by Tim Tyrell-Smith
Our personal brands are most often quiet and dormant. Hibernating. Until we need them.
Well, for most of us, a brand is something we manage only when necessary. We’re out of work, chasing a promotion or working to establish a business of our own. It is a smart and necessary activity to build a personal brand.
If you’ve been in a regular job and under the safety of a company’s warm blanket, your personal brand is probably tucked away in a file on your home computer. Or it has never been created.
Then something happens. You are laid off. And it is time to unwrap your branding tools, re-learn your story, and decide if and how to change the way you communicate your value.
If a job search is prompting you to review your brand for the first time in a while, you have an important question to ask yourself:
To best communicate my value in this economy, does my brand need an evolution or a revolution?
What’s the difference?
One way to think about the difference has to do with what you are trying to achieve in this job search. And what factors may influence your decision.
Example 1 — Evolutionary Change
You might be a small-food-company sales rep who was recently laid off. You’re your first job search in 10 years. This is your job-search objectives are to find a similar position with a larger food company doing the same basic job. This situation would call for an evolutionary change of your personal brand.
You will need to establish yourself as a relevant candidate in the eyes of a hiring manager. The hiring manager will be looking for someone with experience at a larger company. So you will emphasize your experience and exposure to larger brands and larger customers. You will network with friends or former co-workers who can help you market yourself so that others will see you as a legitimate hire.
Earlier I talked about factors that might influence your decision. Well, the economy will certainly play a role. In a very tight job market, your brand fit with the job becomes critical since the competition will be fierce. Your lack of bigger company experience may be a cause for concern. You might be a hiring risk compared to the many other perfectly qualified candidates (those who have a 100 percent fit with the job’s requirements).
However, in a more relaxed job market — in which hiring managers are struggling to find that perfect fit — your experience will look a lot better. The hiring manager will be looking for a relative fit. Your personality, attitude, and skills will become more important since there are fewer perfect candidates. And hiring managers may be open to hiring the best athlete (someone with great skills who appears to be trainable).
Example 2 — Revolutionary Change
In this scenario, the small-food-company sales rep wants to move up to a larger company and change industries at the same time. In a tight job market, this transition requires a revolutionary change, which is very difficult to do. The risk in you and your resume goes way up because you are asking companies to make a significant adjustment to the basic job requirements.
To make a successful revolutionary change to your brand, you will need to do two things:
- Make a substantial change to your education, skills, network, and marketing materials (resume, bio, elevator pitch) without misrepresenting yourself to hiring companies. You can join industry networking groups, attend seminars or trade shows, or get a certification that helps ease the burden of a hiring manager looking for a fit.
- Build a strong level of social credibility with key people in the new target industry (i.e., pharmaceuticals vs. food). Especially if you are an unknown commodity in the new industry, your brand and background will cause concern for a hiring manager and, worse, will likely be filtered out early in the process.
Without specific industry background, industry connections, and the right level of experience (small vs. large company), you are making a pretty big leap. Not impossible, but a true long shot — especially in a tight job market.
A Better Option
In a tight market, here’s a better option. Target a single change in your objectives. And plan for two-step career change.
For example, look to move to the new industry, but stick with a smaller company target. This way, a hiring manager sees only one aspect in you that is less than perfect, which allows you to focus your re-branding on a more specific set of issues (knowledge of and ability to succeed in a new industry).
Here are the two steps:
- Get hired in the new industry first — at a company that’s more your size. Spend 2-5 years there learning the business, the industry, and its customers.
- After establishing clear knowledge and industry expertise, begin making plans for a passive job search. Identify a larger company to target.
So what do you need right now? Do you need an evolution or a revolution?
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.
Tim Tyrell-Smith is the creator of Tim’s Strategy, an online job search and career strategy site. As a blogger, Tim has been a regular contributor to U.S. News and World Report, was featured in USA Today and is the author of two career books (30 Ideas and HeadStrong). Tim’s blog “Tim’s Strategy¢ — Ideas for Job Search, Career and Life” has more than 4,000 subscribers and is read in 126 countries. Tim’s Strategy began in September 2008 as a way to give back to the community that supported Tim during his 2007 job search. You can learn more at Tim’s Strategy and follow him on Twitter. He lives with his wife and three kids in Mission Viejo, California.
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.