Over the past year, the notion of “personal branding” or “career branding” has become a sizzling topic of conversation across the Internet and in the offices of many career coaching, counseling, and corporate outplacement firms. Almost everybody seems to agree that individual professionals need to think of themselves more like free agents and independent consultants these days — and should learn to apply proven branding and marketing philosophies to help separate themselves from a crowded field of competitors. To what length, however, does the average individual really need to go to “brand” themselves, and how exactly should they go about it?
At a recent seminar, we explored this topic with a group of our active clients, along with an esteemed panel of local marketing, public relations, and recruiting professionals. And while we didn’t get every last issue related to personal branding resolved, there did seem to be some strong moments of “a-ha!” and consensus, which we’ve tried our best to outline below:
— Personal branding is a real phenomenon that needs to be addressed; professionals today, especially executives, need to be very clear on their strategic points of differentiation and consistently project these key points throughout all of their job search materials, networking conversations, and interviews.
— In crafting your personal brand, keep in mind that your goal is be true to yourself, not to please employers or shore up points of weakness; ideally, you want to communicate a branding message that comes from the heart and will help you guide you to the corporate cultures that fit you best.
— Your personal brand shouldn’t derive entirely from your professional achievements; it should be a theme that ties together much of “who you are” both at work as well as outside of the office. Think hard about the values, themes, or strengths that might tie together your hobbies, leadership style, volunteer activities, personal image, and/or even the type of car you drive!
— While personal branding is important, again, it needs to be utterly authentic to be successful; the average candidate therefore doesn’t likely need to spend thousands of dollars developing a video resume or getting a slick package of marketing materials produced, since these “processed” materials would likely backfire and come across as disingenuous to employers.
All in all, we believe that personal branding will continue to be a fascinating, ever-evolving topic in the modern career management arena, but hopefully the above tips will get you off to a strong start in thinking about the issue and how it applies to your own situation. Are you fearless in the face of challenge? Are you an “endurance candidate” who always goes the distance? Are you a born leader who inspires those around you to reach peak performance? Whatever your personal theme might be, own up to it — and instead of hoping or assuming that others will figure it out, actively work to inject it into the conversation and to ensure that it becomes part of peoples’ perception of you!