Whether you’re a job seeker or an employed professional, clearly communicating your value and what makes you unique is essential to landing the job you want and being successful in your career.
Do you know how to create a Personal Brand that makes you stand out from the competition?
What Is Personal Branding?
Your personal brand is a way to communicate your value to potential employers, people in your network, and people in your company and industry. It’s who you are, how what you do is unique, and how doing things in this unique way adds value to your target employer or your company. It helps reveal your personal and professional identity to someone you care about, so they are not left to try and figure it out.
Personal branding definition:
"The conscious and intentional effort to create and influence public perception of an individual by positioning them as an authority in their industry, elevating their credibility, and differentiating themselves from the competition, to ultimately advance their career, increase their circle of influence, and have a larger impact." – PersonalBrand.com
According to branding and marketing specialist Anna Marie D’Elia, “When it comes to personal branding, think of it as how others see you and how you want to be perceived. It’s the story about the goals and the milestones you set for yourself along your career path, the progress you’ve made, and how your job experiences and accomplishments have shaped you today. You want to tell your story in a way that captures who you are. That’s your personality, what you do, and how what you do makes yourself uniquely you.”
Why Should I Care About Personal Branding?
We live in a time when defining your personal brand is critical – whether you are a job seeker or an employed professional. Personal branding is no longer only relevant to people in the public eye.
Let’s consider these two scenarios:
Scenario 1 – Alison, a hiring manager, is sifting through a sea of resumes to identify candidates to interview for an open position. Like the average hiring manager, she spends only 6 seconds reading each resume.
She is initially looking for reasons to eliminate candidates because there are too many resumes to sort through. If a job candidate does not concisely communicate his or her value at the beginning of the resume, Alison quickly puts the resume in the “No” pile. She doesn’t have the time or patience to do the work for that applicant.
She is surprised that so few people include some kind of personal branding in their resume to help her quickly evaluate if she should interview them.
Scenario 2 – John is attending a virtual networking meeting. There are about 25 people on the call. Each person gives their 30-second elevator pitch, explaining who they are and what they are looking for. After a while, the pitches blend, sounding similar.
Dan is up next. He gives his pitch, and when he is finished, John realizes the 30 seconds came and went, and the only thing he recalls is that Dan works in finance. He did not have a feel for who Dan is, what exactly he does in finance, or how what he does is different from other people on the call who also work in finance. Dan's words sounded rote and purely descriptive, leaving John feeling that Dan wasn’t passionate about what he did.
What can we learn about the importance of personal branding from both scenarios?
Don’t Leave Them Guessing
In this busy world, with many qualified professionals in the marketplace, people don’t have time to figure out who you are. They cannot be expected to do the legwork to uncover what makes you great at what you do.
It is your job to communicate your value and quickly convey to your target audience (e.g., a hiring manager or someone in your network) that you are someone they want to talk to and need to talk to.
As an example, you could weave the most important skills from the job description into your summary paragraph at the top of your resume, articulating who you are and what you do in a way that demonstrates you are an excellent fit for the position.
You need to leave the guesswork out for people who can help you. If you are not clear on your value, on what makes you unique, on what your special sauce is, how can you expect them to be?
“Your brand is what arrives before you get to the interview. It colours the interview process by adding information and creating perception. After you leave the interview, your brand stays after.” – Thrive Global
What else can we learn from the scenarios?
You Need to Stand Out from the Competition
Succeeding in today’s economy requires clear positioning in your area of specialization. Especially today, when the market is flooded with qualified and highly skilled job seekers, it is essential to stand out from the competition as an expert in your role or industry. Personal branding helps you set yourself apart from those with similar job titles and roles.
REMEMBER: You need to take ownership of clearly communicating what makes you unique.
To truly stand out as an expert in your industry or role, it is important to master your craft and create content that communicates your knowledge and expertise in a way that helps others who can benefit from your unique insights, approach, and experience. You can do this in many ways, including posting a thoughtful and astute comment on a related post on LinkedIn, or writing and publishing blog articles on your area of expertise.
Your personal brand can help a hiring manager have a complete understanding of how you can add value to their company or organization in a way that others cannot.
It’s Important to Establish Trust through Authenticity
Hiring managers hire candidates they like and can trust to do the job. People refer people they like and trust to contacts in their network. It is essential your personal brand is authentic to who you truly are as a person and a professional.
People will quickly pick up if you are not being honest about who you say you are through your personal brand. It will quickly become apparent in an interview when you’re asked to cite examples.
Let's say you are trying to market yourself as someone who sees both the big, strategic picture and the minute details. But if you really lack strategic vision skills, an interviewer will think you are not being authentic when they ask specific questions about your last role and you are unable to share examples demonstrating how you saw the big picture. This is not the impression you want to leave on your interviewer, right?
Your honest, authentic personal brand is one way to help you instill trust in potential employers and your network.
Your Personal Brand Is an Essential Tool
We don’t question the need for a resume. Nor do we question the need for an elevator pitch. These are accepted as fundamental job search and networking tools.
Now you must see your personal brand in the same light – as an essential tool for your job search and career advancement.
Your personal brand captures key aspects of who you are, what differentiates you, and how you uniquely deliver value to your target companies and/or industries.
So, what is the next step in creating your personal brand?
Conduct an Assessment
Anna Marie D’Elia compares developing a personal brand to corporate branding: “Just like in corporate branding, the best place to start is with a self-assessment or research. I used a self-assessment, and then I used a marketing plan template document that took me through the process of looking at myself from an internal perspective.”
The marketing plan template includes:
- selected industry accomplishments
- areas of expertise
- work history
- target industries
- target companies
So, begin by doing an honest self-assessment. Ask yourself the following:
- What are my strengths?
- What are my Key Selling Points?
- What are my positive traits and attributes?
- What are my values?
- How is what I do unique?
- How does my unique way of doing things add value to my potential employer, or target industry?
After you think through and answer these questions, recall your accomplishments using STAR stories. Also, look at your performance reviews if you have them.
- What problems did I solve?
- What are the consistent themes for how I added value in a way that is unique to me and how I work?
In addition to this internal assessment, Anna Marie also points out the importance of doing an external assessment.
She suggests you should “define your target industries, companies, and the types of positions you’re looking for. You want to align that with your mission, your vision, and the value you have for yourself. This way, it’s a good fit for you and the company – since you’re both shopping. You’re also aligning with the recruiters, the hiring managers, and anyone you network with during your job search.”
Once you complete your assessment, it’s time to capture the key components and put them into a personal branding statement.
Crafting Your Personal Branding Statement
This next step may seem simple at first, but the challenge lies in identifying the critical elements in the information you gathered during your assessment and capturing the essence that is your personal brand.
The Undercover Recruiter suggests that your personal brand statement be “1-2 sentences answering what you are the best at (value), who you serve (audience) and how you do it uniquely. It sums up your unique promise of value. Your personal brand statement is distinctive to you and you alone."
Mission, Vision, and Values
According to Susanne Madsen, a project management leadership coach, a mission statement "describes what you want now and how you will achieve your long-term aspiration." A vision statement "describes what you want to achieve in the future and answers the question 'Where do I want to be?'"
Personal values are what is most important to you in life. They are feelings and beliefs that influence your behavior and choices. Examples include integrity, dependability, honesty, creativity, communication, and achievement.
Below are some examples to give you an idea of what your personal brand statement can look like.
With each of these, you get a strong sense of their unique value, their personality, and the solution they provide for their target audience. They demonstrate that it truly is possible to convey all these things concisely and effectively.
Writing Your Personal Brand Statement
Now, you try it. Look at the insightful information you compiled. Being clear on your target audience, begin crafting your statement.
Don’t aim for perfection at first. This will probably require several iterations. It’s more challenging to communicate powerfully in only 1-2 sentences than it is in an entire paragraph or page.
Testing Your Personal Brand Statement
Once you come up with a draft you feel good about, try it out on your friends, family, and people in your network. Get their feedback:
- Does it ring true to who they know you are?
- Do they get a sense of who you are as a person, or do the words sound unimpassioned and clinical?
- Does your statement convey what is unique about you versus others in the same role or industry?
Don’t be afraid to get constructive feedback. Use your judgment to determine which feedback is most helpful and use that to further refine and improve your personal brand statement until you have one that works for you.
Now That I Have a Branding Statement, How Do I Use It?
Let’s say you now have your personal branding statement. We have alluded to some of the ways you use this, but let’s break it down further.
You want to incorporate your personal branding statement in every medium you use in your job search and career advancement toolkit.
These can include the following:
- LinkedIn profile: Include your personal brand statement at the top of your “About” section so people quickly understand your value.
- Resume: Include your branding statement in the top section of your resume to help the hiring manager quickly evaluate if they should interview you.
- Elevator pitch: Incorporate your branding statement in your 30-second elevator pitch to concisely tell people who you are and how you solve problems relevant to your role and industry.
- Emails: Add your personal branding statement in the signature section of your email for visibility and consistency.
- Personal website: If you have a personal website, include your personal branding statement on the home page.
- Personal blogs: If you write blogs or articles, include a write-up on you, the author, that includes your personal branding statement.
- Personal video: More and more professionals and job seekers are creating personal videos that capture their personal brand and the value they provide to their target audience.
- Business cards: Add your personal brand statement to the back of your business card.
Are you dreaming of creating your own blog or website? Or, are you having trouble with any other item in the list above? Don't know where to begin?
Mr. Simon and our Work Search Buddy Network is here to help! When you join (at no cost), we can help you with your marketing communication tools and support you through the process of your professional growth!
Consistency Is Key
It is important to be consistent in the communication of your personal brand through all mediums you use.
REMEMBER: Hiring managers, recruiters, and people in your network need to feel they can trust you. You not only have to be authentic in your personal brand, you need to be consistent to secure this trust.
People need to be able to look at your digital footprint, any communication you send them, any STAR stories you share, and feel they have a handle on who you are and what your unique value is.
Now that you understand the importance of personal branding, you know how to do an assessment, how to create a personal branding statement, and use it in your job search and career advancement toolkit, it’s time for you to put your best foot forward in the marketplace.
There is an employer who needs you – they need someone with your skills and the unique value you bring to your role. They need you to help them achieve their goals as they face their current challenges.
For them to know that you are even out there and that you can provide the solution they seek, you need to communicate your personal brand to them through all means possible.
So, don’t waste any more time – identify, create, and market your personal brand so you can land the job you want and advance in your career path!
About the Author: Marla Fishman has over 13 years of proposal and project management experience. She helps companies meet tight deadlines and ensure compliance with requirements by building strong relationships with cross-functional team members and collaborating with them to achieve quality, accuracy, and completeness. Marla has nonprofit and corporate experience and Lean Agile certifications. She serves as Assistant Director of the Professional Service Group of Central New Jersey (PSGCNJ) Training Committee. She is passionate about collaborating with others to achieve a common goal.