Advice about developing a personal brand is widely accepted because it is effective. But, in today’s economy, there are new rules for personal branding, especially on the job search.
Traditionally, your personal brand is the absolute best of yourself. It is purposefully unique and encompasses the kind of problems you solve, the way that you get things done, the situations that you excel in and the types of organizations you build. It is your values and your personality; it’s the very best of you.
Yet, today, in the job search, the brand that you worked so hard to develop just doesn’t cut it any more.
Your personal brand needs a few new rules.
Rule #1: Your brand is not about you. As counter intuitive as that sounds, your brand is not about you. Rather, it is about the value you deliver externally. Its all about your audience: their challenges, their needs, their dreams and how you can get them there.
Rule #2: Your brand is different for every opportunity. In the same way that you adapt to different situations, your brand needs change for every opportunity. It will emphasize different strengths, experiences and capabilities based on your audience (and their challenges, needs and dreams).
Rule #3: You need to be their Super Hero. Feel free to laugh at the name, but lets be clear, the goal of your personal brand is convey a direct and concise story about how you will be the organization’s Super Hero. That is, how you will defeat their challenges and enact the change that they are desperate to make.
Rule #4: The burden is on you. Today’s economy combined with the extreme time pressure hiring managers feel means that you, the job seeker, have to do all the heavy lifting. It is not up to them to put the pieces of the puzzle together and see your value, rather it is up to you to identify and communicate it in a clear and concise manner.
What does this look like in the real world?
Becoming an organization’s Super Hero isn’t as hard at it sounds. The first step is to self-reflect and consciously craft your traditional personal brand. You’ll need to nurture a strong self-awareness of how you contribute to an organization, as well as a comprehensive understanding of your flaws and challenges.
Then, you need to forget about all of that! Go ahead, let it go.
Now that you’ve let go, start thinking about a specific opportunity that you are interested in. Look at it from the vantage point of the company. What are their challenges? What is their ideal candidate profile? The skills, the characteristics, the experience? To be most effective, literally write out a description of their “perfect” candidate by cross referencing the job description, the company website, their mission statement, press coverage and any connections you have to the organization that can give you insight.
Finally, once you have a clear picture of their ideal candidate, take your personal brand and pour it into the mold of their ideal candidate. Focus on what they want in a candidate (not necessarily what you think is most impressive about you) and adapt your strengths and experience to accordingly.
Distill this down to a single sentence and you’ve reached your goal – Your Super Hero Story.
This sentence, your Super Hero Story, is your personal brand. It is a litmus test for everything about your application. Does everything on your resume support your Super Hero Story? Is your cover letter an expansion of your Super Hero Story? Does the outfit you wear to the interview reflect your Super Hero Story? It is literally your job search compass.
In the job search, and in life, you simply can’t afford to be focused on yourself. You need to relate your personal brand to the world, and to every opportunity you are interested in. The burden is on you.