by Randall S. Hansen, Ph.D.
How has branding infiltrated from business into the world of career development, employment, and job-hunting? The simple answer is that was a natural progression, just as mission and career vision statements have become a key part of career planning.
Are you intimidated by branding? If you’re a consumer — and who isn’t — then you know that branding is all around you — from the stores where you shop, to your television, computer, and smart phone screens. Companies are constantly bombarding us with their branding messages.
As job-hunting continues to evolve, branding continues to grow in importance. Employers hunting for passive job-seekers (those with a job, but open to new career possibilities), conducting background checks, and searching social networking sites all discover key facts and facets about candidates — and all these elements form the foundation of your career brand.
What is a Career Brand?
Simply put, your career brand is your image, your reputation. Your career brand is your promise of excellence, your distinctive characteristics that set you apart from other workers and job-seekers. Your career brand is the essence of who you are, what you can do for an employer, and your potential for the future.
Your career brand includes your education, technical expertise, key accomplishments, skills, strengths, and values… all the elements that set you apart from your co-workers, colleagues, and competing job-seekers.
While your career brand is just a collection of words that describe you, keep in mind that your actions MUST match those words. Otherwise, your career brand is just an empty promise that will have devastating effects on your career. (Don’t believe me? Think of companies that have failed on their promises — and where they are today.)
Your career brand is a combination of what you say about yourself and what others say about you. The good news is that you have complete control over the first and a fair amount of control over the second. The bad news is that a significant amount of information may be floating out there about you (true or not) that was published before you started caring about your brand.
See a sample career brand positioning statement here.
How Can You Shape, Manage Your Career Brand?
Your first step in your decision to take control of your career brand is researching yourself so that you can develop a sense of your current brand. Ideally, you will be happy and relieved at what you find. Here are the key places to conduct your research:
- Search the Internet using your full name (with variations, nicknames, if necessary).
- If you are on Facebook, Google+, and other social networking sites, look at your profile(s) — including pictures and friends’ comments and postings.
- If you are on LinkedIn or other professional networking sites, review your profile from an outsider’s perspective.
- Check forums or other places in which you have posted comments. If you Tweet (whether professionally or personally), review your history to see if you are showcasing your expertise… or something else entirely.
- If you have a Website or blog, examine how you are portraying yourself.
Your second step involves sifting through all you’ve learned in the first step and making action plans for modifications, deletions, and improvements you can make. For example, if a friend has posted so not flattering photos of you on Facebook, you can ask him/her to remove them — or, at the least, untag you.
Note: You may need to entirely delete and rebuild your profiles using your new branding. When in doubt, it’s often easier to start from scratch than make a million small changes/modifications.
Next, examine what you’re missing — what you don’t have or use. For example, if you do not have a LinkedIn profile, create one. Then start asking people close to you for endorsements and recommendations. Consider joining one or more groups and actively participating in discussions.
While LinkedIn is a great tool, a personal Website is another key instrument for branding yourself — even if you just use the site to publish your resume. (Even better if you develop the site into a career portfolio — with resume, mission statement, awards and other recognition, work samples, and more.)
The key takeaway here is that everything online about you is a piece of the puzzle that builds your career brand. The more you manage the pieces, the more the puzzle looks like the brand you want to project. Once you have developed the brand you want to project, you must then transform all aspects of your career communications — resume, elevator speech, interview responses, LinkedIn profile, and the like.
Once you’ve learned how to manage your career brand, how can you enhance it? Methods range from getting additional experiences and education to better promoting yourself to expanding your network. Read more in our article, Building Your Career Brand. For more tips, see our 15 Quick Tips for Career Branding Success.
Why Should You Care About Your Career Brand?
Do you want to have an easier time obtaining your next job? Want to be first in the mind of your boss when it’s time for a promotion? Establishing a positive brand and then promoting it personally and digitally will have a tremendous impact as you move forward with your career.
Your career brand serves provides a powerful snapshot of who you are and what you’re capable of accomplishing (beyond what you’ve already accomplished) — and is a powerful tool for overworked hiring managers looking to make a smart decision.
Final Thoughts on Career Brands and Career Branding
All successful products have a well-defined brand — and workers and job-seekers need to do the same. As you work to create yours, remember to keep it truthful, authentic, focused, and compelling.
Furthermore, not only do you need to develop your brand, but to truly understand how to power your career forward, you should tackle not just your product’s branding, but the other 3 P’s of marketing, including price (salary), promotion (resume, elevator speech, social networking), and place (the job market). Do this by going next to our Career Branding Tutorial.
Finally, remember to keep your brand current; revise it as necessary — and keep all your supporting materials (resume, social networking profiles, Website/blog, and the like) updated.
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.
Dr. Randall S. Hansen is founder of Quintessential Careers, one of the oldest and most comprehensive career development sites on the Web, as well CEO of EmpoweringSites.com. He is also founder of MyCollegeSuccessStory.com and EnhanceMyVocabulary.com. He is publisher of Quintessential Careers Press, including the Quintessential Careers electronic newsletter, QuintZine. Dr. Hansen is also a published author, with several books, chapters in books, and hundreds of articles. He’s often quoted in the media and conducts empowering workshops around the country. Finally, Dr. Hansen is also an educator, having taught at the college level for more than 15 years. Visit his personal Website or reach him by email at randall(at)quintcareers.com. Check out Dr. Hansen on GooglePlus.
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.