by Linda Wolfe, Director of Career Development and Placement, JVS Chicago
We are all too familiar with how well publicists and PR gurus manage the image and brand of celebrities, or how products and services call to us through clever ads that promise to make us younger, smarter, stronger, richer. We see and listen to examples of this art every day, from print to radio, TV, billboards, and now in social media.
So how do we borrow from those pros and begin thinking of ourselves as a brand that sells?
If you think about why you buy a product or choose a service it will help you understand why you either get hired or passed over for a job. We are not only consumers, but are the hiring managers in our own lives. Every day we make decisions as to who will get our business: hairdressers, dentists, accountants, babysitters, lawn care, and plumbers. How do we decide who to hire - and why?
Take Apple computers; when you ask Mac users why they are so loyal, the answer is always the same: unparalled customer service and a promise of innovation and coolness. I work on a PC AND a Mac, and when I am in the midst of a project I can't tell the difference between the two. But we tend to be drawn to one brand over another. And that is where branding and image comes in.
When it comes to understanding and developing your personal brand the process is no different than what's required to create any successful brand: Success is achieved by real or perceived value.
The term personal brand first appeared in the August 1997 issue of Fast Company Magazine, in an article by management guru and author Tom Peters. He wrote, "We are CEOs of our own companies: ME INC. To be in business today, our most important job is to be head marketer for the brand called YOU". I would suggest this is true for landing a job in today's competitive market as well.
In the last three years the need to create a personal brand has created a frenzy with jobseekers who seek to differentiate themselves and stand out from a crowd. The reason this becomes important in today's market is owed to one fact: using the same job search skills or tactics that were used even three years ago will not land you the job anymore. The paradigm has changed. It is no longer a seller's market: it has become a buyer's market!
Imagine you are an accountant looking for a job and you are in a room filled with 20 other accountants vying for the same opening. If each candidate has essentially the same skills, talents, experience and knows the same software, what places you above the crowd and makes me want to hire you?
It starts with something called the "differentiating statement". This is your personal ad, your elevator speech, your brand. It is the promise you wear proudly. It is what you are known for.
This message is then used consistently throughout your job search. It defines you. It is added to the top of your resume and communicated during an interview when asked, "Tell me about yourself". It is how your potential employer will know what can be expected of you.
To keep it simple, think of it as your tagline. But it is extremely difficult to be succinct. Just ask an advertising copywriter. The ability to express a complex idea in just a couple of words is why companies pay millions to ad agencies to do their bidding.
So if you're looking to get inspiration of your own, take a look at some of my favorite company taglines and think about what emotions and thoughts these taglines conjure up.
BMW, The Ultimate Driving Machine
Avis, We Try Harder
The Marines, The Proud, The Few, The Marines
Chevy Trucks, Like a Rock
New York Times, All the News that Fit to Print
Ajax, Stronger than Dirt
Club Med, The Antidote to Civilizations
Now let's look at some taglines that define a personal brand.
Personal Assistant for Seniors, Like a Son but More Dependable
Director of Development, 100% Successful Asks
Hospice Nurse, Providing personal and caring support to cancer patients and their families
Marketing Manager, Bridging traditional marketing with emerging technologies
Professional Nanny, The closest you can get to Mary Poppins
Tax Accountant, Precise to .00000!
Early Childhood Teacher, Creating Enriching Experiences for Young Minds
So the next time someone asks you. "What do you do?" or "Tell me about yourself," start with your promise not your title.
Instead of saying, I am a nurse, say, "I provide caring and personal support to cancer patients and their families as a skilled hospice nurse."
Instead of saying, I am a pre-school teacher, say, "I create enriching learning experiences for pre-schoolers by providing an environment that stimulates development."
Employers are consumers too! When you start thinking about yourself as a service (and not just a potential employee) you will begin to redefine who you are, and you will be noticed in a completely different way. So grab a friend or ex colleague and ask them what they think you are known for, then begin by jotting down a few words and continue crafting those words until they define who you are and what you do! You just might begin to look at yourself as a valuable brand!
Want to learn more? Attend a workshop about personal branding. Visit jvschicago.org and search Workshops and Events.