Book Review: Career Distinction: Stand Out by Building Your Brand
From time-to-time, as we receive career-related and job-hunting books and other resources from publishers, the staff of Quintessential Careers will review them to help you make better decisions about the best books to use in your career and job search.
Career Distinction: Stand Out by Building Your Brand, William Arruda and Kirsten Dixson, $21.95. Hardcover: 224 pages, 2007. Wiley. ISBN-10:0470128186
Reviewed by Katharine Hansen
Personal branding gets a lot of buzz (see, for example, our Quintessential Careers section on personal branding) yet is somewhat misunderstood, as Arruda and Dixson clearly point out in their book’s section on branding myths. Branding is not just for big corporations, they write, and it doesn’t require big bucks.
But the notion that personal branding is essential to career advancement is the premise behind this book. The authors cite ExecuNet, which asserts that personal branding is the No. 1 tool for executives.
With all the material currently emerging on personal branding, I’m cataloguing the top 10 things I learned about the topic from Career Distinction in hopes of helping readers decide whether they’d like to learn these things and more from Arruda’s and Dixson’s book:
1. What employers want is to stay ahead of the competition by deploying the talents of creative and innovative employees who can solve problems and maximize their strengths. The world of work, as we all know has changed drastically, though, with employees changing jobs every two years and loyalty lying not with companies but with individual projects in which workers invest their passions.
2. Achieving career distinction is an ongoing process. You don’t just attain it and stop. You must continue to update your resume, maintain your network, pursue your goals, and constantly apply your strengths and talents.
3. Readers don’t need to rely on Career Distinction alone to build their brands; they can access a companion Web site that enables them to access an accompanying workbook.
4. To successfully build your brand, you must be aware of the perceptions that the people around you have of you. The authors even provide a tool for buyers of the book to find out what others think. This concept is hard for me. I’m not sure I want to know what others think of me. Yet, I recognize the impact these perceptions can have on my career success.
5. Competition analysis is a useful way to look at how you stand out. With the college students I teach, I use a similar tool, the SWOT Analysis. I can see college students in particular making good use of a competition analysis, in which the job-seeker examines how he or she is the same as the competition and then what makes him or different from the competition.
6. A brand statement should have three characteristics, the authors assert: It consists of one sentence; it can be easily understood by a 12-year-old; and you could recite it from memory at gunpoint. I’ve seen a number ways to construct a branding statement beyond what Arruda and Dixson offer, including branding statements written in third-person rather than first. Readers may want to try out various methods for developing a branding statement and decide which one feels most comfortable.
7. In their chapter on deploying personal branding in career-marketing communications (including resumes, cover letters, and interviews), the authors offer a neat format for the top third of a resume, as well as suggest some branding-communication tools not everyone thinks of, such as an e-mail signature and a branded voicemail greeting.
8. To get a message across, you must repeat it many times because it has to compete with the other “noise” we’re all subjected to every day. We’re conditioned not to repeat ourselves, but we must if we want to communicate.
9. Along with the many other tools in Career Distinction, the authors offer a template, in the form of a sample “design brief,” for creating visual aspects of a personal brand-identity system. This template can be used for planning components of one’s increasingly important online identity, such as online portfolios and blogs.
10. Personal branding is here to stay. More than a decade old now, the concept of personal branding is not a fad. Let Kirsten Dixson explain its staying power in her own words in the Q&A interview she did with Quintessential Careers.
Check out all our book reviews in Quintessential Reading: Career and Job Book Reviews.