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What's so important about personal branding

Published: 
Tuesday, August 22, 2017
Job Hunter

Your personal brand is a vivid indication of the best you have to offer – the performance, contributions, and value your next employer can expect from you. The brand you communicate marks your career reputation and is in some respects a promise. When you carry a personal brand, your unique promise of value precedes you and has far-reaching effects throughout your job search.

Branding in resumes influences hiring decision-makers reviewing them to consider the candidate and can compel them to feel they must meet that person. The best way to land your next great career opportunity or advance your current career track is through personal branding.

Personal branding is still relatively cutting-edge – most job seekers haven’t taken advantage of it yet. Tap into it before it mainstreams and you can tremendously impact your job search.

Personal/Career Branding is the “great differentiator” in job search.

Successful job searching is all about differentiation. When you clearly stand apart and above others competing for the same jobs, you generate interest and are much more likely to land interviews.

Personal branding makes this happen.

Showcasing your personal brand attributes in your resume – your vitality, unique value, strength of character, and passions about your work – creates chemistry with the reader and can pre-qualify you as a viable candidate who will add value and fit their corporate culture.

Interviewing and the entire hiring process cost money. When hiring decision- makers make the right choices, they save their companies money. Your branded resume helps them quickly evaluate you and essentially makes it easier for them to determine whether to select you for interviewing. During interviews, reinforce and support your brand. Be prepared with branded “stories” about contributions you made to past employers and practice ways to interject them into the conversation.

Craft a compelling career brand statement. No one else can claim the exact same brand as you. It is as unique as you are.

Dig deep and start formulating all the qualities that differentiate you from others doing the same kind of work.

Ask your peers and co-workers to give you feedback about your performance and strengths. A measure of your brand is what the people who work with you have to say about you. Consider their input when building your brand.

Get Personal with your Personal Branding Statement

With target employers in mind, your personal brand “positioning” statement should link your functional areas of expertise (hard skills) with key personal attributes, values, and passions (softer skills). The message should showcase your promise of value and position you as a good fit to meet those employers’ current needs.

Job seekers may have no problem with the first part – zeroing in on their hard skills and functional areas of expertise.

They can readily identify this part of the value they offer their target employers.

But that is often the ONLY part of their brand they focus on in their brand statement.

What happened to the “personal” part of their personal brand?

Without the personal, their brand statement is not much more than an anemic job description, stringing together functional areas of expertise.

Without the personal, their brand statement probably reads about the same as their job seeking competitors’, and doesn’t help people see what makes them stand out above the rest.

Personal branding is not about sameness. It’s all about differentiation.

That kind of so-called brand statement does little to generate chemistry for them as a candidate. After all, if they’re running an effective job search campaign, most of their efforts will be spent networking. This means that their career documents (resume, biography, etc.), LinkedIn profile, and whatever contains their brand statement, have to be reader-friendly.

In this case, human eyeballs will be assessing them through their documents and profiles, so they need to be an interesting, compelling read.

Of course, recruiters and hiring decision makers want to see relevant keywords, so those need to be well represented in career documents and online profiles. But these people also want to know more about candidates than what they do.

They want to know who they are and how they make things happen. A brand positioning statement gives them the opportunity to provide that information.

Find your personal brand

Sometimes the problem job seekers have, when creating a brand statement, is not giving themselves permission to include their personality and be authentically “them.”

To get to the “personal,” see my 10-Step Personal Branding Worksheet. The following questions I ask my clients in consultation should also help:

• What are you known as the go-to person for?

• What drives you? What things are you most passionate about at work?

• What words do people use when they introduce you?

• How do you describe your leadership style? How do you get the best out of your teams?

• What differentiates you from others who do the same work – your competition in the job market? What combination of things do you offer that no one else does?

Here’s an example of an executive brand positioning statement that links hard skills with softer skills to generate chemistry:

Take charge, game-changing Project Portfolio Management expert who over-delivers on aggressive goals for highly-matrixed organizations, while minimizing risk, reducing complexity, and decreasing expense. A trusted partner, I thrive on designing and leading multi-million dollar programs and influencing globally across functions and lines to deliver on my mantra: OTOBOS – on time, on budget, on schedule.

You can see that it positions the way this candidate’s pivotal strengths and areas of expertise will impact bottom line, while also highlighting her personality, vibrancy and passions.

Bottom Line

Take the time to do the branding work and bring out the “personal.”

Don’t be afraid to “be you,” generate chemistry, and differentiate yourself in your resume, LinkedIn profile, and other career marketing communications.

Differentiation captures attention and resonates much better than sameness ever will.

10-Step Personal Branding Worksheet

Your personal brand is more than the brand statement you use as your elevator pitch when you introduce yourself in real-life encounters or to market yourself in your paper, digital, and online career marketing communications (resume, bio, Linkedin profile, website, etc.).

Your brand is your reputation – the perception of you held by the external world. It is the combination of personal attributes, values, drivers, strengths, and passions you draw from that differentiates your unique promise of value from your peers, and helps those assessing you determine if they should hire you or do business with you.

You need to identify those qualities and characteristics within you and communicate a crystal clear, consistent message across multiple channels – online and offline – designed to resonate with your target audience.

1. What are your vision and purpose?

Look externally at the bigger picture of your vision for the world, and then internally at how you might help the world realize your vision.

Think about one world problem you would like to see solved or one area of life that you want to see transformed or improved. This is your vision.

What role might you play in making your vision happen? This is your purpose.

2. What are your values?

Your values are your guiding principles – things like:

Balance, being the best, agility, calmness, challenge, decisiveness, perseverance, drive, honesty, integrity, pragmatism, sensitivity, structure, teamwork, sharing, vitality, zeal.

3. What are your passions?

What do you most enjoy doing – in your personal life and work life? Think about the activities, interests, or conversational topics that fascinate and energize you. Your passions make you get out of bed at 6 a.m. on a Saturday morning or get you talking enthusiastically with others. How do your passions converge with what you are best at doing?

4. What are your top goals for the next year, 2 years, and 5 years?

Work on projecting what you intend to accomplish so you can put together a strategic action plan to get there.

5. What are your top brand attributes?

What 3 or 4 adjectives best describe the value you offer? What words do you use to define your personality? Once you pinpoint what you feel are the right kinds of words, it’s a good idea to consult a thesaurus to precisely nail the exact words. Here are some possibilities, but don’t limit yourself to these:

Collaborative, resilient, forward-focused, risk-taking, connected, international, visionary, diplomatic, intuitive, precise, enterprising, ethical, genuine, accessible.

6. What are your core strengths or motivated skills?

In what functions and responsibilities do you excel? For what things are you the designated “go-to” person? What gap would your company be faced with if you left suddenly? The possibilities are endless, but here are a few suggestions:

Analyzing, collaborating, leading, delegating, empowering others, forecasting, crunching numbers, anticipating risk, mentoring, visioning, selling, innovating, managing conflict, defining needs, writing, listening, communicating.

7. Get feedback from those who know you best – at work, at home, anywhere.

The true measure of your brand is the reputation others hold of you in their hearts and minds. Notice how they introduce you to others. Ask them what your top brand attributes and core strengths are. How does your self-assessment jibe with their feedback?

8. Do a SWOT analysis (Strengths – Weaknesses – Opportunities – Threats).

Strengths and weaknesses are internal, and speak to your potential value to an employer. Opportunities and threats are external, and help you foresee what you’re facing in next career steps.

SWOT is an invaluable personal branding exercise that also helps prepare you for interviewing and future career growth and stability.

9. Who is your target audience?

Determine where you want to fit in (kind of job position and industry). Learn what decision makers in that field are looking for when they’re assessing candidates. Create your personal brand messaging around what keywords and content will attract them. Find out where those decision makers hang out, position yourself in front of them, and capture their attention.

10. Who is your competition in the marketplace and what differentiates you from them?

What do the people competing for the same jobs as you typically have to offer? What is it about you that makes you the best hiring choice? What added value do you bring to the table that no one else does?

Bottom Line

The work involved in uncovering and defining your personal brand may seem daunting, but your efforts will benefit you immeasurably. In job search, defining and communicating your personal brand can help pre-qualify you as a good fit and strategically position you to land your next great gig faster.

Creating your Authentic Personal Brand Statement

Misconceptions abound about personal branding, and what actually goes into a brand statement. Your personal brand statement is not an anemic job description stringing together your functional areas of expertise. Instead, it represents your promise of value to your next employer, and it should generate chemistry.

Understand first that we all already have a personal brand or reputation. Everyone is known for their own unique set of attributes, strengths, and passions that drives them at work and in life. Maybe you haven’t thought about the defining characteristics that differentiate you from everyone else?

To put your brand to work for you in your job search, you’ll need to pull together all the pieces that make up your value proposition in the marketplace. A vibrant personal brand statement makes it that much easier for those assessing you to get an indication of whether you will be a good fit for their organization.

Answer these questions:

Here are some questions to help prompt you to uncover and craft a crystal clear personal brand message that will resonate with your target audience. Take the time to dig deep when you’re working on them:

1. What are you most passionate about? What do you care deeply about?

Think about the activities, interests, situations, and challenges that fascinate or excite you and energize you. Your passions are the things you can’t wait to get to each day and feel cheated when you don’t get the opportunity to do them. How do your passions converge with what you are best at doing and the value you offer your next company?

2. What are your top 3 or 4 personal attributes – the things that define how you make things happen?

Think about how those around you (at work and elsewhere) describe you. Ask them for feedback about these things. To give you an idea, here are some possible attributes, but don’t limit yourself to these: Collaborative, resourceful, flexible, forward-thinking, risk-taking, connected, visionary, diplomatic, intuitive, precise, enterprising, ethical, genuine, accessible.

3. What are your 3 or 4 greatest strengths or top motivated skills (things you love doing) that have benefitted your companies/employers?

Again, think about what those around you say about you. How do they introduce you to others? Here are some possible areas of strength: Identifying problems, seeing the details, leading, delegating, performing analysis, fact finding, crunching numbers, anticipating risk, motivating, mentoring, innovating, managing conflict, writing, listening, communicating.

4. What differentiates you from your competition for your next job? What do you have to offer that no one else does?

A client of mine, who is the CEO of a thriving home decor manufacturer and distributor, identified a sense of humor as his top personal brand attribute. He relied on his engaging sense of humor to unify teams, make things happen, and calm fiery situations. He knew this trait was a critical part of his value proposition.

Here’s how he brought it all together in his personal brand statement:

“A focused and determined business leader, I offer the entrepreneurial stamina and wisdom to drive bottom line growth and lucrative business, inspire employees to peak performance, and cultivate profitable business relationships built on respect, loyalty, and trust. My easy-going sense of humor has been a defining management strategy to bring out the best in everyone, instill pride, and mobilize them to make their company the best in the industry.”

Your personal brand statement should become part of your online and offline career marketing communications – at the top of your resume or career bio and in your online profiles. And don’t forget to brand-charge your email signature by including an abbreviated version as a tagline.

Bottom Line

Spend some time uncovering your personal brand. Have the courage to embrace the things that make you unique. What differentiates you from your peers is exactly the message that will hit home with the decision makers you’re trying to influence.