Employer branding. It distinguishes an organization from its competitors and makes itself irresistible to job applicants. As I’ve traveled around the country teaching companies how to create employer brands that attract top talent, I couldn’t help but wonder: What if job applicants applied the same strategies to build their personal brand?
How can they stand out in the marketplace? What is their unique value proposition that will get them in the door of top organizations? No surprise, I’ve found that the same rules apply.
1. Determine your mission. Forget for a moment about job titles and experience. What can you do well? What do you want to do? After all, plenty of branding is aspirational.
2. Decide how you stand out. Next come the differentiators. I discover these through research and focus groups, and you’ll have to be as honest with yourself as those groups are with me. What are the four or five things that set you apart from everyone who else wants to be, say, Director of Sales at Disney Consumer Products? Perhaps your experience points overwhelmingly in the direction you want to go, which is a great advantage. If not, what other skills could be applicable? Be candid about both your strengths and weaknesses; you may be surprised about which is which.
3. State your case. After the research, I create a single-minded proposition that encapsulates all the differentiators in a cohesive way. How do you want employers to perceive you? Maybe instead of a marketing manager; you’re a “communications specialist with international experience”? Or, instead of a receptionist, you are a “Director of First Impressions.” How about conveying your passion for accounting by branding yourself “I love numbers”? Or flaunt your credentials, such as “Serving entertainment clients like HBO and Paramount for over a decade.” Whatever you decide, your brands should match your mission, summarize your differentiators, and convey a concise yet big idea to employers.
4. Spread the word. Lastly, a brand identity has to be visually compelling. You can use a number of free or low-cost tools to do this. Create a logo or find a headshot and use it on everything from your Facebook profile to your business cards. If you’re looking for a job in environmental engineering and brand yourself as “The Green Technician,” you should create a Twitter profile with that name. Make sure your brand is not just visible but highlighted on your Facebook and LinkedIn profiles. Join professional and affinity groups on LinkedIn as well, or even form a group of your own!
If you have a blog or a Tumblr, re-design it to match your new brand. Buy www.[yourname].com, and the domain of your brand (if it’s short enough), so internet searches for your name will bring up your brand, and vice-versa.
A distinctive, credible, engaging personal brand will put you at a great advantage over your competition. Follow these steps for creating an employee brand and start attracting top companies today!