By Deb Dib, The Coach for CEOs & Rising Stars
RCPBS, CCMC, CCM, NCRW, CPRW, CEIP, JCTC, Certified 360Reach Analyst
People have been talking about personal brands since Tom Peters’ groundbreaking article “The Brand Called You” appeared in Fast Company magazine in 1997. Since then the world of branding has exploded, with experts and novices alike extolling the virtues of personal branding.
Human branding has become a force in personal and career development because the process and outcome of personal branding works. It authenticates and clarifies the value of an individual and empowers that individual to be more, to achieve more, and to contribute more—with an empowered enthusiasm and vigor that attracts success, satisfaction, and happiness.
In fact, in the changing world of work, the power of branding may be most visible in today’s most successful employees, executives, and job seekers.
What is the difference between a personal brand and a career brand?
A personal brand is formed by your authentic worth and attributes—in many ways it is timeless and unchanging. Like a personal brand, a career brand projects an authentic and unique promise of value. However, career brands extend beyond the personal. A career brand is born of a personal brand but is specifically tied to unique business value.
A career brand projects a clear and marketable value proposition, one that is often coupled with a history of visible accomplishment.
At executive levels, such accomplishments could include success in change management, innovation, turnarounds, corporate contributions, thought leadership, and social responsibility as well as profit generation and delivery of shareholder and stakeholder value. In non-executive areas, examples might be delivering projects on time and on budget to save time and money, and conducting exceptional customer service calls that build loyalty and drive further revenue growth.
A career brand is your face in the business world, your differentiator, your voice when you are not there, and your advertisement of absolute authentic value. It is your entree to top jobs and top compensation. It is what powers your career.
Your career brand combines your personal and business attributes with how you use them in the marketplace. Your career brand is driven by market reality and market need. Consumer brands change to meet the changing trends and requirements of consumers, and so must your career brand, remaining flexible—in pro-action or re-action to critical changes in the marketplace.
Why identify and leverage a career brand?
Branded employees and executives are valuable commodities—recognized, coveted, and courted by employers—much like the way unique products are known, desired, and purchased in the consumer marketplace. Branded employees and executives are visible and respected leaders (at any level!) who project clear and distinctive career brands—recognizable and unique promises of the value they bring to their companies, their stakeholders, and their world.
Today’s successful and innovative employees, executives, and job seekers understand the power of branding and its ability to help them compete and win for the best jobs and highest compensation. They know that branding is no longer an option in high-stakes job search and careers where branded leadership, branded communications, and branded career management are critical tools for career growth and lifelong career management.
What can career brand management do for careers?
The most successful careerists are adept and consistent brand managers. They continually define their brand and then communicate it in all they write, speak, and do. And they surround themselves with environments and items that reflect that brand in their work lives and personal lives.
Your well-managed career brand prepares you to out-compete at every level, stay visible, and keep career momentum going. A career brand diminishes confusion and uncertainty and maximizes freedom and control—all based on your authentic value.
If you have been in the workplace for more than a few years you will have experienced times when you needed to jump-start an unexpected job search or differentiate yourself as a top contender for a promotion. And, perhaps, you felt uneasy and unprepared.
You are not alone. Most people are exactly like you—superb at what they do, but confused by the intricacies of today’s high-stakes career management and job search process. This is where career branding can be immensely helpful in keeping you constantly prepared for whatever the economy and your company throw at you!
Can career branding help in resumes and job search?
Savvy careerists know that their career communications must be branded, refined, and reworked to attract and maximize every individual opportunity. One size fits all does not exist in successful career management.
They know that just as in career branding, their resume, career collaterals, networking pitches, and interview content must show leadership and potential, tell a marketing story about vision and innovation blended with practical solutions and bottom-line / profit-building performance, demonstrate personality and work style, and prove a team and corporate culture fit.
When preparing to write your resume and launch your job search ask yourself the following questions. Then use your answers as the foundation for branded career development activities.
What parts of my job do I love? Do my best accomplishments reflect that enjoyment?
What parts of my job do I do well, but not enjoy? Do I wish to be hired to do those again?
What is my management style? How do I interact with my team, core management group, or board of directors?
What do my peers and staff routinely say about me?
Do I have visibility in the marketplace, with the media, etc.?
What are my top 5 business skills and my top 5 leadership skills?
What have I done that best demonstrates each of those skills with bottom-line, strategic, profit-building, or profit-enhancing performance?
Can I compose “challenge-action-result” success studies of each of these and then speak of them in a concise, enthusiastic, and compelling manner?
- Do my accomplishments and skills have value in my target market?
- Can I answer the question “Why should I hire you?” with a compelling value proposition that makes me irresistible to a prospective employer?
What is a value proposition?
Your value proposition is about “what happens” when you do what you do. It is the result that you deliver to your company when you use the skills and strengths that form your brand. A brand’s strength is determined by the marketplace—and so is the strength of your value proposition. A value proposition answers the brand question “Who cares?” Be sure that your value proposition is one that is relevant, even critical, to your target market.
When you think about your value, don’t think in generalities. Put a number to your outcomes whenever possible. Numbers speak louder than words. They create credibility and desire.
A value proposition that says, “I revitalize aging brands, recapture market share, and typically deliver 50+% revenue gains” will likely attract an interview. A brand statement that says, “I revitalize aging brands” is too vague.
Review your answers to the above questions, identify themes, and construct your overriding and unique value proposition and subsets of “value-adds.” It may help you to imagine an organizational chart with you at the top (value proposition) heading a core group of direct reports with distinct supportive rolls (value-adds).
Developing a branded resume with a strong value proposition is tough (the better you are at what you do, the tougher it is!), and it may help you to work with a team of supportive personal and professional resources. Your team might include mentors, family members, trusted colleagues, a brand strategist, an executive coach, and a resume consultant.
Many successful job seekers routinely assemble such a team—a personal board of directors—a dream team of trusted professionals who help guide them, support their efforts, and give them the listening environment and honest feedback that is critical to branding, job search, and lifelong career management.
What are key strategies for branded career planning?
Even while you are engaged in a job search, you must also be engaged in long-range planning so that your new position “fits” your brand and your ultimate career goal.
Once in your new position, focus on strategic contributions that will support your long-term goals and radar-screen activities. Document your contributions so that you have compelling success studies for compensation reviews, resume updates, bios, LinkedIn profiles, Twitter bios, interviews, and even media kits.
Include these strategies for branded career planning in your career brand toolbox:
- Continuous visibility-building activities and “give-to-get” online and offline networking.
- Resume and portfolio updates with new, branded success stories.
- Personal performance reviews / promotion planning.
- Strategic entry, situation-specific, and career planning coaching.
- Personal fulfillment activities for on-brand work-life balance, blend, and happiness.
- Continuous refining of your career brand and value proposition.
- Ongoing market research on the key companies and players in your industry.
- Continual practicing of your branded 30-second elevator speech.
How do you discover your career brand?
Every individual has a brand, but not every individual knows he has a brand. Knowledge is power and discovering, defining, and refining your brand is a critical step towards reaching the success you crave and deserve.
Start thinking about the ways you are unique and valuable. Then decide if you will benefit from the expertise of a certified personal brand strategist, if you’d like online training, or if you prefer to read one of the many books on personal branding so that you can begin the process yourself.
The person who knows his value, actively manages his brand, and is clear about his value is a person who is poised for accomplishment, success, and fulfillment—for himself and for his company.