How Personal Branding Makes You Stand Out
Make no mistake. In today’s challenging job search landscape, personal branding is required . . . It is no longer optional.
Executive recruiters and other hiring professionals may review the LinkedIn profiles and resumes of thousands of candidates for any given job. They often find themselves drowning in a sea of sameness. Few candidates stand out.
The wise job seeker knows that the more clearly and compellingly they can describe their good overall fit for the job and the employer, the better their chances to be noticed and contacted for interviews.
Tom Peters introduced the phrase “personal branding” to the world in 1997, in his Fast Company article The Brand Called You, in which he stated, “We are CEOs of our own companies: Me Inc. Create a message and a strategy to promote the brand called You.”
Running a job search truly is much the same as running a business. Both require identifying a target audience and marketing to them. In job search, personal branding takes care of both the targeting and personal marketing pieces.
Clearly, personal branding is a vital part of any job search.
But in the two decades since personal branding got a name, job seekers have been faced with thousands of publications and reams of web pages overloaded with misinformation about personal branding. How do job seekers know what to believe?
Personal Branding Hype and Myths vs. Reality
Misguided voices and talking heads bombard job seekers with noise and flash about personal branding. It’s no wonder people are confused. Let me set you straight regarding some of the worst offenders:
“Personal branding is just a passing fad soon to be replaced by the next best thing.”
Branding isn’t a passing fad. In fact, the process of identifying what differentiates us from our competition has been part of job search, career marketing and resume development for decades. Tom Peters gave it a name in the mid-nineties. It may go by a different name in the future, but the concept and approach will probably be the same.
“Personal branding is the way to position yourself as an expert in your field.”
If you’re not actually an expert in your field, you should never mislead people to that effect in your brand messaging. When push comes to shove, you won’t be able to live up to the expectation . . . you risk tarnishing your reputation by boasting inflated claims.
“Personal branding is ego-stroking . . . an opportunity to brag about yourself.”
Some may call branding bragging, but it’s really all about being truthful about the best you have to offer. If you have achieved great things that benefited your employers, you’re wise to let your target employers know about those things, without embellishment. Think of it as educating people about the specific ways you can help them.
“Personal branding is merely a nifty tagline for a resume and email signature.”
If the only branding work you do is to create a nifty tagline that reads well and slides easily off the tongue, then you haven’t truly defined your brand. You need to back up, dig deep and spend time identifying what differentiates you.
“Personal branding is the ticket to making big money.”
Money may come with authentic branding, but if the goal is to become wealthy, realize that it takes a whole lot more than knowing and expressing your brand. Branding may help you land a high paying job (I hope!), but once on the job, your path to wealth will fizzle if you don’t work hard, and have the goods to back up your claims.
“Personal branding is the way to become famous.”
Unless you have whatever “it” is that makes people famous, and you work at becoming well-known, branding alone probably won’t make you a superstar.
“Personal branding is just a brand statement listing functional areas of expertise.”
A brand statement needs to be much more than a string of relevant keywords and phrases highlighting functional areas of expertise. To hit home with people assessing you as a potential hire, it needs to integrate your hard skill sets with softer ones. It needs to give a feel for your personality . . . while driving home those strengths and areas of expertise.
No doubt, defining and building a strong, authentic personal brand is critical in job search. But I advise treading lightly. Don’t go overboard with branding. Don’t become the kind of person described in The Onion’s hilarious lampoon, ‘I Am A Brand,’ Pathetic Man Says.
What is Personal Branding . . . Really?
The good news. We all already have a brand. Our brand is our reputation – the things we’re most known for . . . the things people count on us to always deliver.
Simply put, personal branding for job search is the means to:
Define, differentiate and communicate the unique combination of qualities and qualifications (driving strengths, areas of expertise, personal attributes, passions and values) you offer your target employers, that set you apart from others competing for the same kinds of jobs.
These qualities and qualifications are the things you tap into every day, as you navigate your work day and personal life.
According to Justin Thompson, CareerBuilder consumer marketing manager:
“You have to consider yourself as a whole package or product – not just your skills and functional abilities, but also your personality, creativity, enthusiasm, passion, et cetera. Consider why you pick one brand of toothpaste over another – are they functionally different? No. But how they’re packaged and what they offer beyond the actual paste is what makes you decide which one to buy.”
Many job seekers may think they can “create” their brand. But because authentic branding is embedded in your DNA, it already exists . . . waiting to be uncovered, shaped, differentiated and designed to resonate with your target employers.
Personal branding leader William Arruda said:
“Effective brands are based in reality. To build a strong brand, you must focus on authenticity – who you really are. Branding is not spin, and it’s not packaging (though packaging is a component). Strong brands are uncovered – not created.
You must know yourself. But it isn’t all introspection. Since your brand is held in the hearts and minds of those who know you, you must be keenly aware of external perceptions when you’re uncovering and defining your brand.”
Differentiation Wins Out Over Sameness
When writing their personal marketing materials (resume, biography, LinkedIn profile, etc.), many job seekers tend to market themselves in a generic way, thinking it’s best to cast a wide net and position themselves to fit as many kinds of jobs as possible.
Personal marketing content should be unique to each job seeker, and not so generic that it could apply to any of their competitors. Sameness won’t “sell” you. Differentiation, niching and chemistry will.
You need to narrow your focus on specific targets, and build your brand and personal marketing communications around the value you offer those targets, and how you will help them meet their current pressing needs.
You also need to be mindful of the “personal” aspect of personal branding to generate chemistry, make your personal marketing communications an interesting read, and help target employers envision you on the job.
In today’s job search environment, where so many of your competitors have done the targeting and branding work, you, too, have to leverage the new strategies, just to keep pace with them.
Coming up in Part 2, How to Define Your Unique Personal Brand and Make It Memorable
Executive Job Search and Personal Branding Help
Need help with personal branding, your LinkedIn profile, resume and biography, and getting your executive job search on track . . . to land a great-fit new gig?