Maybe you are still in school, or maybe you just graduated, but unless you’re Taylor Swift, LeBron James, or Barack Obama, you probably don’t think of yourself as a brand. In my experience, though, the most successful people do create and, in fact, become brands. Their brands are based on the experiences they promise and the values they live by and share.
The chances are good that you, too, are a brand that companies and recruiters are buying. If you’re doing it right, your brand should become the heart and soul of your career; your brand should be what ultimately allows you to stay visible in an increasingly congested world.
Because brands matter so much for job seekers, I want to offer some suggestions and branding tips to consider:
1. Be Original
What makes you unique or special? Is it your voice? Height? Eye color? Athletic ability? Fluency in foreign languages? An invention or patent? Whatever it is, use it to your advantage. Can you imagine Barbara Streisand with a different nose, Jay Leno with a new chin, or Cindy Crawford without her mole?
Everyone remembers the original, but the copycats start blending together after a while, so differentiate yourself to stand out from the pack. Be remarkable and extraordinary to grab attention and get noticed. Good is not good enough: what makes you great? When you leverage what makes you unique, people will remember your authentic brand.
2. Be Creative
How do you want people to think, feel, act, or react after interacting with you vs. other candidates or classmates? What are four words that come to mind when people describe you? Are those words how you want to be described?
As George Washington Carver once said, “When you do the common things in life in an uncommon way, you will command the attention of the world.”
3. Be Honest
Turns out that telling the truth about what you are and are not — what you can and can’t do — is very refreshing. Who would have thought that in 2015, brutal honesty would be the killer application?
Because there are so many good candidates on the market, companies tend to hire the people they like and trust most. Let your brand be known for speaking the truth, and you will become the trusted advocate and go-to source for many. People don’t always want to hear the truth, but they’ll respect you for telling it — and when they’re ready to listen, they’ll remember you for it.
4. Be Relevant
Brands aren’t created in a vacuum. They require lots of attention, care, and feeding. The process of creating a brand for yourself includes developing a mission, vision, unique positioning, and so on. You must define your brand, communicate it, and review it periodically to ensure that it stays current. For example, look at Lady Gaga’s early years of fame when she was dressing like a crazy person (remember the dress made of meat?) vs. Lady Gaga now, the woman who pays homage to The Sound of Music and duets wth Tony Bennett.
The branding basics still apply when the brand is you: you need to have a core message, a brand promise, and visual and verbal identification — and you need to fully integrate all the components. You’ll need brand positioning, brand architecture, and a brand strategy to develop a promise that resonates clearly.
5. Be Consistent
Develop a cohesive message and live it every day. The repetition reinforces your key points, so people will remember them. It takes time to build great brands: no one wins Olympic gold medals, Grammy awards, Oscars, or anything of importance overnight. These things require an investment of your time and energy. Every transaction and experience is an opportunity to build trust in your brand.
Make sure you are the same person online and offline, and clean up your digital dirt! Hiring managers do not need to see those spring break photos or the party at the frat house with all your drunk friends, so take them down!
6. Be Passionate
If you remember nothing else, remember this suggestion. If you are passionate, you can overcome any shortfalls you may experience with the prior five tips. Everyone loves to work with people who are passionate about what they do; passionate people make life much more fun and interesting. Build your brand around what you enjoy, and remember the words of John Ruskin: “When love and skill work together, expect a masterpiece.”
I hope I’ve convinced you that great candidate brands do in fact start with great personal brands! Your brand should provide a foundation to help you connect with companies looking to hire. Never forget that you are your brand, so you must live it 24/7!