Saturday, January 29, 2011
Your Career and You: "Brand Who? Brand YOU!!"
I attended an event yesterday for seniors at Curry College...resume review, interview advice, job search tips...designed to help them get a leg up on the competition that faces them as graduation inches closer and closer.
An audience of nearly 100 sat in rapt attention, nodding in agreement and jotting down thoughts, as keynote speaker and Curry alum Matt Winkler shared his insights on the critical issue of personal branding as it relates to looking for a job.
Matt's comments got me thinking about the job search challenge and how you can best prepare yourself to dive headlong into the rushing waters of "life."
Finely crafted resumes and cover letters are crucial. Networking and subsequent interviews, both informational and job-specific, are vital. But how you present yourself...who you are...what impression you leave on those with whom you meet...is the "make-or-break" factor.
Branding is a lot of stuff that goes into making you who you are in the eyes of others.
What do others think about the way you dress? How do you present yourself both in writing, in your speech, and in your appearance?
As I like to describe it...and say often in my Communication classes at Curry...especially my Public Relations classes...what's the "take-away"? Once you've walked out my door, and I'm left with your resume and the aroma of your perfume or aftershave...what do I remember?
I helped a client a few years ago conduct a job search to fill a senior publications position in her organization...a very conservative healthcare trade association. This individual would interact with other high-level staff members as well as members of the association who were highly educated, serious professionals.
We winnowed the applicants down to a half dozen and set about conducting interviews. The first few were good but not spectacular, but we were encouraged because we had one scheduled whose experience was exactly what we were looking for.
But there were some problems with this one already. First...remember this was a senior publications position...the ink on the resume and cover letter and resume smudged when you touched the paper. And, the printing cracked in areas that were folded. Hmmm.
We decided we had to see this fellow if only to confirm our suspicions.
And in he walked. Dressed reasonably nicely. Clean and neat. But his ears gave us a problem.
We concluded the interview and escorted him out thanking him for his time. Then we practically dashed back to the interview room to compare notes.
She: "How many holes did you count on your side?"
Me: "Three. And you?"
Observation: The fellow had taken the five rings that he normally wore in his earlobes out for the interview.
Conclusion: Not a match for the brand that is our association.
"Dear Mr. XXX, Thank you very much for meeting with us today. While we were impressed with your background and experience, I'm sorry to inform you that we have identified another candidate whose qualifications are more closely aligned with the mission of our association...Sincerely, XXX"
It's a small detail, but an important one. The problem was that, while he had the talents that we really wanted for this position, we were concerned that his appearance would be a distraction both to our own staff and to association members with whom he would inevitably have to meet.
Not saying he was wrong. Just saying that his brand was wrong for us.
So take a close and serious look at yourself. Who are you? How do you present yourself? How do you express yourself? How do you impress others?
My late Father once made an irritated, negative comment about the way I laughed. I had never noticed. I did then...I don't laugh like that any more! (Note: Still laugh, and laugh a lot...just not the way that annoyed my Father!)
A tip or two...start making either mental or literal notes.
What impresses you most about those people you really admire? Your peers, your family members, others with whom you come in contact?
What about them makes you say to yourself, "I wish I were like that."
Or conversely, what really turns you off about someone? Now...ask yourself and ask others: "Am I like that?"
Your personal brand is your flag...it identifies you as who you are, who you represent, who you wish to be remembered as. It gives a hint as to what you're capable of accomplishing. And it indicates what you're not.
Stand in front of a mirror and look at what's looking back at you (assuming you're not a vampire and have no image at all!).
Round up your best friend and ask him or her to critique you. (Note: Friends will lie to you to remain your friend; best friends will tell you if your breath smells like day-old sardines.)
Then go to work on fine-tuning and polishing your appearance, your way of speaking, all the aspects of you that leave an impression on others. When you feel that you've made any changes that are needed... and you're comfortable with those changes...you have the start of your "brand."
"It's this simple: You are a brand. You are in charge of your brand. There is no single path to success. And there is no one right way to create the brand called You. Except this: Start today. Or else."
Tom Peters, "The Brand Called You" [Fast Company, August 31, 1997]