Of all of the activities you undertake in your professional life, there is one that is supremely more important than all of others. It is the one activity that can differentiate you from everyone else. This activity is You!
Most people do not realize that they are a brand. And like any other brand, your goal should be to create the best possible image and perception of your brand. Your brand is what will allow you to stand out. It is what will differentiate you from a sea of competitors.
Early on in my career, I realized that I needed to differentiate myself from all my competitors. I wanted people to realize that I was better, more efficient and ultimately worth more to their company. However I was not sure how best to convey this message. Hiring managers, like consumers, buy a brand because of their overall perception about that brand.
UNDERSTAND WHO YOU ARE
Before you can build your brand, you need to spend some time to determine who you are and what you want your brand to reflect. It is not how good you are but rather how good your counterparty thinks you are. Remember the old marketing axiom, perception is everything.
So before you embark on your branding activities, it is critically important that you determine what brand you want to build, what you want that brand to mean, and how you want to be perceived.
Remember that your brand has to be built in such a way that will lead your counterparty to where you want to take them.
THE VALUE PROPOSITION
you may be asking yourself the following: is this effort is actually worth it? The market is competitive. Every strategic advantage you can get, should be used, leveraged and maximized. This should not be your only tool, but it should be one of your main tools.
Talk to any marketing specialist, and they will tell you that every one of your messages has three key points. These points (in order of importance are):
- that you are different
- that you are better
- and that you have honesty and integrity
I would like to spend some time looking at each one of these.
YOU ARE DIFFERENT
What makes you better? What makes you different?
In my case, I have over 40 recommendations from customers, employers and peers on my LinkedIn profile. I wanted to convey the idea that I am personable, trustworthy, hard-working and particularly innovative in my approach. The way I accomplish this is to print the 40 recommendations, and attach it to the end of my CV. When presenting myself to a potential customer, I will use carefully constructed sentences (known as conversational process) to encourage the counterparty to review that section of my CV with the intent of confirming those characteristics.
In addition to having a well-built CV that clearly communicates the successes you have brought to former customers. The above provides a one-two punch.
I also want my customer to perceive me as a high-value candidate. Therefore everything I present has to be high-value. When most people present their CV to a customer, it's usually a bunch of paper with a staple on the corner. Not my CV! My CV is a beautifully formatted color document that is professionally bound using a book like spiral-less binding system. It has a clear cover and a plastic blue or black background. In addition, I include a couple of line pages at the end so my customer can take notes.
I have personal business cards. As you can imagine, even my business cards have a twist. First they are printed on high-quality cardboard with a glossy finish. It contains my name, professional designation, cell phone number, e-mail address and my LinkedIn profile web address. In addition to this, it has an avatar of my face centered in the middle. And to top it all off, it has a QR code in the back that allows the more tech savvy customers to scan it and automatically import my information into their PDA. The reason I design my card this way is because it is very distinctive. Most people to whom I presented remember it and in most cases, talk about it to their friends and peers.
You are also part of your brand, so everything you do must be carefully thought out and choreographed. If you lack confidence, it will immediately show in the way you talk, walk and hold yourself. You must address according to the position that you're seeking. Far too many candidates have gotten comfortable wearing business casual and are shocked when the interviewer shows up in a suit. Always research your counterpart. Find out what kind of person they are, How they dress, their workstyle and anything else you can find out.
As you can see, I have gone to great lengths to convey a certain image and then continually working to refine it.
YOU ARE BETTER
It goes without saying that your CV has to be built in such a way that it conveys your expertise beyond any doubt. It must be written in a matter that allows the counterparty to easily understand the benefits you will bring to their organization and how they can sell your value to their executives.
But your branding effort should go a step further. You need to find a way to be seen as an expert in your field. For some, that means that you have to write articles for magazines, newsletters or professional organizations. Take the time to determine how you can position yourself as an expert.
As an example, in a couple of months this blog will be filled with hundreds of different useful tips, tricks, methodologies and frameworks. I could easily use it at that point to demonstrate a mastery of my domain and a high level of expertise.
HONESTY AND INTEGRITY
In a world of spin and one-upmanship, your message must be seen as honest and full of integrity. This will become the cornerstone of your message. Without this key pillar, all of your other efforts will be in vain. So ensure that everything you say is completely truthful. Demonstrate expertise and mastery of your domain without overselling yourself. If you make a promise, make sure that it is verifiable and that you can deliver.
Honesty cannot be faked. If you try, they will see you as a used car salesman and immediately discount everything else you said.
THE RESULTING BENEFITS
You must be realistic in your expectations. Companies spend months and years developing their brand, you are no different. Be prepared to invest in yourself, it is the one investment that is absolutely worthwhile.
Leverage your network. Unless you are Junior, you should already have a fairly healthy network of contacts. You should leverage this network to help sell yourself. You can use them for reference purposes or to help you find your next challenge.