Branding is HOT. Ouch!

History lesson. The word “brand” originally meant anything hot or burning, and was associated with marking livestock with a unique symbol, so that the owner could identify and claim the animals later if they got lost or stolen. Good for the rancher, not so good for the cattle.

Applied to marketing, British brewery Bass & Company claims their red triangle brand was the world’s first trademark launched in 1885, according to Wikipedia.

Fast forward 124 years. I recently attended a branding seminar delivered by marketing guru Al Ries. In his latest book War in the Boardroom and lecture, he lays out the case that top brands like BMW and Southwest Airlines stand for something simple and clear to consumers. And that proper brand management makes these companies more profitable over the long-term; whereas muddled brand management has put many brands out of business.

Individuals looking for jobs can take a lesson from companies like these. To get noticed, they should brand themselves. 

No, I’m not talking tattoos here.

Companies want to hire specialists—not jack-of-all-trades. You can always become a generalist once you get in the door. Actually “extending your brand” post-hire to become more indispensible makes a lot of sense in this age of depleted corporate staffs. Case in point, I started here at MATRIX as a contractor to write white papers. That was it. Five years later I’m involved in pretty much anything marketing related, and some things that aren’t.

But for job seekers, your “personal brand” needs to be specific and targeted. You need to be the square peg in the square hole. To be even considered for the opportunities out there today, you must be a near-perfect match for the job description and required skills.

Just look at these professional summaries I pulled from some resumes and tell me who has the better brand.

#1 “My career objective is to excel as a dedicated worker and to gain as much knowledge and experience as one can to blossom within your company as a valuable addition to your team.”

#2 “10+ years experience as IT Manager with extensive hands-on technical and financial experience, including project management, troubleshooting, installing, upgrading, IT security, 24-hour disaster-recovery, and budgeting.”

Pretty clear, huh?  What have you learned about candidate #1? Most companies are not seeking “blossomers” to fill their urgent needs. How do you know when candidate #1 will blossom? What if he is a late bloomer instead of a Morning Glory? You can’t wait years for him to sprout. It’s pretty obvious who #2 is – An IT manager with very specific skill sets. For companies needing IT managers with X, Y, and Z, he’s your man.  

In his Webinar presentation Social Media and You  noted Social Media guru and former IT recruiter Craig Fisher goes into detail about personal branding and optimizing your Internet profile. To Fisher, the payoff is in improved visibility: 

  • Presenting a consistent, professional portrait of yourself across social sites
  • Increasing your “good” Googleability
  • Positioning yourself as a trusted expert in your field
  • Expanding your network
  • Becoming hunted, less hunting

All in all it makes a lot of sense to discover and work your unique niche. So, spend some time and see if you can answer the question – “What is my brand?  How do others perceive me?”  Then launch away with all your might.

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