It makes me cringe when I see someone advise a job seeker to “Create your personal brand”.
If you think this way, and you’ve created something that you’re calling your brand, it’s probably not your authentic brand.
You can’t “create” your personal brand
“Creating” means to bring something into existence that wasn’t there before.
For some, creating their personal brand means quickly throwing together a so-called brand statement or impressive tagline, around some persona they want to be or that they think employers want. It’s not necessarily about who they actually are.
They’re fooling themselves.
They may get a job with this kind of fluff branding, but it probably won’t be a mutual good-fit job . . . and they risk tarnishing their reputation when they inevitably fall short of delivering on the claims they’ve made about themselves.
Here’s the thing.
You don’t create your brand, because you already have a brand
It’s always been with you, and it’s always been ingrained in those who know you best . . . at work, in your personal life, anywhere.
If you’ve been in the world any amount of time, you have a reputation.
Your brand is all about that reputation. We’re all known for certain things (passions, strengths, values, skills, personal attributes, etc.) that people rely on us to always deliver.
Your brand is the perception of you held by everyone who comes to know you, and it helps those assessing you determine if you’re a good fit to hire, or do business with, or even be friends with.
When you’re in job search mode, your brand needs to be wrapped around the qualities and qualifications you have that the employers you’re targeting are look for in candidates.
Why “defining” your personal brand is the real thing
“Defining” your brand more precisely describes the critical process of identifying, differentiating and communicating what makes you unique and valuable in the executive job market . . . or in any other capacity.
As I said, the people around you know what your personal brand is all about. You probably have a good idea, too. But you won’t have a full understanding of your brand without some hard work of your own and, as you’ll see below, some input from people who know you.
To define your personal brand, you have to identify those passions, strengths, values, skills, and personal attributes I noted above, so that you can then create brand messaging designed to resonate with whomever you’re targeting – employers, customers, etc.
Differentiation, not sameness, seals the deal with branding
In my experience, executives often struggle with pinpointing what differentiates them from their job-seeking competitors. They sometimes fall into the trap of wanting their LinkedIn profile, resume, biography, etc. to sound like those they’ve seen for others like them.
They don’t understand that sameness won’t “sell” them. Differentiation will.
This all comes together once you get into the initial work of targeting, research, introspection and collaboration. Then you’ll see what makes you a good hire for the employers you’re targeting.
So before you jump in, thinking you can “create” your personal brand, be willing to do some deep self-assessment, ask others for feedback and research the employers or organizations that will be a mutual good-fit for you.
Do this right. Use my set of 4 proprietary content development worksheets. I’ve perfected these worksheets over my 25 years in the careers industry, to help my clients land the jobs they covet and deserve.
Why your self-assessment should include feedback from others
If you’re working on building your brand, and you’re not sure how others perceive you, you’re neglecting a critical piece in the branding process.
When you think about contributions you’ve made that have benefitted your employers, you begin to get an idea of what it is about you that translates to value.
But your own assessment is just one opinion, and doesn’t paint the whole picture.
You need to solicit and assess feedback from those who know you and your work best – peers, managers, staff, employees, clients, mentors, etc.
They are in a position to know what you’re like to work with and how you use your strengths to make things happen and benefit the company. They’ve seen you in action many times, tackling impossible challenges, re-engineering failing operations, driving bottom line profitability, etc.
How to get and use this all-important feedback
To gather feedback, try posing a few questions to these people, such as the following. Adjust or customize them, as needed:
1. What do you feel are my greatest strengths in terms of value to the company?
2. What was my most important contribution to the company?
3. What things did you know you could always rely on me to deliver?
4. What did you learn from me?
5. How would you rate my performance on the job?
6. How did my expertise and/or mentoring help you grow in your role?
When you review the feedback you’ve gotten, look for consistencies and traits that stand out.
By comparing your own assessment to that of those who know your value best, you’ll come to a deeper understanding of your authentic brand and value proposition.
3 more benefits of soliciting and assessing feedback
Take a close look at the information and answers people send you. You can use this in many ways, including:
1. Create a high-impact job search document for your career portfolio – a reference dossier with accolades.
More powerful than a typical list of professional associates and their contact information, this document includes a one or two paragraph encapsulation of their answers.
2. Edit the information each person provides, write it in the form of a LinkedIn recommendation from them, and ask each one if they will post it on LinkedIn.
You’ll save them the time it will take to create a LinkedIn recommendation for you. I’ll bet most people will be happy to post a recommendation that’s already been written.
3. Pick some juicy tidbits – a sentence or two – that really stand out and showcase them as quotes in your executive resume, biography or other job search materials.
Accolades from people you work with are powerful, and have a big impact.