This article is an excerpt from Martin Yate’s new book, Knock ’em Dead: The Ultimate Job Search Guide 2012.What was once called a reputation is now called a brand, and we are told that anyone can have one. My colleague Dr. Jim Bright, author of Chaos Theory of Careers, notes that you can brand a swine but it still has to be processed before anyone wants to eat it. Branding is really just a buzzword for building a reputation, and it cannot be done as quickly as most of the branding merchants will tell you.You can brand objects, but people are more difficult, because people change within themselves almost constantly, and they change jobs and careers so frequently that the brand has to be flexible, has to be able to evolve without losing its identity.
As you commit to greater involvement in the evolution and management of your professional destiny, you have to look at your career with the same consideration for objectivity and strategic development that an established corporation uses for its sustained growth. You have decided to develop new transferable skills and polish existing ones, have moved along a path to more consciously integrating your professional values into how you think about and conduct your professional life, and after considerable self-analysis you have a killer resume focused on a target job. [Editor’s note: Read more about Transferable Job Skills.]Your job search is a major sales campaign, and the final preparations before launch must include tweaking your marketing communications documents to ensure the product you are taking to market is clearly defined, with enough distinctive features to differentiate you from others. At this point you should have a more thorough knowledge of the product you are taking to market than you have ever had before, so now is the time to consider ways to further define your legitimate professional persona, the face you show to the world of work, and the supporting documents that position you (resume, letters, e-mails). When you do this in a conscious manner, it gives people a distinct way to look at you, and if the promises made by your professional brand are substantiated by your work habits, your reputation/brand will grow.
Beware of Instant Brand Promises
Considerable rubbish has been written about personal branding by a legion of freshly minted branding coaches with few or no credentials in career management or advertising and no understanding of the damage that can be wrought by irresponsible quackery. In some of the coaching communities that straddle the nether worlds of professional culture it is generally believed that to say something is to make it true. Who am I to say this isn’t okay in a “personal brand” and your personal life? But your professional life and your professional brand are a different matter, because what you say in speech and written word will be examined, and when the truth is seen to be exaggeration, hyperbole, or outright fabrication, it will destroy that relationship and sour potential employers. Besides, people get around: Large professions become small communities as the years roll by, so you must be respectful of the collective memory of your professional community.
You Must Have a Relevant and Truthful Brand
It is all too easy to brand professional attributes that are of little interest to your target market, and just as easy to overpromise on, or overlook, attributes that are of interest. If you rush to create a professional brand with limited appeal, it’s your own fault for not taking the time to understand what your target market wants.If you overpromise, the employer might initially be attracted by the pizzazz of your resume, but when you aren’t able to live up to its promises, or are seen as all thunder and no lightning in your job interviews, it will backfire.If a box of cereal doesn’t live up to the brand’s hype, you simply don’t buy it again. But sell yourself into the wrong job and it is likely to cost you that job and haunt you for years with collateral career damage. You have to be able to stand behind and deliver on the brand you create.
Branding is a Long-Term Marketing Strategy
Branding is the process by which you consistently draw attention to the ways your product is special, the sum of these special attributes creating the brand. Differentiating the message that defines the professional you and keeping that message consistent and visible in all you say, do, and write is what constitutes a professional brand.Think of your professional brand as a thoughtful way of defining how you want to be seen in your professional world. When you create a professional brand as part of an overall career management strategy, it gives you focus and motivation, and over time offers others an easy way to differentiate you.
The Competitive Differentiation Questionnaire
To help you analyze what it is that makes up the unique package that is the professional you and that can be expressed in your professional brand, I’ve created the Competitive Differentiation Questionnaire. You can find a link to download an MSWord version of this questionnaire at Knock ’em Dead.
To better understand how these marketing terms apply to job-hunting it helps to first understand the terminology. To that end, go to our Marketing Concepts Glossary. And for a general introduction to marketing and career development, read: Using Key Marketing Tools to Position Yourself on the Job Market.
Questions about some of the terminology used in this article? Get more information (definitions and links) on key college, career, and job-search terms by going to our Job-Seeker’s Glossary of Job-Hunting Terms. Martin Yate, CPC, author of Knock ’em Dead: The Ultimate Job Search Guide 2012, is one of the foremost experts in the world of job search and career management. The author of Knock ’em Dead Resumes, Knock ’em Dead Cover Letters, Knock ’em Dead: Secrets & Strategies for Success in an Uncertain World, and numerous other books, he has helped millions of people turn their careers and their lives around. For more job-hunting resources and advice, visit www.knockemdead.com, and follow the author on Facebook and Twitter. Enhance Your Brand! Find all the great tools and resources for developing your personal career brand, as well as key self-marketing technqiues to get hired or promoted, that we offer at Quintessential Careers: Personal Branding & Career Self-Marketing Tools.