What’s a Personal Brand Anyway?

The term personal brand seems to be on the tip of everyone’s tongue these days. What exactly is it, and how can you use it to your advantage in the career search process?

It’s actually quite simple. From a career perspective, your personal brand is what makes you stand out from the crowd and get the attention of recruiters and hiring managers. This means that in order to get noticed, you need to be able to articulate your skills and strengths and illustrate how your expertise can positively impact business results.

As an MBA, you probably worked before getting your advanced degree, and many of you have been out there working for a number of years. This has given you the advantage of proving your value to an employer or multiple employers. From a career perspective, the results you have achieved are the first step in establishing your unique brand. For example, if you are a marketing expert, you probably have contributed to the revenue growth of a product or have driven the creation of a brand. Do you write a blog or have a web site? These are also things that make you distinctive.

Second, if you are in the job market, you probably have a good idea of the industry and possibly the organizations you’d like to work for. This is the other half of the puzzle piece needed to develop your brand. Why? Because it’s all about making the connection between your skills and strengths and understanding the needs of the organization you want to work for. When I was at the career center at Boston University School of Management, students would often tell me that employers should hire them because they had a high GPA. Although a high GPA is indicative of hard work and persistence, in and of itself, it does nothing to demonstrate how you can help a prospective employer achieve their business goals of such as market share growth or cost reduction. It is a means to an end, not the end itself! Brands that are memorable stand out because they make an impression.

Once you have identified the qualities that make you stand out, how do you get noticed by the employers you want to reach? This is where networking comes in. Make a list of everyone you know who could introduce you to someone in an organization you want to work for. This too is where social networks can be an invaluable resource. Join your alumni associations and professional groups on LinkedIn to find contacts in your target organizations. Use networking to learn as much as you can about your target organization’s needs and challenges. Then, and only then, will you be able to show how you are uniquely suited to help that company achieve its goals.

The key to marketing your brand is to be consistent. You don’t see Pepsi or Coke changing their logos very frequently, and neither should you. How you represent yourself online, on paper and in person is all part of your brand. Remember too, that your brand has to resonate with an employer in order to get noticed. It has to illustrate your expertise in an area that’s important to them. If you use social networking sites like Facebook for personal use, make sure that you have a clear business identity, and that your personal profile doesn’t contain anything that can come back to bite you. Employers are routinely combing social networking sites to identify qualified candidates and they look everywhere, not just where you want them to.

The next step in the process is how you take your brand on the road. More on that later.

Guest Expert:
Susan Peppercorn is founder and President of Career Outside the Cube, a career coaching and management service in Boston, MA. For six years, Susan applied her real world marketing experience to guide MBA students through the hurdles of job searching and interviewing at Boston University School of Management. She is a frequent contributor to QS TopMBA, a leading global career and education network and has also blogged for CareerBuilder and CollegeRecruiter.com. Susan can be reached at Susan@careeroutsidethecube.com.

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