Yesterday, I published a posting that discussed some high-level aspects of the “personal branding” technique as it applies to job hunters. Today, let’s get more specific and explore a few real-life examples of this principle in action…
For starters, since I have the privilege of working with at least 300-400 professionals in transition each year, I believe I’m able to view the “hiring game” in a similar way as do HR professionals, recruiting folks, and other folks who get exposed to LOTS of candidates looking for employment. These are the situations where branding makes the most difference, since they are the times your resume will be at most risk of coming across as a “commodity” and you’ll be in the most danger of blending into the background, as one of many talented, eager people out there looking for an opportunity.
So when I think back at WHO I REMEMBER MOST out of the thousands of people I’ve had the chance to work with over the years, and who I’d immediately think to call if I came across a suitable lead, the individuals in question would include:
…the sales manager who said he could win the war with average talent
…the administrative assistant who was fearless about taking on new tasks and responsibilities
…the financial analyst who touted his gift for telling stories with numbers
…the second-wind CEO who specializes in getting companies kick-started again, once they’ve hit a plateau
…the software development manager who billed himself as organizational drain-o and who can quickly get projects unstuck and back on track
…the COO who prides himself on bringing apolitical leadership to organizations, rising above petty turf battles to get the organization’s priorities addressed and resolved
While I’ve kept the names of the above people anonymous, I can assure you that I remember each of these individuals quite distinctly, and would instantly recognize a good opportunity for them, despite the fact that in most cases years have gone by since I’ve last talked with them. Their branding themes simply had that much staying power and to this day, I’m still primed and ready to serve as a networking ally for them, sending long any leads or referrals that might match their unique strengths.
As for some more recent examples, I asked for and received permission to share the branding strategy of three specific individuals who I’ve chatted with in the last few weeks, since I believe all of them are doing an excellent job of identifying their core value proposition — and setting themselves apart from the pack.
Jill Berger is a current client of mine who is seeking an opportunity to serve as an Executive Assistant (or similar role) for a busy individual or manager in need of an extremely dedicated, trustworthy, and well-rounded assistant by his or her side. Having served in similar positions in the past, and received outstanding performance reviews from each executive she’s supported, her experience in this regard is excessively well-documented. And yet, there are hundreds of other candidates out there in Puget Sound right now, most likely, who could match Jill’s experience (at least on paper) blow for blow. So how has Jill started to differentiate herself? It hit her one day that there is one core theme that ties together almost all of her personal and professional passions: the concept of rhythm. As a ballroom dancer, and fly fisherwoman, Jill chooses to spend most of her free time engaged in very rhythmic, flowing activities. And when she looked back on the feedback she’d received from her past supervisors, many of the comments emphasize how good she was at “reading their minds” and “knowing when to push and when to yield” in terms of the work relationship. So now, when given the chance to interview, she immediately brings up this concept and explains that a great deal of her success has come from her innate sense of rhythm and timing — and her ability to know, instinctly, how to partner with executives in a smooth and effective fashion. Bingo! Instant differentiation…
Next, take the case of Anthea Hubanks. Anthea is another client I’m working with who has strong administrative skill sets and who is also looking for a suitable assignment in an administrative support capacity. Anthea, however, unlike Jill, prides herself most on her writing and editing skills. She not only has a great deal of formal training in the writing arts, but knows how to edit and proofread like a pro, as well. My advice to her has therefore been to play these skills up in a huge way in her job search campaign, since while everybody she competes with is obviously going to claim to have “excellent written and verbal communication” skills, very few of them will be able to say they offer “master-class talents in writing, editing, and proofreading executive correspondence.” See the distinction? So now, all she has to do is stick to her message until she finds that one executive out there who is a brilliant leader or technical expert, but not very good at (or simply doesn’t enjoy) the writing aspect of his or her job. At that point, Anthea’s strengths should leap off the page and make her the clear-cut choice for the role in question!
Lastly, I’d point to the case of Janice Williams, a fellow career coach in the area with whom I’ve become acquainted and am now pleased to have added as a referral partner on the “Partners” tab of my website. Had Janice come across to me as “just another career coach” when we first met, I likely wouldn’t have been too interested in exploring a referral relationship, since we’d have been treading on too much of the same ground. From the outset, however, Janice (a former HR executive, among other things) expressed her crystal-clear passion for helping people plan the unique transition that takes place from their careers into their retirement years — and for helping retired individuals explore “encore careers” where they could contribute their skills, strengths, and talents. Since this niche is by no means a specialty of mine, it made all the sense in the world to cultivate a relationship with her, since I definitely encounter people looking for this assistance — and who would be better served by her, as a specialist in that area, than through my own firm. Again, I consider this a testimonial to the power of personal branding in action.
So in closing, my hope is that these three recent examples help illustrate the process that most job hunters, as well as professional consultants and business owners, should go through in order to differentiate themselves successfully from their competition. It takes some hard work to distill out just the right message, and even more work to stick to this message consistently, month after month, but over time it will have the desired effect — and people will remember you and your value proposition, possibly years later, even if you’re not around to reinforce it!
Speaking personally, I know for a fact that I have a much stronger grasp of the kinds of opportunities that Jill, Anthea, and Janice are looking for out there — and the assignments that would fit them — than I do most of the people I encounter. When you think about it, isn’t this really the only test that matters?
P.S. And if the stories above have triggered any suitable leads for these three ladies in your mind, please send them along! I told each one of them that as a benefit of volunteering for this article, the Career Horizons network might be able to lend a hand on their behalf…