professional reputation (yesterday’s word for personal brand) and turning it into a career advantage. There are two parts to a personal brand –what is already being said about you and what you want to be said about you. Mind the Gap.
Bring Your A Game
Easy for me to say—but seriously—this is serious. You must decide what you want to be known for. From an employment perspective personal branding is overloaded with generalities like “marketing” and “human resources.” They are too vague to be meaningful; failing to create a specific knowledge base or skill set that gets you noticed. Steer yourself away from broad categories.
A personal brand has precise focus and the cred to back it up. It narrows your audience, but provides a strong platform to stand on and adds relevance in the right places. When done right, it enables you to promote yourself with confidence and enthusiasm.
Job seekers who know how to articulate who they are and what they do have an advantage over those who have not made the investment in developing marketing confidence. The more you invest, the more it appreciates. Your value proposition is framed by how you look and sound to other professionals in your field.
Building the Brand
It’s that simple and it’s that hard. When you articulate your strengths, skills and value to a company you are positioned to convince an employer you have what they need. Notice I did not say you have what it takes. Your professional brand is directly associated with the success of the company and team you want to join. Employers are looking for an ROI on your talent and their money. When it comes to hiring, it’s mostly about them.
Your goal is to build a community of colleagues, employers, and professional groups that will be assets to your brand and associate you with a targeted audience. In the competitive arena people are still the strongest asset a company has and they want the best.
Begin by forgetting a job title and list what you do that is exceptional, measurable, and distinguishes you among your peers. Peer is another word for “people competing for the job you want” and it’s a jungle out there. What accomplishments give you bragging rights? Be able to articulate them clearly and take credit for them.
Define yourself well to an employer and you will convey how you will add value and grow their business. Speak with passion about your field and provide concrete examples of your success and you will hold their interest beyond a phone screen. Share what you believe in and what matters to you; it will humanize you.
Be equally well versed in what you don’t stand for. You can’t be all things to all people. Focus on areas you are passionate about because they are an extension of your values, strengths, personality and interests.
But first and foremost, do good work. A personal brand means nothing if it’s not backed up by work that is measurable and memorable. The decisions, actions and deliverables you engage in on a daily basis is where your credibility begins and ends. It’s one of the hardest things to build and the easiest to destroy.