by Susan Whitcomb
What talents and strengths do you want to be known for in your career? What kind of employer will be drawn to, connect with, and pay a premium for that?
These two questions capture the essence of what career branding is all about. Image and connection. Think of your brand as a uniquely individual image with a magnet attached to it. Many of the dynamics behind corporate branding — why a consumer chooses Crest over Colgate — also apply in hiring.
In career marketing, a brand can be defined as: A cohesive image that positions you as a trusted expert, attracts your ideal employer/client, and conveys the value of investing in your talents/services. What are the benefits to having a good, strong brand? A brand will:
- Bring you new opportunities faster;
- Make others aware of your expertise;
- Guide you in your career decisions about what training to pursue and what opportunities to accept;
- Create in the employer’s mind a compulsion to buy (hire) you;
- Differentiate you from your competition; and
- Elevate you from the status of a commodity (in commodities, lowest price wins).
These 12 tips will help guide you in creating and communicating a brand that will help employers choose you:
- Job search is marketing. You are the product, and the employer is the consumer. A clear and compelling career brand helps employers perceive the benefits of your product, giving you an advantage in the job market.
- Successful career brands weave together three A’s: Authentic image, Advantages, and Awareness. Project an image of your authentic self, focus on the advantages you offer in getting the job done, and make employers aware of those advantages.
- Authentic Image: Your brand should be founded on authenticity. It should be about who you are, what your work-life purpose is, and what you are committed to causing. As a starting point to develop your brand, brainstorm a list of all the things you are good at. As examples, some ideas for brands include conflict management, sales training, best-practice systems, marketing for service professionals, and customer service. Next, identify your passion. Using your brainstormed list of what you’re good at, circle those items you are most passionate about. For starters, identify the No. 1 item. If you’re having difficulty narrowing the list down, pretend you are packing your suitcase for an important business trip. If you had room to take just one item (brand) with you in that suitcase, what would it be?
- Advantages: Once you’ve identified your top pick, determine the advantages to that item. For instance, if you are great at conflict management, the advantages to recipients (employers) of your brand might be greater cooperation among team members, which leads to enhanced productivity, new ideas, less employee turnover, etc. List at least three distinct advantages for your brand.
- Awareness: Internationally known consultant and author Alan Weiss, states that a brand is “an awareness factor.” Above all, look for opportunities to make the right people aware of your brand. Get on the radar screen. The best brand in the world is useless unless people are aware of it. Initiate an orchestrated campaign to “brandish” your brand. You can get your name out there by writing articles, speaking at association meetings, requesting to work on high-profile projects, serving on projects where you’ll be seen by a number of people (i.e., handing out name-tags at a trade show meeting), cc-ing your boss’s boss on significant emails/memos, and suggesting time-saving/money-saving ideas to your immediate employer.
- Conduct some some analysis to determine what the market conditions are for your emerging brand. Is there a need for what you offer? Are companies hiring in that area? Are there a zillion competitors for what you want to do? If the answers to these questions are negative, consider fine-tuning your brand.
- Once you’ve determined your passionate competency and the market demand, begin to determine the best approach for positioning your brand. Think unique positioning. Be a St. (pronounced “Saint”), as in the beST, firST, or moST. Are you the best at creating product marketing strategies, are you the first one to have mastered how to conduct electronic meetings for your work team, are you the most accomplished, award-winning sales professional in your company/industry?
- Branding can be accomplished through verbal and visual means. Verbal branding includes your sound bites and success stories, while visual branding is accomplished through your actions, attitude, and attire.
- Hone your product benefits into a 3-Point Marketing Message that conveys your unique strengths. This message should be a critical sound bite in your branding campaign. Here’s a short and succinct example: “I excel at the 3 R’s of sales: research, relationships, and revenue — I exhaustively research client needs, build relationships based on serving those needs, and have a track recording of driving record revenue as a result.”
- Create a Benefit-Driven Target Statement to keep you focused in your search, help networking contacts know how to help you, and explain your value to interviewers. Align your statement with employer buying motivators, such as generating revenue, saving money, or solving a problem.
- Be prepared for the networking opportunities that abound, both internally and externally. Be ready with a sound bite that describes your unique brand. Mix and match your success stories and sound bites to create a comfortable yet compelling 2-Minute Introduction. Consider using a tagline that helps people remember you in a unique and favorable light. Perhaps you can dub yourself “Mr. FedEx” because you always deliver projects on time! Or maybe you are “the career cartographer” who helps others chart the right course that will make smooth sailing in their work lives. Or “the change commando” who draws from a decorated military career to drive change that delivers off-the-chart results.
- Practice. You must be able to deliver your sound bites naturally, without appearing as though you’re reading a telemarketing script.
- Visual branding means you must look the part. Ask for wardrobe advice from someone who is successful and has a good sense of style. If uncertain about how to dress for a networking event or interview, err on the side of formality.
- Visual branding also means you must act the part. Candidly evaluate your mindset, beliefs, behaviors, and attitudes. Are these consistent with others in your field who have attained notable success?
- Find a person or two who will respectfully and selflessly support you in your commitment to shaping and enhancing your ideal image. A coach can be an ideal support person.
Branding will either contribute to or take away from the chemistry you want to create with employers. Remember to look for opportunities to deliver your brand. In doing so, you’ll bring value, benefits, and advantages to those you serve. Enjoy creating and communicating a clear and compelling brand!
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.
Susan Whitcomb is founder and president of The Academies, including Career Coach Academy, Job Search Academy, and Leadership Coach Academy. She brings two decades of experience to her work as an author and speaker. People come away from Susan’s keynotes, trainings, and coaching encounters with an “I can do it!” perspective, helping them tap into the awareness, attitudes, and action plans that cause a life-changing shift from stagnant or stuck to unstoppable. Susan is the author of the best-selling “Magic Series” published by JIST, including Job Search Magic, Interview Magic, and Resume Magic, now in its 4th edition. Her book, 30-Day Job Promotion: Build a Powerful Promotion Plan in a Month, is part of JIST’s popular Help-in-a-Hurry series. Her recent book The Christian’s Career Journey marries her career experience with a Bibilical approach to careers and calling. And Susan’s newest book, The Twitter Job Search Guide, reveals how job seekers and careerists can leverage the power of social media to advance their careers. Learn more about Susan.
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.