We hear a LOT about your brand nowadays…especially when it comes to career and job search. So what exactly is branding?
When you buy a product there’s often some message or image you associate with it that helps you make the decision to choose that particular brand. If a product is branded well, just the product name itself conjures up an image that directs us to things the company wants us to think about. This both simplifies and focuses the product message making it easier to differentiate from all the other products out there.
Let’s take Cheerios for example. What springs to mind? Good for the heart! (And compared to many breakfast cereals it may indeed be a better choice.) But we’re looking at the very successful way General Mills branded it. Sure it has more salt than say plain no-sodium oatmeal plus it contains a few things like modified corn starch, wheat starch, tripotassium phosphate and sugar – not that I’m making a case for or against Cheerios* – but the way they brand it we don’t even think about any of that other stuff…what we think of is “heart healthy”. The message is simplified for us. That’s branding.
And what about designer jeans that cost $100, $200 or even more? Could a less expensive pair of jeans still make us look plenty good? Sure. (By the way…cheapo jeans have designers too.) But we are sold a feeling – and that means we are buying something more than just the parts. You know the saying the whole is greater than the parts? That’s kind of what a brand does…it creates a picture that we not only see but feel. And that’s what we try to do when we create our own brands.
So how do you create your own brand?
Do you put together a bunch of job skills and accomplishments and simply let the resume screener figure out who you are and whether you match the job? Or do you carefully paint a picture for the screener using your resume and cover letter to sell the best aspects of yourself, just as Cheerios does, in a way that makes the screener feel excited about what you can do for the company?
Example: If you want to be seen as a manager, don’t just talk about skills and tasks you performed and list times you supervised or made sure something happened. As obvious as it may be to you to connect the dots, when a screener has a few seconds to decide whether to give you a shot, you need to make it as easy as possible for them.
Talk about how you led and managed and helped see a project through from beginning to end. Paint a picture of leadership and ability to motivate others and make things happen. Think of every time you took charge of something or helped bring it to success – even things you did as a volunteer or in school if you’re just starting out. You can put the pieces together any way you want to. Your job is to figure out the brand you want to project and then make your resume, cover letter and manner of presenting yourself all ring true to that brand.
And if you aren’t into designer branding (or just find the concept annoying), that’s ok too. Forget about brands and branding. Just be yourself – that’s your best brand anyway! Now you just have to figure out how to paint THAT picture.
NOTE: If you want to suggest changes to this or any other definition in our career dictionary, please feel free to add your suggestions in a comment.