Oprah Winfrey. Kim Kardashian. Tiger Woods. Martha Stewart. Chances are, by reading those names, you are instantly visualizing what they look like, or at least, you know what they do. But how have they managed to create an identity in your mind despite your never having actually met them? This is especially interesting when you consider that there are people you’ve actually met whom you don’t remember, so how is it that you know who these relative strangers are?
Let’s take David Beckham for example. Admittedly, I am not a soccer fan, but I am well aware who he is despite never having watched him play a single game. While he has a well-earned reputation as a leading former professional footballer, like many others, I am well-acquainted with the name of his wife, his children, and I even know what he looks like in his underwear. In fact, if someone was talking about him using only his last name, as in, “I just saw Beckham’s latest underwear ad on the side of a bus”, I’d know exactly who they were talking about, and then I’d probably go looking for the bus. How is it that one man who made a living kicking a ball has managed to become a household name for millions of people around the world who have very little interest in sports? The answer is quite simple: Beckham knows how to brand himself.
What is branding by definition? Essentially, branding is a marketing practice used to differentiate one product from another. When developing a brand, the focus should be on what attributes or benefits can be offered that would make it more desirable than the others. Without effective branding, a product, even an exceptionally good one, can get lost in a sea of brand-savvy competitors.
When it comes to looking for employment, it is important to look at ways in which you can develop your own personal brand, and this requires that you truly understand who you are. This will let potential employers see what you have to offer that differentiates you from other job seekers, as well as help you identify your own strengths which can help you build confidence. When you are thinking about how to uncover your personal brand, you need to pay attention to what you can do, and by “do” I mean do well. Then, consider your passions. Are you driven by these passions? Are your strengths and passions connected in some way? Using Beckham as an example, while he may well have loved the sport of soccer, if he hadn’t been very good at playing, he would not have been able to develop a brand around it. There needs to be some sort of bridge between the skill and the passion in order for you to correctly strategize your goals. Do some research to see if what you are good at and what you would like to do are viable career options.
Next, you need to think about how others perceive you. What sorts of adjectives would people use to describe you? Are you diligent? Conscientious? Pleasant? Which adjectives would you want people to associate you with, and do any of them set you apart from others? Is there any sort of gap between how you are seen and how you would like to be seen, and what can you do to change this? The difficult thing here, obviously, is being realistic when viewing yourself. While some may exaggerate their strengths, others still will underestimate themselves. This is why it’s important to think about another point of view, to get a certain amount of perspective to help assess the situation correctly.
Once you have decided what your aspirations and strengths are, in keeping with strategizing your goals, a game plan needs to be developed. This includes taking a close look at the contents of your cover letter and résumé and ensuring that they plainly illustrate your strengths and how those strengths meet the requirements of the position you are seeking. For instance, if you are submitting your résumé for a position in Medical Administration, you need to ensure that it clearly states which skills you have that the position requires. In other words, why would you submit a résumé for a medical position without including medical terminology or keyboarding aptitude, as most medical positions require it? Also, think about whether or not the appearance and format are appealing and structured well. If the résumé stands out right away, it will be read, and that’s a fact. Be real, be yourself, and be truthful, because transparency is far more compelling than a list of lofty credentials. Employers are looking for applicants who are confident, but who are also able to exemplify the key traits and core competencies to meet the needs of the job.
As well as your résumé, take stock of your online presence. Does the person the public see online reflect who you are? Do not underestimate the power of your online profile, as it is easily accessible to everyone and can have a lasting impression which can be difficult to get rid of. It is smart to take advantage of social media tools to create a connection between yourself and potential employers, but it is smarter still to be professional at all times, no matter if it’s in the workplace, on LinkedIn or on Facebook. Whenever you decide to put something online, make sure it is purposeful and will not discredit you or your personal brand.
Remember that your brand is never static. As you evolve, it will, too. Through continual learning, you are adding to the brand you have created, letting it bring you into different areas of interest and avoiding the pitfalls of stagnation. When I think about David Beckham, as well as the other names I mentioned before, what strikes me is that the reason they remain relevant is because they understand that they need to keep exploring and trying. While failure certainly is part of trying new things, success has its place, too, and this is what we are more prone to remember. If soccer was all Beckham had, would we know him as we do today? Probably not. What makes him and others like him so identifiable is the understanding that change is a constant, and that it’s better to explore and try than to believe that we can only be good at one thing.
While it may not be everyone’s aspiration to have their image exhibited on the side of a bus, if more people could brand it like Beckham, just imagine what they could do, where they could go (except, of course, not on the side of a bus…in our underwear).