by Katharine Hansen, Ph.D.
Let’s say you’ve reviewed some of the articles and tools in our Personal Branding & Career Self-Marketing Tools section or taken our quiz, What’s the Value of Your Personal Brand? and have decided that you indeed need to develop your personal brand so you can stand out in the job market and climb the career ladder. If you don’t know where to start, consider taking some career and personality assessments and integrating the results into your personal- and career-branding materials. This article takes you through the steps to do so.
You might be asking yourself, “Don’t I know myself well enough to brand myself without taking assessments?” Yes, you very well may. But assessments can reveal consistent patterns in your traits, characteristics, strengths, preferences, and skills that may not come into sharp focus without assessments. Of course, you may not agree that some of these recurring patterns reflect who you really are. But that’s no problem; you can disregard any pattern you feel isn’t really you. In her article, A Dozen Things You Must Know About Communicating Your Career Brand, Susan Britton Whitcomb cites authenticity as a key element of effective branding; the traits you identify in your assessments must reflect your authentic self if they are to contribute to your branding message.
1. Take some assessments. You’ll find a solid array of no-cost and inexpensive ($40 or less) assessments in our Online Career Assessment Tools Review. Our descriptions and ratings should help you choose which ones are the best use of your time and money. (Yes, taking these assessments can swallow large chunks of your time.). The bonus is that you may learn more about yourself, and if you’re struggling for direction in your career, you may attain some ideas through your assessment results. You may want to read our article Online Career Assessments: Helpful Tools of Self-Discovery to review some of the pros and cons of these assessments.
2. Gather your assessment results in a centralized location. I keep my results in a fat three-ring binder, but a file folder will also work.
3. Review your results with an eye toward identifying recurring patterns. For example, two traits that consistently pop up in my results are “creative” and “intuitive.” Think of this review as marketing research. Market researchers seeking to build a brand research the standout traits of the product or service they wish to brand. In his Career Branding Tutorial, my partner, Dr. Randall S. Hansen, suggests answering several questions when developing personal/career branding:
- What is it that makes you different?
- What qualities or characteristics make you distinctive?
- What is your most noteworthy personal trait?
- What benefits (problems solved) do you offer?
If you are having difficulty answering these questions on your own, you will likely find some answers in your assessment results.
4. Determine which of these recurring patterns will portray you as unique and valuable to your targeted employers. Remember that not all recurring patterns contribute to good branding. Another of my consistent patterns is introversion, a trait that I’m not ashamed of and that certainly has its place in the career spectrum but is, of course, not the best trait to promote as part of my personal branding. One assessment told me that I am more hedonistic than the average person, another trait I’m not eager to tout in my branding.
5. List your top accomplishments and consider the extent to which the dominant traits revealed in your assessment results have played a role in your achievements. I won an award for speechwriting, for example, an accomplishment that required me to be intuitive so I could write in the “voice” of the elected official I crafted speeches for. Here’s a sample branding statement from Dr. Hansen’s Career Branding Tutorial that blends assessment-revealed traits with an accomplishment:
Creative problem-solver [revealed by assessment] who can produce superior results through solid marketing [revealed by assessment] and leadership [revealed by assessment] abilities. While at XYZ Company, I led the team in a turnaround strategy that catapulted the No. 3 brand in the industry to market leader [accomplishment].
6. Start with a branding statement that integrates some off the recurring traits from your assessments while also reflecting who you are and what you have to offer in your chosen career. The branding statement that I use in my LinkedIn Profile integrates those recurring “creative” and “intuitive” traits: “Creative, energetic, intuitive wordsmith who helps students, careerists, and organizations tell their stories.” The third trait, “energetic,” is one that isn’t necessarily revealed in my assessment results but is something I know about myself. Keep in mind that you may use different branding statements for diverse aspects of your professional life; my LinkedIn branding statement is primarily about writing, but I use a different one for teaching.
7. Incorporate your branding into all aspects of your career-marketing communications: resume, cover letters, elevator speeches, interview responses, career portfolios, business/networking cards , and more. Be sure that all of these elements convey a consistent branding message.
8. Apply your branding to a broad spectrum of online social media. Develop profiles for various social-media venues, such as Facebook, LinkedIn, MySpace, and Twitter, that incorporate branding built using assessment results.
Final Thoughts on Career Assessment
If you’re in an exploratory phase in your career or changing careers, consider which employers and industries will be most attracted to your branding message and the assessment-revealed traits it promotes. If you’re unhappy with your job or career, the assessment results may reveal ideas to lead you in a new direction. And, if you’re staying in an established career, this exercise in integrating assessment results into your personal/career branding can be a great reality check for how well your traits and branding messages align with your career path.
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.
Katharine Hansen, Ph.D., creative director and associate publisher of Quintessential Careers, is an educator, author, and blogger who provides content for Quintessential Careers, edits QuintZine, an electronic newsletter for jobseekers, and blogs about storytelling in the job search at A Storied Career. Katharine, who earned her PhD in organizational behavior from Union Institute & University, Cincinnati, OH, is author of Dynamic Cover Letters for New Graduates and A Foot in the Door: Networking Your Way into the Hidden Job Market (both published by Ten Speed Press), as well as Top Notch Executive Resumes (Career Press); and with Randall S. Hansen, Ph.D., Dynamic Cover Letters, Write Your Way to a Higher GPA (Ten Speed), and The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Study Skills (Alpha). Visit her personal Website or reach her by e-mail at kathy(at)quintcareers.com. Check out Dr. Hansen on GooglePlus.
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