If you’re trying to sell yourself on your stats: as a bundle of skills and experience, you’re going to lose out to competitors who know what they mean and are promoting that to employers and prospects.

The goal of your personal brand effort has got to answer this one question: what do you mean to your target group (or what will you mean when you get it together? As Phyllis Korkki writes in the New York Times, communicating that you are “hard-working, flexible, cooperative and witty,” will allow recruiters and clients to see what you would mean to the organization, not just what you can do.

Romancing your brand

Personal brand strategists could learn a lot from the literature on romance. Men fall in love with women who make them “feel” a certain way. These women can be encouraging, admiring, demanding, angry and anywhere along the dotted line from angel to devil. The one thing that the loved have in common is not perfect hair and great bodies. These women mean something to the men they connect with. Someone to save, someone to adore, someone to fight out the demons of the past, someone to rely on when t

imes are tough, someone they would take a bullet for: this is what generates commitment.

I live in Los Angeles, the capital of beautiful, toned, and educated women who are alone every Saturday night. They start out like this at 22 and continue until they’re 50, when they decide that having cats means they are no longer alone. Their “best years” are dotted by “hanging out” with a man now and then. Their regular dates are other womenwho are equally lovely and absolutely hopeless about finding a long-lasting, loving connection.

Last Friday night, I went out with my fiancé to meet these women and the men who would chill with them, but not settledown with them. It was 9:30 PM at an uber cool saloon, Pink Taco in Century City. We were there for a going-away party for Adam, an athletic, sweet, handsome and single physical therapist. Every other man at the party was almost a clone: hunky, nice, funny and hard-working.

The women there had all chilled with these men. Yet it looked like a middle school dance, except the guys didn’t look awkward at all. They were laughing and talking, mostly making fun of each other in that guy-bonding way. The women were talking to each other about work and not dating.  I know these women because we chat each other up at the gym and at

get-togethers like this one. They have really interesting jobs or are wrestling with challenges like finding a job, they have great family relationships and they all look like models. They just haven’t hunkered down on the one thing that matters in creating a relationship: what do I mean to someone else?

What doe you mean to someone else?

Vibrant personal brands and big brands present a promise of what consumers will enjoy and why it’s worth it to commit to owning this one thing – to the exclusion of owning something else. With so much competition, it’s not enough for the contents of the can or the resume to be jam packed with good things.

What Harvard Professor Gerald Zaltman calls “deep metaphors,” and I call “ideal qualities of life” are what you want to communicate with your personal brand. Zaltman’s research on Coke shows that the brand has successfully embedded the promise of “connection” to the soda. Connection to others and even more importantly, connection to the self are what consumers are buying: not the syrup and bubbly water in the cool red can. What Coke means is people holding hands and singing the same song or the pause the refreshes, which a radio spot successfully broadcasts just by the sound of ice clinking and soda effervescing in a glass. Ahhh.

You connect your brand

Whether you’re seeking a job or going after clients (or trying to get a promotion or project approved), start off by communicating the quality you deliver that elevates an organization’s standard of living. Of course, if you have a big book of business and you’re in sales, then it’s pretty clear: revenue means power. But, if you are in another occupation consider what you could mean.

Get your achievements organized so they all lead to a recruiter or prospect to say: “Wow, this individual would be a force of ______________ in my company.”

Need some hints? Below are just some of personal brand values you may be.

  • Vitality
  • Creativity
  • Resourcefulness
  • Courage
  • Humor
  • Empowerment
  • Security
  • Legacy
  • Persistence