Branding The Hot Trend in Job Search Print E-mail

By Alesia Benedict, CPRW, JCTC

Start reading up on the latest job search methods and you will soon discover a whole new vocabulary is involved. Terms like keywords, tweets, tagged, and domain names are now as commonly bandied about as cover letter and informational interviewing was ten years ago. Just as in every other people-centric process, job search changes frequently as methods morph to find new efficiencies and avenues for connection. Staying abreast of these changes may very well make the difference between success and failure in this competitive market.

Career branding is a marketing concept that has been transferred to an individual basis. Quickly – think of a computer company. Have one in mind? More than likely you thought of one of the following: Dell, HP, Compaq, Toshiba, Apple, Sony or IBM. Why? Because these are the most well-known brands in the industry. These companies have marketing departments that constantly work to establish and maintain their brands in the forefront of people’s minds.

Transpose this concept to the company of YOU. You are your own company and job search is your marketing effort. There are many things you must do to establish your “brand” with your “customers” (employers and recruiters).  You want your name to be as recognizable as possible in your industry, profession or town. To accomplish that, you must put together an organized strategy that will make your name and the specific expertise you offer easily recognizable among hiring managers and recruiters. A good job search strategy is key to successful branding.

Employers are seeking specialists in this tough economic market. Determining your specific expertise or forte is very important to establishing a strong brand. Many job seekers shrink from “declaring a major” in their field but that strategy is the complete opposite of what is needed. Strongly branded professionals have a specific area of expertise and they leverage that expertise across a broad market.

Let’s look at a famous example of someone who is well-branded – Martha Stewart. In 1976, she started a catering business in the basement of her Connecticut home. Martha had outside experience as a stock broker and as a model, but cooking and other homemaking talents were things she loved, and she had been doing them all her life. She had the opportunity to write a cookbook and her career took off from there. Now, Martha is a recognizable name and is synonymous with style in entertaining. She has her own brand of household goods, her own catalog business, publicly traded company, magazine, radio show, wine, and her own website. She is very well branded but it is a narrow niche.

As a job seeker, you need to decide your own niche and push hard in that direction. Martha’s branding did not happen overnight, nor was it an accident. She invested time, thought, and money to achieve her success. She utilized the expertise of others to help her achieve that success. The same concepts apply to your job search.

Steps to Brand YOU

  • Determine your expertise or unique qualities upon which to focus.
  • Make a plan that includes goals, actions, target results, and deadlines.
  • Brush up on your professional skills if needed.
  • Gather your team of people to help achieve your goals.
  • Prepare your collateral materials.
  • Get the word out.
  • Be ready to change direction or actions if required.

Let’s examine each of these steps more closely in terms of career and job search.

Determine your expertise or unique qualities

Finding your niche involves some self evaluation. Most people think of themselves as generalists – they do a little bit of everything. In reality, there is usually something they really enjoy and as a result, they excel in that area. Find that something.

Make a plan

Is your goal to just get a job for income or get a job that will be a building block in your career? Just getting a job for income is a perfectly legitimate goal, especially for the short-term when you have to pay the mortgage. That may be a short-term goal, but your long-term goal may be very different. Set needed actions to achieve your goal, list results you want to see, and give yourself deadlines to meet for each one.

Brush up on your skills

Perhaps your career goal will require new or more in-depth knowledge on your behalf. Don’t hesitate to pursue those skills or education as long as the training fits into your plan. Many people gain additional degrees that are not related to their goals, so they really add nothing to their marketability. What a waste of time and money!

Gather your team

Every successful person has a team of people behind them. Each member of the team has a specific job. Some are experts in industry, some are mentors, some are encouragers, and some offer specific skills that are necessary for reaching a goal in the plan. Surround yourself with experts who can help you achieve your goals through the application of their individual skills.

Prepare your materials

All marketing campaigns have collateral material. Traditionally, we think of these materials as business cards or brochures. In your branding efforts, at least in terms of job search, your collateral materials will be your resume, cover letter, business cards, and maybe a bio. In today’s job search, you need to add your Twitter page, your Facebook page, your LinkedIn profile, and perhaps your own online portfolio to the mix.

Spread the word

Part of your plan will be to take action. In job search, that means getting your name in front of decision makers and recruiters. It means conducting interviews about companies, doing research, and talking with people.  Spreading the word about your expertise should occur in an organized fashion (going back to the plan) and be consistent. Coca-Cola doesn’t do one advertisement and then call it a day. They saturate the market with advertising. Everywhere you go you see some kind of advertising for Coca-Cola. You have to do the same – saturate the market.

Be nimble

Despite the best-made plans, life happens. Opportunities come your way that open whole new vistas. You need to be prepared to work those into your plan. Do you think Martha was thinking of having her own satellite radio station when she wrote that first book? Hardly! Opportunities came along that she never dreamed of! It happens to every well-branded entity. What if she had said no to the request for a second book? Stay true to your brand but remain open to different ways to achieve your goals.

No longer is job search simply a matter of posting your resume on top job sites and waiting for the phone to ring. It just doesn’t happen. Job search methods change as communication changes. Twenty years ago, the concept of posting a resume on the Internet was unheard of. In fact, the Internet was pretty much unheard of except by a few eggheads in laboratories. Look at how things have changed! Would you now consider faxing your paper resume to local employment agencies an effective way to conduct your good job search? In 1989, that would have been considered acceptable!

Career branding can be a very complex process or it can be as simple as deciding what direction you want to go with your expertise. Are you an IT Specialist or a Wide Area Network Engineer? Are you a financial services professional or are you a Compliance Officer? Are you an educator or an Early Childhood Specialist? It’s time to decide your future!