The power of a brand to make the right connection with customers—lead to sales—is well documented. In fact, many successful job seekers have adopted brand principles when looking for the right job, then built on their brand to launch a successful career.
You don’t need as powerful a presence as, for example, Peter Aceto, Canada’s ING spokesperson for straightforward, easy banking; Jeanne Becker, iconic host of fashion television; or down-to-earth homeowner who loves to cook affordable gourmet, Galen Weston Jr. Other personal brands include Bonnie Brooks (The Bay), Mitch Joel (Twist Image), Arlene Dickinson (Venture Communications) and Toronto’s own Faith Seekings (Rapport Communications & Design). Each built their business on top of their personal brand. Their success demonstrates how a company can enhance customer connection by wrapping its brand around a personality then making everything they do an extension of that brand.
When looking for a job, you’re wise to look at what makes an effective brand strategy then apply these basics to how you “sell” yourself in writing and in person.
Define your brand
Authenticity builds trust and people hire and do business with, those they trust. So take some time to define who you are and the strengths you offer that are uniquely “you”. Ask some close associates: “What do I do best? What do others say about me?” Now communicate these strengths consistently, from the resume you create, the clothes you wear, the topics you talk about, the interests you pursue. With a clearly defined brand, you’ll come across in an interview, and on paper, as someone who is sincere and can be trusted. And you’ll continue to build your brand around what you do best.
Consistency builds a brand—lose your focus and you’ll lack differentiation. Some people looking for a job put forth so many skills that they come across as someone who’ll “do anything for a buck”. The potential employer is left confused, wondering who you are and what you’re really able to offer. After you’ve landed a job, continue to be clear about what interests you most, and where you want to build your skills.
Remember, once you’ve defined your brand, keep it front and centre and you’ll continue to stand out in the crowd. Jeanne Becker was recently asked to be face and spokesperson behind the new fashion label “EDIT”. Why? The stylish, simple yet chic fashions that will last over several seasons fit Jeanne’s consistently fashionable-without-flashy style. Rapport Communications & Design, which built it’s “rapport building” brand, makes relationships the focus of it’s every activity.
Tell your story
Behind every great brand there is a great story—perhaps someone’s struggle to entertain affordably, another being frustrated by design firms that don’t listen. Don’t be shy. Understand your own story, and make that story part of your brand. As long as your story connects to your strengths, the story behind why you’ve come to define who you are is usually more compelling than a resume. I knew a woman who sold critical life insurance. After various marketing attempts she finally began to tell the story about how being left a widow inspired her to this new career path. Her story, and her ability to empathize, became part of her brand—her sales increased within the year.
Connect on an emotional level
Selling yourself doesn’t mean getting emotional, but use emotions to connect with the person you want to “sell” to. This means talking about the reasons why working with you meets a company’s needs beyond just doing the job. When preparing your resume or getting ready for an interview, think about what you—your brand—offers beyond just being qualified on paper. Use “I’ll make you feel statements”. For example, if you’re applying for an accounting position, “I’ll make you feel more organized.”; “I’ll make you more confident in the numbers.” If you want to get a job as a waitress, “I’ll make your customers feel welcome and relaxed.”
Be relevant and flexible
Good brands are well managed. That means being willing to make adjustments when needed. The same applies to your personal brand. We’re all allowed to change, especially if your situation changes. For example, you may be interviewing for a job that’s going to push you a bit out of your comfort zone. But if you believe it’s the job for you, you need to demonstrate that you can adapt while still retaining your authenticity. This might be a simple as wearing a suit, with your own flare, or offering to take some additional training if you’re lacking in a specific skill area.
You also want to show your potential employer, as well as your current employer, that you can be flexible when change is needed. This means letting them know that you’re anxious to grow, develop your potential, and learn new skills.
Cultivate your network
Brand communities help companies stay in touch with their customers and continue to create loyalty. As individuals, we also need to network in communities where we feel valued and understood. In business, such communities are critical. They keep our personal brand fresh and our ideas relevant. When we’re looking for a job, they connect us with the right resources because often it’s these people who know better than anyone else, our strengths and weaknesses. When we have a job, such communities keep us aware of what is happening in the world outside our workplace, new trends, ideas, even new opportunities, so when it’s time for a new job, we’re ready to move.
Practice brand strategy thinking (even after getting the job)
Brand strategy continually makes a company ask, “Where do we want to be in the future, what are our choices, what are the possibilities beyond today?”
Although individuals tend not to think of brand strategy, it’s probably the most important part of building and growing your personal brand. What you’re doing today may be great, but each year you need to review your goals and ask yourself, “Where do I want to be in 3 years? What is standing in my way, and what resources and strengths can help me get there?”
Being able to answer these questions and practice your own personal brand strategy will get you more than a good job—this kind of brand thinking can lead to a stellar career!