Nearly every employment expert on the market seems to throw around the phrase “personal branding” these days. In order to land a job, they tell you, it’s critical that you “build your brand.”
Is “brand building” yet another job-search fad? While easy for some to dismiss, the concept of branding does have some real-world application for those individuals who want to stand out from the pack.
Image Has Meaning
"Without a doubt, a job search is a marketing process where a candidate tries to attract an employer,” said Kat Matina, a career and life coach. “Usually the most successful products are the ones that have a well-defined brand, so why should it be different for job seekers?”
Matina added that a good personal brand is one that combines your values, drivers, reputation, behavior, strengths and image, and it delivers a clear promise of what an employer can expect from you as a person and a professional.
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Richard Branson is possibly the most recognized example of someone whose personal brand has influenced his business ventures and professional relationships. He’s sold himself as a forward-thinking risk taker and bon vivant. Put him in a room with the conservative Koch brothers, whose companies are largely industrial, and you immediately recognize the distinctions between two different brands.
The Real You
Whether you’re a Branson or a Koch, your personal brand should be “based on what is real and authentic,” stressed Randi Bussin, a certified career-management coach. “It’s your professional reputation and how others perceive you without spin or hype.”
When you work on your brand, she added, “You have to unearth or discover what is authentic and real and differentiating about you, versus everyone else with the same job title.”
In light of that, it’s vital that you spend time considering what makes you good on the job and in life. Ask yourself if your team-player skills are significant; if your ability to build bridges between departments and people stands out; or if you’re that “go to” person for problem solving. The further you extrapolate what makes you stand out, the stronger your brand will be.
“Ultimately, it will increase your visibility and credibility in the nice world in which you play,” Bussin said. “It helps you clearly target the people who need to know about you as well.”
Your Brand Has Value
Bussin compared Dunkin’ Donuts, which competes on price, to Starbucks, which delivers an experience. That same concept will help elevate you from commodity status (e.g. price/hard skills) to a brand (e.g. the experience/qualities that are delivered). The clearer your brand, the more you can command with regard to pricing/higher income.
“People buy people and the purpose of your brand is to communicate to them what they will get and what they won’t when they buy you,” Matina said. For example, if your brand is built on the concepts of sharing and openness, you probably won’t sell yourself well to an ultra-secretive financial institution.
It All Fits Together
After you decide on your brand, you must consistently manage it across all of your marketing and communication platforms: résumé, cover letters, all social profiles, websites, emails, formal and informal interactions, etc.
But there’s also a downside to this constant management. As Matina explains: “There’s a danger of always being your brand, and it can be stressful and energy draining.” To avoid this, she advised, “Make sure that you have not just drawn a nice self-picture that you want others to see, but have built your brand on your real traits.” It’s easier to just be yourself when interacting with the world.
You may face criticism over your branding choices. Stay strong. “By staying genuine, focused and authentic in your brand,” Matina said, “you will be able to land a job with an employer who has values and behavioral standards similar to yours and it will increase your chances of long-term satisfaction with your career."
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