Awhile back I read an article on the Web which talked about "personal branding." The more general term "branding," from the realm of marketing and public relations, refers to creating an association between an image (whether a literal image, like a logo, or a figurative one, like a reputation) and a particular product.
The link between branding as a marketing tool and word's ranching origins -- burning a symbol into a steer's backside -- is not accidental. Modern marketers are experts at knowing how to sear a trademark into your brain: how many of us can see golden arches without thinking "McDonald's," or spot that stylized swoosh and not instantly think "Nike"?
One approach among career practitioners suggests that job candidates embrace the concept of personal branding in their own job search, by packaging their distinctive skills, experiences, attributes and assets as a unique brand to market to employers.
Personally, I'm both supportive and just a touch wary of this advice. I've devoted many past columns to the importance of promoting yourself on the job trail, and emphasizing your strengths in the most positive light. This is as essential to an effective job search as to any other marketing campaign.
My one hesitation about applying personal branding to the job search is that it not be taken too far. As a job seeker, you are a commodity of sorts to prospective employers... but you're also much more than that. You are a unique, respect-worthy human being who goes far beyond bullets on a resumé. The last thing I would want to do is reduce anyone to a dry inventory of abilities and traits.
I've often heard clients complain about the limitations of standardized job applications, and how these afford so little opportunity to present their "true selves" to the employer. Yet the unfortunate reality of an oversupplied job market is that we have only a sound bite to grab the attention of any given hiring manager. This speaks to the delicate art of resumé and cover letter creation: you have fewer than three pages to show not only how you will benefit the company, but what distinguishes you from the dozens (or hundreds) of other applicants vying for the job.
In the final analysis, while there is a certain amount of branding required on the job trail -- to convince the employer that you can not only do the job, but do it better than your competition -- you also need to reinforce to yourself that you're a unique individual, and greater than the sum of your parts. Such constant self-reminders help to preserve your integrity, and ensure that no matter how many jobs you may miss out on, there's still reason for confidence and optimism.
THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK: "There can be no happiness if the things we believe in are different from the things we do." (Freya Stark, British explorer, 1893 - 1993)