Sunday, November 27, 2011
A brand statement will help your cover letter or resume stand out from thousands of others! In this series of blog postings, I will share information with you taken from leading personal branding expert and career advancement coach, Robert Allen Paul, and his “Company Of One” presentation at Buena Vista University. I would recommend his valuable message to every student. (Part I: Your Brand Part II: Core Competencies Part III: Brand Attributes Part IV: Brand Identity Part V: Brand Promise Part VI: Brand Vision Part VII: Brand Loyalty + Brand Equity Part VIII: Brand Statement);
Part IX: Putting It All Together:
Putting it all together…
If you want to create a cover letter that actually compels prospective employers to open and review your resume, you can apply the principles you’ve learned, incorporate the brand components you’ve developed, and try something like this:
Dear Mr. Roberts:
You don’t know me. We’ve never met. But your niece, Jenny Jenson, thinks we should. As a junior at Acme University, I’ve begun exploring career opportunities and requesting informational interviews. Jenny really respects your experience, so I’m reaching out to request your guidance.
Over the past twenty years, I’ve developed a talent for concise, critical thinking. I’m inquisitive, strategic and self-motivated, so I believe I can offer the right company an opportunity to maximize project results with a minimum of supervision.
My objective is to eventually earn a role as the chief marketing analyst for a category-leading packaged goods company. Jenny and I think that sounds a lot like Central Foods, so I’m wondering: Am I on the right track?
If you could spare thirty minutes anytime on March 9 or 10, I would sincerely appreciate it. Unless I hear from you beforehand, I’ll call during the week of February 27 to discover your interest.
Thank you for your consideration.
In case you haven’t realized it yet, Robert Allen Paul’s “Company Of One” is not just another “you can be whoever you want to be and succeed” program. It’s a “you can be exactly who you are and succeed” program. It doesn’t take a genius. It doesn’t take a marketing degree. All it takes is a clear understanding of who you really are, what you really do, how you do it differently from everyone else, and the benefits of that difference to your customers.
You are already unique. You are already a power to be reckoned with.
You are a Company Of One.
Robert Allen Paul has graciously shared his contact information with me to post in this blog. If you would like more information, or sample letters, send an email (linked below), and mention my name, Denise Beebe. You can also purchase his book, or the e-version of his book that contains a workbook through his website, linked above.
Robert Allan Paul
8242 Turtle Creek Boulevard
Minneapolis, MN 55375
A brand statement will help your cover letter or resume stand out from thousands of others! In this series of blog postings, I will share information with you taken from leading personal branding expert and career advancement coach, Robert Allen Paul, and his “Company Of One” presentation at Buena Vista University. I would recommend his valuable message to every student. (Part I: Your Brand Part II: Core Competencies Part III: Brand Attributes Part IV: Brand Identity Part V: Brand Promise Part VI: Brand Vision Part VII: Brand Loyalty + Brand Equity)
Part VIII: Brand Statement
What Do You Say?
Congratulations! You’re now one of the fortunate few who understand who they really are, what they really do, how they do it differently from everyone else and the benefits of that difference to prospective employers. You even have a practical understanding of the principles that will get you in front of those key contacts. The only question is: What do you say?
Maybe we should start with what not to say. There are plenty of examples out there. Most of us will spend a lot of time fine tuning our resumes, but when it’s time to introduce ourselves, we just generate something generic like this:
My name is John Johnson and I am, as the subject line suggests, inquiring into possible careers at Cuneo. I am a recent college collegegraduate from Acme University with a specialization in internet, television, film and new media marketing. If you have an entry level positions available at all, I would love to chat with you. I have included my resume, so please review it and let me know what you think. Thanks for you time and I hope to hear more from you soon.
This is an actual excerpt from an email Robert Allen Paul received from a graduate of a Big Ten school. Only the names have been changed. Here’s what he had to say:
“Aside from all the typographical and grammatical errors, there’s nothing terribly wrong with this introduction. But there’s nothing really right about it either. Certainly nothing interesting or insightful or enlightening or engaging. Is he really interested in any entry level position I might have? Does he really think I’m going to open and review his resume? And does he really want to know what I think? I don’t think so.”
Do you remember –back at the beginning of this blog –when I told you the first step in developing a career is differentiating yourself from everyone else? And that differentiating yourself begins with developing a summary statement that helps prospective employers recognize your personal strengths and their professional applications? The email above isn’t it.
So, what do you say? You already know!
This is where we bring it all together. This is where we combine all the results of your hard work.
Begin by copying the elements you’ve created in previous blogs into the appropriate blanks below. Now read them aloud, in the order that you’ve written them, as if they comprise one, cohesive paragraph. Because they do.
(Brand) I AM_______________________________________________
(Core competency) AND I HAVE A TALENT FOR ___________________________________________________________________________________________________.
(Brand Vision) MY OBJECTIVE IS TO
(Brand Attributes) I AM _____________, ______________ AND ___________.
(Brand Promise) AS A RESULT, I CAN OFFER THE RIGHT COMPANY
An example might be something like this:
I am John Johnson and I have a talent for critical thinking. My objective is to eventually earn a position as the chief marketing analyst for a category-leading consumer packaged goods company. I’m inquisitive, strategic and self-motivated. As a result, I can offer the right company an opportunity to maximize project results with a minimum of supervision.
Read yours again. What you have is something that most people –and many companies –don’t have. You have a comprehensive Brand Statement. Your brand statement isn’t meant to be cast in bronze or carved in stone. It’s a living document that is meant to be reread and reworked and rewritten regularly.
Next up - Creating your brand statement: Putting it all together.
A brand statement will help your cover letter or resume stand out from thousands of others! In this series of blog postings, I will share information with you taken from leading personal branding expert and career advancement coach, Robert Allen Paul, and his “Company Of One” presentation at Buena Vista University. I would recommend his valuable message to every student. (Part I: Your Brand Part II: Core Competencies Part III: Brand Attributes Part IV: Brand Identity Part V: Brand Promise Part VI: Brand Vision)
Part VII: Brand Loyalty + Brand Equity:
What Will You Do To Attract and Keep Customers?
By now, you probably have a pretty clear understanding of what you do, how you do it and the benefits to your potential “customers.” The only thing left to do is to go out and there and get them!
This is where the principles of Brand Loyalty and Brand Equity come into play. Both are critical in attracting the attention of prospective employers. Both are instrumental in securing interviews. Both are invaluable in launching and advancing your career. But while both relate to the way you manage your professional relationships, in some ways, they are polar opposites.
Brand Loyalty vs. Brand EquityWe can all think of a simple definition of the word “loyalty.” But how would you define “equity”? It’s not a word you hear that often, but when you do, it’s usually in financial circles. That’s because equity refers to a sense or condition of ownership; ownership resulting from some sort of investment.
And that is the defining difference between Brand Loyalty and Brand Equity. Brand Loyalty is a measure of how willing the customer is to do business with you again. Brand Equity is a measure of how much the customer is willing to invest –in time, thought, effort or money– in order to do business with you.
Brand equity is the ultimate goal of every smart marketer (and every job hunter).
How can you apply these two principles in order to attract the attention of potential employers and advance your personal career? It’s actually easier and more common than you think. Let’s start with Brand Loyalty.
There are a million customer loyalty programs out there and most of them fail. Because most of them aren’t based on any understanding of customers or loyalty. Contrary to popular practice, you don’t build loyalty by getting customers to invest more in your brand. You build brand loyalty by investing in your customer. No one understands this better than your average non-profit organization, so we will use one to help illustrate this point.
Frequent Flyer Miles vs. Free Address Labels
Free fares and class upgrades can be pretty appealing if you do a lot of traveling. Frequent Flyer programs are pretty much alike – they allow you to earn points for every mile you fly with them. After you’ve flown about 35,000 miles (and spent several thousand dollars), you get one free round-trip ticket anywhere they fly (as long as you don’t want to fly anytime that normal people would want to fly).
Now, there’s nothing really wrong with this loyalty program. Unless you count the fact that it doesn’t inspire loyalty. Are you any more likely to choose that particular airline for your next trip than any other airline with a similar program? Of course not. Because instead of earning your loyalty, they are forcing you to earn their reward. And by the time they deliver, you’ll probably feel like they owe you much more.
Compare that complicated program to the simple solicitations we all get from organizations like the American Lung Association. Once a year, I open my mailbox to find a fat, little envelope from the ALA. Inside is a letter about all the good they are doing –and some address labels with my name.
Why? You already know why. Because donations from consumers who receive some little trinket first are about five times that of consumers who get the letter alone. That’s why.
Most human beings are hardwired to seek balance and order. If someone gives you something –if someone invests in you –then, more often than not, you feel a need to reciprocate. When I get those cute little address labels, I can’t resist the urge to write a check. Even if it’s just for five dollars. Even if I’ll never actually use the address labels.
What’s true for fund raising is also true for job hunting. If you want a better return on your investment, then you must first invest in the prospect. How?
Start by doing your homework. Learn a little about the person you are approaching, the company you are pursuing, and the challenges they are facing. Then include that knowledge in your cover letter.
Which reminds me: Put it on paper. In an age when most candidates just click the Apply button and transmit an e-copy of their online profile, printing and mailing a real, live letter and resume can really help you stand out! Employers receive dozens of resumes every week, but do you know how many of them come via US Mail? Maybe half a dozen per year.
If you do nothing more than upload your resume to a corporate website, it doesn’t show much interest on your part. But if you take the time to learn a name, study the company, read the job posting, write a letter, print it on paper and pay for a postage stamp, then you have made a real investment in the position –and you might be owed something in return.
That doesn’t necessarily mean you will get the job. But it may mean someone will be more likely to pick up the phone when you make your follow up call. And that is when you start building Brand Equity.
Brand EquityAs was said before, you develop Brand Loyalty by investing in the customer, but you build Brand Equity by getting the customer to invest in you. The tricky part is figuring out how to earn that investment. There are three basic methods: You can require it, you can request it or you can borrow it. If you are job hunting, you are most likely to employ the last two, but we will cover appropriate applications for all three approaches.
Require ItDepending upon how much chutzpah (nerve) you have, you can always develop brand equity by simply demanding it.
Even if you haven’t been shopping for cars, you are probably familiar with both Hyundai and Toyota. If so, you probably know that the average Hyundai costs considerably less than the average Toyota. But did you know that many Hyundai vehicles have more features and options than their Toyota counterparts? Did you know that Hyundai has won just as many awards? Or that Hyundai vehicles also come with a longer warranty? It’s all true. So, why does Toyota outsell Hyundai by such a huge margin? Maybe Hyundais just don’t cost enough.
Remember the Two-Thirds Rule for developing brand attributes? You can’t be all things to all people. When Hyundai promotes Quality, Reliability and Value, consumers think it’s too good to be true –and start looking for reasons not to buy. On the other hand, Toyota focuses its marketing on Quality and Reliability. Period. Even during their annual Toyotathon events, advertising rarely features specific pricing. They figure if you want quality and reliability, you know you’ll have to pay for it. And you do.
So, requiring someone to invest more in your services often leads them to believe they are worth more.
This approach isn’t just about pricing, it’s just as applicable to other capital your consumers can invest. If you force a prospective employer to rearrange their schedule or drive half way across town for an interview, it implies that you are in demand and they may feel fortunate to be included in your schedule.
Of course, if you are a recent college graduate seeking your first career position, you may not possess the credentials (or confidence) to require that prospective employers make a major investment in recruiting you. In fact, in today’s economic climate, if you are an experienced superstar, you still might not have the daring to draw a line in the sand. But at some point this approach may become more appropriate, so it’s important that you understand the underlying principles.
Request ItOne of the easiest ways to get others to invest in you and help you advance you career is to simply asking them to invest a little time and assist you in your career planning. And one of your best tactics is the Informational Interview.
Asking professionals in your chosen field to discuss key issues and ideas not only uncovers clues to the future and potential opportunities, but requires them to spend a fair amount of time and effort explaining themselves and educating you. Having made that kind of personal investment, they don’t want to see it go to waste and will be more likely to choose you over others if a position presents itself. It’s why so many of the college graduates hired by major employers are prior participants in their internship programs.
When your informational interview is drawing to a close, don’t forget to ask them to invest just a little more by providing you with a professional referral. Thank you so much. This has been very insightful. Is there anyone else you think I should meet? If they actually refer you to a professional associate, they become a personal reference for you –and that’s the first step in borrowing brand equity.
Borrow ItIf neither of the first two approaches seems to work for you, your third option may be to borrow some brand equity.
If you happen to work for a recognizable organization, its reputation is automatically transferred onto you, and in most cases, it’s a blessing. The instant credibility that working for a good company creates is usually far greater than any you could earn on your own.
If you don’t work for a well-known or well-respected company (and as a student or new college grad, you probably don’t), you can still borrow brand equity from others -whether other people or institutions (like your college and its alumni). The credibility established through a personal recommendation or association trumps the credibility of even the largest corporation.
When we talk about “borrowing brand equity,” what we are really talking about is networking. I don’t mean networking in a personal, passive, Facebook sort-of-way. I mean networking in a professional, proactive, productive sort-of-way.
Even today, in the age of the Internet, experts estimate that about 80%of all available positions are filled through networking and referral. Your friends and family are still four times more powerful than any website (including Monster.com). Start by asking everyone you know if they know anyone else in your chosen field. It doesn’t matter what company or position that second person might be in, as long as they are employed in your field. You won’t believe how many people you know actually know someone else you ought to know.
Ask the person you know for the contact info of the person they know and if it’s okay to mention their name. They’ll say “yes,” of course.
Now sit down at your laptop and type up a quick letter of introduction to request an informational interview. Since this person doesn’t know you, you will want to establish a little credibility up front by borrowing the brand equity of the person who referred you. Maybe something like “You don’t know me. We’ve never met. But your niece, Jenny Jenson, thinks we should.”
Then you can share some of the personal branding info you’ve already developed, including your career objective and a request to discuss your options when they have time. Since your new contact is already vested in a relationship with the person who referred you, they are much more likely to invest a few minutes in meeting (and helping) you.
If you will remember to ask for another referral at the conclusion of all of your referral conversations, you will be on your way to dozens of meetings and building a real business network. Before you know it, one of those interviews will turn into a real opportunity and that opportunity will turn into a real career.
Best of all, you won’t have to do it alone. Instead of just posting your resume a hundred times and hoping for the best, you will have a hundred people invested in you and doing their best to help you find your way.
These are just a few of the ways you can develop personal brand equity with career contacts and prospective employers. I am sure you can think of many more. Just remember: Your ultimate goal is to promote such extreme loyalty they wouldn’t dream of doing business with anyone else.
Next up: Creating Your Brand Statement: Brand Statement
A brand statement will help your cover letter or resume stand out from thousands of others! In this series of blog postings, I will share information with you taken from leading personal branding expert and career advancement coach, Robert Allen Paul, and his “Company Of One” presentation at Buena Vista University. I would recommend his valuable message to every student. (Part I: Your Brand Part II: Core Competencies Part III: Brand Attributes Part IV: Brand Identity Part V: Brand Promise)
Part VI: Brand Vision:
Who Do You Want To Be?
So far, the focus has been almost exclusively on who you are and what you do. But who do you want to be? What do you want to do? And who would you like to do it for? Some will tell you to “begin with the end in mind.” Marketers will tell you it’s the beginning of your Brand Vision. The first few steps of this personal branding process are usually the most difficult because we’re never taught to think about ourselves or our careers in this way. Yet, almost all of us have been told to “follow our dreams,” so imagining who we could be is almost second nature.
This is the stage of the branding process when you get to stare into space. Because this is the stage where you’ll gaze into the future and develop your brand vision. Some companies refer to it as their mission statement. You might call it your career objective. You want it to be comprehensive and expansive and instructive. But you also want it something you can remember and reflect on every day in order to keep your performance in line.
In short, a mission statement isn’t a map that tells you exactly how to get where you’re going. It’s a compass that lets you know if you’re veering off course.
But regardless of whether you’re a “map” or “compass” person, the one thing you need – is a specific destination. Which brings me to the primary point of this exercise.
Too many resumes include a mission (or objective) like the following:
“To secure a position that will allow me to utilize my skills and contribute to the overall growth organization.”
Sound familiar? Of course it does. Because we’ve all been copying the same objective statement for years. And that might not be so tragic if it actually stated an objective, but this generic waste of space doesn’t tell anyone anything. In fact, the only thing this objective indicates is you don’t care enough about your career to think about it.
So, let’s think about it. Let’s think about what you want to be, and where you want to be, and maybe even when you want to be there. Let’s imagine a specific position in a specific division in a specific type of company. Most importantly, let’s try to focus on the future instead of just the first job, so both you and your prospective employers can gain some perspective.
There is no need to develop a “10-Year Plan” or anything else that detailed. Any plan you might work up is probably going to change ten weeks after you are in the workforce anyway. But if you want your career to have any sense of direction, you need to begin with a well-defined destination. For example:
“To eventually earn a position as the chief marketing analyst at a category-leading consumer packaged goods company.”
That is an objective. That is a mission statement. That is a compass to help keep your career on course. And every day you will be able to measure your journey and judge if you are any closer to your destination.
But your objective doesn’t just provide direction for you; it also provides direction for prospective employers. An objective like the one above doesn’t just tell an employer you’ve got aspirations and a destination, it also tells them what they’ve got to do to help get you there. If they have a good idea of where you would “eventually” like to be, they have a better idea of where to put you now.
Needless to say, you can (and probably should) adjust your career objective according to the company to whom it’s addressed –as long as it’s still specific. The truth is, providing a more detailed objective actually creates more opportunities, not less, because it helps employers match you to more positions than just those for which you applied.
So, I will ask again: Who do you want to be? What do you want to do? This is the fun part, so don’t be afraid to daydream a little. Create your own mission statement. My Brand Vision: My Objective is to ______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
Next up: Creating Your Brand Statement: Brand Loyalty + Brand Equity
A brand statement will help your cover letter or resume stand out from thousands of others! In this series of blog postings, I will share information with you taken from leading personal branding expert and career advancement coach, Robert Allen Paul, and his “Company Of One” presentation at Buena Vista University. I would recommend his valuable message to every student. (Part I: Your Brand Part II: Core Competencies Part III: Brand Attributes Part IV: Brand Identity) Part V: Brand Promise:
What Will You Do For Me?The problem with trying to build your brand identity by managing word-of-mouth is that it simply takes too long. You don’t have 30 years to do it the way Sony did. You may not even have 30 months. So, what do you do? You think about what you want consumers to say and then teach them how to say it. Marketers call this your Brand Promise, but it’s really just a statement of benefits.
The first step in developing a benefits statement is determining what those benefits might be. Since benefits are usually tied to features, we will define your features as your Brand Attributes. So, once you’ve established those, you will just have to attach some relevant benefits to the back end. Put another way, after you have told me how you do what you do, you will have to tell me what that will do for me.
You may already have an opinion regarding the benefits you provide prospective “customers” (i.e., employers), but by now, you also know it is not your opinion that really matters. What do your current “customers” say? Have you asked them? They’re the only ones who really know what it’s like to work with you, and most of them will be happy to share their thoughts. In fact, most will be delighted you even asked. Asking also helps you develop a little Brand Equity (which will be critical when you start networking).
So ask them. Reach out to your professors and past employers for a quick, simple benefits assessment. Based on your experience with me, what do you like best about the way I work? What are the biggest benefits to you? You may be surprised by the insights you gather –and how different they are from what you had expected.
When you discover your customer benefits from the customer’s point-of-view, you may also be surprised by how naturally they relate to your brand attributes. For instance, if you are majoring in marketing, and you tend to be “analytical, inventive and aggressive” well, as a result, your employer might benefit from “marketing programs that are on target, on time and on purpose.”
Let’s say you have decided the brand attributes that best describe you are “inquisitive, strategic and self-motivated.” What could the resulting benefits of employing such a person be from the employer’s point-of-view? Perhaps you can offer the right company “an opportunity to maximize project results with a minimum of supervision.”
Aside from ensuring your benefits are related to your attributes, the only other key to developing an effective brand promise is to keep it as simple as possible. Remember you want consumers to remember it. So, choose the most common benefits expressed by your “customers,” summarize them in one simple sentence and then include it in everything you do.
It doesn’t have to be catchy. It doesn’t have to be clever. It just has to be crystal clear. Clear enough that both you and your prospective customers can repeat it. Again and again.
Make a list of your customer benefits, and then create a simple brand promise that communicates the most important ones. That sentence should probably begin with the words “I offer the right company” and, once again, be followed by some sort of active verb phrase (“an opportunity to maximize project results,” etc.). Once you’re satisfied with your new brand promise, write it down. My Brand Promise: As a result, I offer the right company _____________________________________________________________
Next up: Creating Your Brand Statement: Brand Vision
A brand statement will help your cover letter or resume stand out from thousands of others! In the next several blog postings, I will share information with you taken from leading personal branding expert and career advancement coach, Robert Allen Paul, and his “Company Of One” presentation at Buena Vista University. I would recommend his valuable message to every student. (Part I: Your Brand Part II: Core Competencies Part III: Brand Attributes): Part IV: Brand Identity:
Who Are Your Customers? What Do They Think You Do?
Understanding what you really do and how you do it differently provides you with an advantage when it comes to communicating key benefits to your “customers”. But who are your customers?
Traditionally, a customer –or consumer –is usually defined as anyone who uses or could possibly use your product or service. But in branding, the definition of a consumer also includes all of those who couldn’t or wouldn’t. Because even those consumers who are unlikely to become your customer (or employer) have some influence over those who might. They all participate in creating what marketers refer to as your Brand Identity; which is something different from simple Brand Recognition.
Brand Identity vs. Brand Recognition
What is the difference between Brand Recognition and Brand Identity? Let’s use a party analogy. You go to a party, you see an attractive person, and you walk up to them and introduce yourself with some Brand Advertising: “Hi, I’m (name) and I’m an awesome date.” So they say, “Hmmm. (Name)? I think I’ve heard of you.” That’s Brand Recognition. Now imagine you go to a party, you see an attractive person, you walk up to them and say “Hi, I’m (name).”
Then they say “Oh? You’re (name)? I hear you’re an awesome date.” That’s Brand Identity.
See the difference? Brand Identity isn’t based on what you say about yourself, but on what the consumer is likely to say about you. And, just as with brand positioning, your brand identity isn’t built in the marketplace. It’s built in the mind of the consumer. It consists of more than just the ability to recall your brand name. It consists of the consumer’s 360 degrees experience with your brand –personally and otherwise. In fact, it’s possible to develop a brand identity with all sorts of consumers who’ve never done business with you.
Every year, the Harris organization conducts what they call their Best Brand Survey. It’s a national poll of approximately 3,500 consumers that consists of just one question:
“We would like you to think about brands or names of products and services you know. Considering everything, which three brands do you consider the best?“
Can you guess which brand tops the list? According to American consumers, the best brand in America was Sony. For seven years running. That’s impressive performance by any standard. But what’s even more impressive is that there were years in which the percentage of consumers who named Sony as a best brand was greater than the percentage of consumers who actually own any Sony product.
In other words, you don’t have to have personal experience with a brand to have a definite opinion about that brand.
It can be disturbing to discover that people you don’t know –and who don’t know you –may still have an opinion of you. But that’s the way brand identity works; one impression or observation or interpretation at a time.
If I cut my hair or lose weight. If I’m ten minutes early or two minutes late. The clothes I wear. The car I drive. The way I answer the phone. The way I sign my emails. The way I treat my colleagues or my mother or the students in my class. Every little thing I say or do –or don’t say or don’t do –all make a little deposit in the identity account that exists in the mind of my consumer.
So, to those who might tell you the little things don’t matter, I’d say the little things do matter. More often than not, building positive brand identity is a matter of managing impressions and word-of-mouth.
Next up: Creating Your Brand Statement: Brand Promise
In previous posts about the importance of a personal brand, we concentrated on how to create a personal brand using web tools such as Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter. Now it’s time to create your own personal brand statement. A brand statement will help your cover letter or resume stand out from thousands of others! In the next several blog postings, I will share information with you taken from leading personal branding expert and career advancement coach, Robert Allen Paul, and his “Company Of One” presentation at Buena Vista University. I would recommend his valuable message to every student. (Part I: Your Brand Part II: Core Competencies) Part III: Brand Attributes:
How do you do what you do? Now it’s time to discover your professional personality – or brand attributes. What are your brand attributes? Are you Decisive? Deliberate? Determined? Inventive? Analytical? In other words: How do you do what you do? How you do what you do is how you really set yourself apart.
It’s not always what you say, but how you say it. So it follows that –just as with your core competencies –there are no “bad” attributes. Do people find you impatient? -You’re driven and proactive. Have others accused you of too little tact? -You’re a clear communicator. No matter which adjectives you (or others) might attach to your personality, there’s a positive way of redefining them to communicate your professional approach. And while it’s always easier and more pleasant to lead with the “positives,” you may find that some of those “negatives” are what actually make you successful. And unique!
While you are thinking about how you do what you do, try to think about how you do what you do differently from everyone else who does what you do. Attributes play an important role in making your personal brand unique.
Ask your best friends what three adjectives come to mind when they hear your name – and write down whatever they say. Then use a thesaurus and find a few synonyms that convey those traits in more professional terms. So, once again, just as with your core competency, the most important thing is that you choose attributes that are true. Here are a couple of practical guidelines.
- Compatibility Rule: You can’t be tough and gentle. You can’t be spontaneous and strategic. Don’t choose attributes that appear to be in conflict with one another.
- Two-Thirds Rule: When buying a product there are usually three primary factors that drive purchasing decisions; however we seldom get all three, so choose based on benefits of the other two. If you’re a new college grad, the primary factors prospective employers consider when choosing candidates are likely Education, Experience and Compensation (Price). So, if you’ve earned good grades from a good school, but have no relevant experience, then you may have to offer prospective employers the benefit of lower compensation. If you’ve graduated cum laude from an Ivy League school and worked several related internships, then employers probably shouldn’t expect you to come cheap. Whatever the three factors are in your category, you need to choose the two you’re going to focus on and forget about the third.
Next up: Creating Your Brand Statement: Brand Identity
In previous posts about the importance of a personal brand, we concentrated on how to create a personal brand using web tools such as Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter. Now it’s time to create your own personal brand statement. A brand statement will help your cover letter or resume stand out from thousands of others! In the next several blog postings, I will share information with you taken from leading personal branding expert and career advancement coach, Robert Allen Paul, and his “Company Of One” presentation at Buena Vista University. I would recommend his valuable message to every student. (Part I: Your Brand.) Part II: Core Competencies:
What do you do? What you do is best explained as a summary of your accomplishments. Just as on a resume, you skip the list of responsibilities and lead with accomplishments instead. If you think you haven’t done much yet, you need to change the way you think about what you’ve done – shift your perspective!
Defining your professional core competencies is all about discovering your personal strengths; you need to look beyond what you’ve done in school. Consider everything you’ve done in the rest of your life – college and childhood - what other people think you do well. Those things form the foundation of your core competencies.
Are you a sympathetic listener? A great planner? Well organized? A master at getting others to do what you want? There are professional applications for all these personal aptitudes. Think of several things you do well. Ask others who know you what they think. What do your friends and family see as your personal strengths? How about your professors, counselors, or advisors? Now just identify the common denominators.
Are you hearing your strengths as “you always get your work in on time, or early” or “you have odd ideas” or possibly “you seem to like to argue”? Whatever the common denominator might be, consider it a core competency. Regardless of what your personal skill turns out to be, you can turn it into a professional talent. And no matter what your talent may be, there are hundreds of employers who would love to put it to work. Change “odd ideas” into “a talent for delivering unexpected results”. If you like a good argument, then say you have a talent for critical thinking. If you usually beat deadlines, then you have a talent for exceeding expectations.
Discovering your core competency not only provides you with some personal direction, but some professional confidence, too. So, start making a list of all your strengths and successes, and then look for the common denominator. Once you’ve done that, there’s only one thing left to do: Pick one. But only one.
Focus. It’s critical that you focus your core competencies on a single business category and then do everything you can think of to own it. No matter how many things you do –or how well you may do them –people are likely to recognize you for only one.
You can’t be all things to all people. And when you try to promote yourself as a jack of all trades, you come off as the king of none. People (including employers and recruiters) have very specific needs; they don’t want generalists, they need specialists. So, if you want them to believe you can actually solve their problem, then you’re going to have to focus on it. The real impact of focusing on one core competency isn’t exclusion; it’s inclusion. Summarizing your key talent helps everyone who can really use it find you and add you to their list of candidates.
Make that list of achievements and accomplishments; of personal strengths and skills and successes. Then make a note of any common denominators that might point to a central theme. Are you an instigator or instructor? A promoter or problem solver? What seems to happen with projects or positions you make your own?
In 20 words or less, write down what you do - I have a talent for (so the next word should be some sort of active verb like “developing,” “helping,” “creating,” “delivering). Write down a number of different summary sentences. Read them aloud and think about what they really say. Whatever you decide will be fine – as long as it is clear and concise and true.
Next up: Creating Your Brand Statement – Brand Attributes
In previous posts about the importance of a personal brand, we concentrated on how to create a personal brand using web tools such as Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter. Now it’s time to create your own personal brand statement. A brand statement will help your cover letter or resume stand out from thousands of others! In the next several blog postings, I will share information with you taken from leading personal branding expert and career advancement coach, Robert Allen Paul, and his “Company Of One” presentation at Buena Vista University. I would recommend his valuable message to every student.
This is what you need to do:
- Concentrate on what makes you unique; focus on “different” so you stand out in the crowd.
- Identify your unique personal strengths and develop a summary that helps others recognize the professional applications and advantages of those strengths – help employers understand why they might want to read your resume.
- The first question posed by the branding process (or any prospective employer) is simply: Who are you? The answer becomes your brand. In simplest terms, a brand is really a name, and that’s where you start – with the name you want on your business correspondence.
- Every name communicates its own unique characteristics – “serious”, “fun”, “friendly”, “reliable” … and so on. [Some international students take on an English name when they study abroad – perhaps because it’s easier for others to remember. Some keep their name, or use a shorter nickname.]
- Just as words have meanings beyond their literal definitions, names are also infused with certain attributes. Whatever name you decide to use, it’s important to choose one that communicates who you really are – or at least who you want to be.
- Your first exercise in building your personal brand is to take a few minutes and choose your personal brand. Write out all the possible names under which you could choose to do business and then go ahead and pick one. Write that name after the words “I Am” –and start thinking about who that person is.