Everyone has a reputation they’ve developed over time. Over your work life and personal life, you’ve become known for being a certain kind of person, being driven by certain values and passions, and offering certain skill sets and strengths.
More than ever these days, in job search you need to stand out from your competition. That means differentiating your own unique combination of top personal attributes, qualifications, motivating skills (those you excel at AND love doing the most), strengths, values, and passions. This set of traits represents your promise of value to your target employers. That’s your brand.
It’s not so hard for seasoned professionals to identify these distinguishing characteristics in themselves. They’ve probably had to think about these things, and have most likely received performance reviews from employer(s), confirming what they already knew were their best assets.
But what if you’re a recent grad or someone seeking your very first job? Do you even have a brand yet?
You bet you do!
I received the following blog comment when I cross-posted my Job-Hunt article, Personal Branding Hype and Myth vs. Reality on my Executive Resume Branding blogsite:
"I wonder, is a personal branding statement at all useful to people who don’t have previous work experience? Forgive me if my question sounds a little naive…I am looking for my first job, and it’s been tough going to present an appealing 'point of difference' based on my very general skill set."
"No matter what your professional level, even without work experience, you have a personal brand. People know you, and rely on you, for certain things. This is why getting feedback from the people who know you best is so important. Ask them what they feel your top strengths and personal attributes are. Look at the feedback for cross-over. Which points stand out? These can help you differentiate your value in the market place over others with similar backgrounds."
Defining Your Personal Brand
So, the process of defining your brand is the same for you as a new grad or entry-level job seeker as it is for a senior level executive with 30+ years experience.
- Begin to determine your unique promise of value by asking people around you, who have seen you in action, for feedback. This means tapping your classmates, teachers, professors, mentors, supervisors of internships, people you’ve known for some time, people you’ve worked on projects with, etc.
- Pay attention to what they say when they introduce you to someone new. Ask them what they think your best qualities are, and what things they know they can always rely on you for.
- Meantime, sit down and work on identifying your differentiating factors yourself, along with all the components that go into defining your personal brand. My 10-Step Personal Branding Worksheet will guide you through.
- And remember, as with job seekers at any professional level, building your brand requires first identifying your target career and the target companies you want to pursue, researching their needs right now (through job descriptions, company websites and Google search), and determining how you’ll be a good fit for them.
Your brand and all your job search communications (resume, cover letters, online profiles, personal web pages, etc.) will resonate with your target employers, if you align their needs with your qualifications.
Also, make sure that your brand and good-fit traits carry over to your online brand communications – your professional social networking and social media activities.
My Job-Hunt article, The Keys to Online Brand Communications should help you. Although this article focuses on executives, you'll find ideas you can use, that can give you an advantage over your job-seeking competitors who aren't doing these things.
Professional level, years of experience, and age don’t determine whether you have a brand. We all already have a personal brand. Chances are, others know what your brand is all about. It’s up to you to do some work, uncover what makes you unique, and use that information to market yourself to your target employers.