Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Another Job Search Essential: Your Personal Brand

The job market continues to change and so must your approach to finding a job. Personal Branding is the latest key to success for your job search. The market is very competitive and a Personal Brand will help you stand out from your competition.

You may be wondering though “what is personal branding and how do I implement it in my search?” In this three part series we will cover the what, where, why and how of personal branding.
 What is personal branding?
 Why should I implement branding in my job search?
 How do I identify my brand?
 Where do I use it?

Part 1: What is Personal Branding and Why Should I Implement Branding in My Job Search?

We are familiar with the concept of brands in marketing. Wikipedia reminds us it is the collection of experience and associations with [what we think and feel related to] a service, person or any other entity [like a product].

In 1997, Tom Peters coined the term personal branding and the concept has slowly made its way into the competitive job market.

Personal Branding for Job Seekers

Personal branding in the job search actually involves your entire job search; it is not just something you put onto your resume or business card. Think of it as your ad campaign.

Your brand is the consistent message about the value you bring and what you are looking for. Your brand offers a consistent look and feel to your marketing materials (example: the same header is used on your resume as on your cover letter) and even a consistent use of your name (example: with or without middle initial), and consistent colors and fonts. Most of all, your brand needs to be consistent with the product - you.

There are some terms you may hear about Personal Branding. USP is your Unique Selling Proposition. That is the one thing that differentiates you from your competition and benefits others. ROI is return on investment. In the job market the ROI is the benefit the company realizes when they hire you.

You are Unique

As I tell my clients and when I’m out speaking to groups, there is something about you that is unique to you. Whatever “it” is, it comes easily to you and, since it does, you minimize it in yourself. You think “that’s no big deal, that easy”. Yes, to you! The rest of us would give our left arms to be able to do that the way you do. Since you are not a good judge of what makes you unique, you have to ask people who know you and therefore know what that special something is about you.

Years ago I participated in an outplacement class. The facilitator asked us to share with the group something for which we are known. The first two people mentioned something that they are known for cooking wise. It got me thinking: I fix a great Derby Pie (chocolate chip) that has won awards at local bake offs. It is so easy to fix I even thought I could whip one up that night and bring it in the next day so they could see for themselves how good it is. However, the facilitator called on me next and said “from you I want a work example”.

Well! He wasn’t going to get my pie now. I thought and thought “work example huh?” and the co-worker to my left said “Are you kidding me?” From that I took her to mean that she had thought of something for me, so I asked her for her idea.

She reminded me that when I took over the support team, we were not loved by our internal customers. In order to determine the problem, I set up separate meetings with each customer and asked them what it was that the team did well and what areas did we need to improve. She went on to remind me that when I assured them that I would turn things around and make them “raving fans”, they not only trusted me enough to give us a clean start but they even invited me to their internal meetings, where IT (my department) had never been invited to before. She was saying that I earn people’s trust quickly.

My first internal thought was “So? That’s no big deal”. Then I thought back to other times where people trusted me quickly and completely. This is one way I am unique and thanks to Angela I am now aware of it and have had it affirmed over and over again.

You too are unique. You have a reputation with those who work with you. You are known for something and you want to leverage that reputation to stand out from your competition.

In Part 2 we will cover how to identify your brand. For now let’s talk about the parts of your brand.

Personal Brand Statement (PBS)

The PBS is a detailed statement, three to four lines in length, which powerfully communicates the fundamental trait that differentiates you. Your PBS must include an indication of who is your audience, your value to the hiring company, and your uniqueness.

Tag Line

The other item for your branding is a tag line. The tag line is a one sentence, catchy phrase about your uniqueness. This must convey the same basic message as your PBS about the value you bring and your uniqueness.

Think back to some of the most famous tag lines in the world of advertising. FedEx’s “When it absolutely, positively has to be there overnight.” clearly communicates who the audience is (people who ship things and are in a hurry) and the value FedEx brings and how they are unique (it WILL get there overnight).

Why Should I Create a Brand?

Branding is becoming a staple in the job market because you are in essence selling a product and you want to stand out so the customer (the hiring authority) remembers you and the value you bring.

You already have a reputation at work; the brand is just leveraging it to demonstrate your uniqueness and generate a curiosity about you.

Your brand also identifies the type of company and position that is a fit for you. Let’s say you are known for and enjoy the challenge of turning companies around. You would not be a fit for a company that is looking for someone to come in and keep things running as they are. That company also would not be a fit for you because it would be a waste of your talents.

No Brag, Just Facts

If you want to sell a product, you have to be able to recount its virtues or you won’t get the sale. I work with people though who were reluctant to talk about themselves and it usually goes back to the way they were raised. They were taught that it is wrong to brag. I agree you should not brag; fortunately I am not asking you to. Your brand is based on fact.

I use a lot of analogies; my analogy for how your brand is not bragging is that of an artist. An artist who wants to sell some of their art would carry an artist’s portfolio filled with samples of their work. You will agree it would be absurd for the artist to refuse to show the art to prospective customers. Instead, the artist would open up the portfolio and lay out the art, step back, and let the other person judge for himself. You would not consider this bragging, would you? No!

With your brand and with your STARs *1, you are stating facts. Bragging would be to say “I’m great” or “I’ve done it before and I can do it again” without providing supporting details. Instead, lay the facts on the table (your STARs and brand) like you did the art and let them judge.

Next in the Series

In Part 2 of this three part series we will discuss ways to identify your brand and in Part 3 we will examine where to implement your brand.

*1 For more on STARs, go to http://rightchangesjobsearchcoach.blogspot.com/2009/06/power-of-your-star-statements.html

By Judi Adams, the Affordable and Successful Job Search Coach. In addition to her coaching responsibilities, Ms. Adams is a keynote speaker and her blog of job search articles (RightChangesJobSearchCoach.blogspot.com)are read world-wide. Ms. Adams is about to publish her first book. Stay tuned for more about her upcoming, one of a kind book about the job search.