It is imperative that you craft a professional brand that announces your distinct talents and what you represent to the marketplace. The process of branding is discovering who you are, what you are, what are your unique abilities, and communicating them through various mediums to your network or target market.
The Motivated Job Search (2nd ed.) book lists numerous benefits of creating an impactful brand, including:
- You will differentiate yourself from other job seekers, and gain a huge advantage.
- You create the initial impression the employer has of you.
- You can more quickly convey your value to the employer.
- You can more easily match your skills and value proposition to the employer’s needs.
- You can better determine which opportunities to pursue.
The drawback of not having a professional brand is simple: you are an unknown, you become ordinary or a commodity. Employers will determine for themselves what they want to see in you. They will cast you in a light based on their own conclusions, which may not be the message you want to communicate. There is no perceived differentiation from other job seekers. And, you cannot command a premium, and have reduced leverage when it comes to compensation.
Perhaps the biggest benefit of creating a professional brand is the self-awareness of your unique skills and experience, and recognition of how they work together to create an impact. You will project the value of your abilities more clearly, resulting in a job that’s a good match for your skill set. Branding can also help you set your sights on what you want your future career to be.
Additionally, when your networking contacts know your brand, they are much more likely to advance it for you through referrals, recommendations, and so on. When the right opportunities come along, you become top of mind (because of your brand).
The professional-branding process is written about in The Motivated Job Search (2nd ed.)The process starts with introspection and thoughtful reflection. In some cases, thinking through your branding can be both an emotional and a professionally enlightening event.
Think of it this way: as a job seeker, your goal is to connect with employers both intellectually (you can do the job) and emotionally (you’re a good fit). Having a well-crafted, professional brand helps on both levels. You must be perceived as the right candidate, and through branding you are better able to align yourself to an open job position.
Keep in mind that the effectiveness of your brand is determined by the connection that exists between what the brand claims and what it can actually deliver. In other words, you must be able to prove and quantify your professional brand. Failing to do so will have disastrous results. Don’t oversell your brand and capabilities.
Create a succinct brand. Think of it, in analogous terms, as a tagline or a theme that will be the foundation for your job search.
To help determine your brand, ask yourself some questions:
- What am I good at or an expert in?
- What have I been recognized for?
- What is my reputation with others (subordinates, peers, senior management)?
- What have been my strong points in past job reviews (if applicable)?
- What differentiates me from others with the same job?
- What professional qualities do I have that make me good at my job?
- What are the professional achievements I am most proud of?
The answers to these questions and the thoughts they provoke are essential to forming your brand. Now, synthesize the answers and thoughts into single words or short phrases that capture the concept of your responses. Here are some examples:
Award-winning sales executive with experience in workers’ compensation, pain management, consistently exceeding sales goals.
Operations executive dedicated to improving operational efficiency through effective leadership.
Client-focused account manager focused on client satisfaction and retention.
Experienced attorney protecting ERISA fiduciaries from the Department of Labor.
A branding statement could also be a few separate descriptive words or phrases:
Process Improvement ▪ Lean Six Sigma ▪ Turn-around Specialist
Marketing ▪ Advertising ▪ Public Relations
The purpose of branding is to get you known for the value you offer, get you in the door, and differentiate you from other job seekers.