Many of us know great branding when we see it. For me, there’s:
- Google – a fast and reliable way to find anything on the web; trust
- Nike – what top athletes wear under the bright lights; confidence
- Apple – a superior user experience and sleek design; efficiency
- Starbucks – a fast, convenient way to kick-start your day; comfort
- YouTube – entertainment, learning and music on demand; adventure
Brands can also evoke positive or negative perceptions, especially when they are compared to each other. Think about the feelings that surface when you consider Walmart vs. Target, Coke vs. Pepsi, or BMW vs. Mercedes. These perceptions and feelings are why it’s critical for job seekers to define their personal brand (or professional brand during a job search), and articulate that unique value proposition clearly and concisely.
In a competitive job market, assume that every other candidate has:
- Education, work experience and certifications similar to your own
- A tireless work-ethic and strong desire to succeed
- The ability to excel at basic tasks and responsibilities
A strong personal brand, however, will:
- Help you understand the types of work environments you'll thrive in
- Attract the right employers, hiring managers and team members
- Broker job opportunities that may not otherwise have existed
Have you ever found yourself telling half-truths in an interview? Maybe you said what you thought they wanted to hear and you acted how you thought they wanted you to act. You’ve probably also interviewed with recruiters who are equally guilty, telling you how amazing their company is, how great the people are, and how “cool” their office is. Staying on the job seeker side of the equation, though, you must remember that if you ever portray yourself as anything other than your authentic self, you are guaranteed to find yourself unhappy and unfulfilled by your work.
Personal branding enables job seekers to communicate a unique value proposition to an employer who either wants what you have to offer or decides that there isn't a good fit. To illustrate my point, imagine you're a recruiter at a rapidly growing technology startup. Your growing team needs a marketing assistant to manage several tasks and help out as needed.
Which of the following candidates seems like the best fit?
- A former receptionist with a few years of marketing, branding and editing experience
- A recent college graduate and communications major
- A friendly, energetic and tech-savvy communicator with impeccable organizational skills, a passion for solving complex problems, and a dream of someday owning her own business
Which of these descriptions immediately grabs your attention? Would you be shocked to learn that each option is describing the same person? While education and experience are undoubtedly important, only description #3 tells you whether or not this candidate will fit the environment.
When hiring managers are searching for candidates, they analyze cover letters, resumes, and LinkedIn profiles to make judgments on the following:
- Does the candidate share our passion?
- Does her personality and ambition match our culture and vision?
- Can she handle the uncertainty and pressure that come with this role?
- Can she balance multiple demands, prioritize tasks and help others?
- Will she work extra hours to meet a deadline?
- Is she just in this for a paycheck or something more?
With these critical questions in mind, let’s turn the discussion back to you. Are you able to articulate your personal brand in a way that resonates with hiring managers? If you’re not quite there yet, maybe you have some ideas about what you want your personal brand to be. Remember that in the working world, every action you take affects how your peers perceive you. The sooner you embrace accountability and proactively engineer that perception, the more successful you’ll be in the long run.
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