Q&A: What is a Personal Brand, & Why is it Important to Job Seekers?

Q:

 There’s so much buzz lately around the idea of “Personal Branding”.  What exactly is personal branding, and why is important to me in my job search if I’m not a freelancer or self-employed?

 

A:

It’s easy to confuse the idea of personal branding as something relative only to small businesses, self-employed folks, freelancers and the like.  But here’s the thing: whether you’re working for yourself or working for someone else, you are still engaging in the process of convincing someone to spend money, make an investment, and hire you based on your value.  In short, you are selling/marketing yourself.

For the sake of argument, let’s attack this from the perspective of someone looking to be hired by a company as a full time or part time employee, and nothing to do with self-employment.  The challenge for all job seekers continues to be this: how do you differentiate yourself and stand out above your competition?  The new modern job market is getting away from the old standard of providing a list of your qualifications, and revolving more heavily around the idea that you need to be telling a compelling story around your career.  How did you get to where you are now, what did you learn in the process, and where do you want to go next?  How will you apply what you’ve learned and developed to go there?

Job searching has become about storytelling, which is a marketing tool that even the largest brands are incorporating more and more into their strategy to reach and engage customers in a new way.  “I’m qualified to do the job,” isn’t enough to sell.  That story should be compelling (think about the points above), it should endure, and it should say something positive about your reputation.  And when it comes to marketing that “story”, the easiest way to approach it is to think like a business brand:

  • You have a target audience whom you’re trying to speak to (prospective employers).
  • You have a product that you are selling (you – represented by your skills, experience & expertise).
  • That product has a value proposition (what can you do for them if they hire you?).
  • And that value proposition has to be clearly communicated to your audience (through your resume, online and offline communications, and other documents & platforms).

Your personal brand is much like a business brand, and is vehicle for communicating the skills, strengths, experience, knowledge, resources, network, education and training that you bring to the table, and the value it offers to the right audience.  It all comes down to knowing what makes up that brand, who it appeals to, why it’s so valuable to that audience, and how to communicate that through your resume, cover letter, LinkedIn, in the interview process, in your blog, and any other platforms you might be using to promote your expertise and build visibility in your field.

If you’re lost on how to start constructing your personal brand, follow the 4 points above.  And then think about how you can craft that information into a narrative that illustrates to your audience what you’ve done, what you’ve learned, where you want to go next, and how your prior successes and accomplishments will position you well to make that next move.
Image credit suzylarcombe.com