Terror, anxiety, stress, depression, overwhelm, and a sense of hopelessness permeates the entire process of securing employment.  Have you ever considered that job seekers need to master more skills than a CEO of a Fortune 500 company?  While CEO’s hire and surround themselves with qualified experts in diverse disciplines, job seekers must master most disciplines themselves including goal setting, strategic planning, competitive analysis, self analysis, market analysis, writing, editing, proofreading, word processing, the Internet, logistics, marketing, sales, cold calling, networking, social media, time management, research, stress management, overcoming objections and rejection, health & fitness (emotional and physical), interviewing, negotiating, decision-making, and much more.

Now, on top of all this, employment professionals, authors, and marketing gurus have introduced the need to including personal branding as yet another discipline to master; and a most confusing one at that.

Value proposition versus personal branding

I have researched a plethora of definitions of branding to be perfectly honest, they confuse me.  The most popular definition I saw is: “Branding is the process involved in creating a unique name and image for a product (goods or services) in the consumer’s mind, through advertising campaigns with a consistent theme. Branding aims to establish a significant and differentiated presence in the market that attracts and retains loyal customers.”

Well, this is easy to understand for social media and marketing experts; and easy to do for companies who can afford to advertise over and over again.  But what about job seekers who get one chance to capture the attention of a prospective employer?  Sure, if job seekers have 6 to 12 months to network and create a unique name and image recognition in various venues, personal branding might be valuable.  But they need a job yesterday!  Isn’t it more important to communicate market value and the ability to produce significant bottom line / organizational results than to establish a brand?  Are we not totally confusing most job seekers by telling them that they have to create their brand in order to get hired; given everything else they have to do and emotions they have to deal with?

For years now, quintessential career experts and information found online have talked about the growing importance for job-seekers to begin building their brands.  Hey, no problem… here’s just another skill to master in the midst of one of life’s most terrifying calamities.  Why not have them learn quantum physics as well?  But then I found a definition of personal branding that I believe everyone can understand, accept, and benefit from.

“Simply put, your brand is your promise to a prospective employer. It tells them what they can expect from you and what performance standards (deliverables) they can expect.  And this level of performance must differentiate you from your competitors – other qualified candidates.  Your brand is derived from who you are, who you want to be, who people perceive you to be, and what contributions you can make.”

I like this definition.  In order to better help job seekers achieve their goals of landing new jobs, we need not overly complicate the job seeking process with complex marketing terminology that most job seekers can’t relate to.  The ‘simple’ definition above makes it clear that what we need to do is to teach job seekers that they must understand prospective employers’ problems, needs, and specific requirements; and to communicate their ability to meet those needs via their skills, qualifications, talents, and abilities.  Suite101.com states that “Personal branding is the identification of sellable skills, traits, and experience. And if one is seeking a job online, personal branding consists of building a comprehensive marketing and branding plan where the job seeker identifies meaningful keywords, labels, or tags that define the critical characteristics of jobs and positions desired.”

Promote your value!

In essence, conducting a successful job campaign is the art of communicating one’s value; one’s ability to produce significant results through the use of one’s skills and abilities.  When we inundate job seekers with additional responsibilities where they now need to ‘brand themselves;’ they immediately think of Nike, Coke, Rolex, Marlboro cigarettes, and other well-known products.  They become totally stressed out because they have no idea how they can get prospective employers to recognize them like consumers recognize Wal-Mart, Starbucks, or Cadillac.

I am not suggesting that we ditch the concept of personal branding.  What I am suggesting is that when it comes to job seekers, we need to do a much better job communicating in three areas: 1) We must define the term personal branding so that it is simple for them to understand, 2) We must be sure that what they understand is easy to do; and does not add additional stress to an already stressful endeavor, and 3) We must show job seekers that the process of personal branding – identifying one’s value – can be both enjoyable and highly effective.

Most people are NOT comfortable marketing themselves, blowing their own horn, and selling any product, much less selling themselves.  And to complicate the job search process by adding the concept of personal branding without clearly and precisely addressing the three points noted above; is to make a difficult situation even more chaotic.  So I challenge all professionals who work with and assist job seekers, to do a better job in helping people land jobs.  We can accomplish this by being more cognizant of the words and phrases we use… and being sure we use them to provide hope and confidence; not additional fear and doubt.


Jay Block is an industry pioneer and the nation’s leading motivational career coach.  Jay is a best-selling author of 15 books, including his latest blockbuster: 101 Best Ways To Land a Job in Troubled Times (McGraw-Hill).  He has a 20-year record of success for creating and recreating the career management industry. His website is: www.jayblock.com