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Career and Personal Branding Basics: What, How, Why

Marketers have understood the power of branding for decades, which is why as consumers we often buy certain brands and avoid other brands. The same concept has slowly into the career field, with employers searching out job candidates that have strong and well-established brands -- while avoiding those candidates with weak or incomplete brands.

So what is a career brand -- and how do you create or manage a career brand -- and why? All three questions are answered in this article.

What is a Career Brand?

Simply put, your career brand is your image, your reputation. Your career brand is your promise of excellence, your distinctive characteristics that set you apart from other workers and job-seekers. Your career brand is the essence of who you are, what you can do for an employer, and your potential for the future.

Your career brand includes your education, work history, key accomplishments, skills, strengths, and values... your unique characteristics and your unique selling proposition (the one thing that makes you the job candidate different than any other).

While your career brand is just a collection of words that describe you, keep in mind that your actions MUST match those words. You cannot simply create a fictional career brand -- it has to come from who you are -- but you can sculpt your brand as you grow in your career and/or change careers. Remember, just like with resumes, do not falsify your career brand.

Your career brand is a combination of what you say about yourself and what others say about you. The good news is that you have complete control over the first and a fair amount of control over the second. The bad news is that a significant amount of information may be floating out there about you (true or not) that was published before you started caring about your brand.

How Can You Shape, Manage Your Career Brand?

Your first step in your decision to take control of your career brand is researching yourself so that you can develop a sense of your current brand. Ideally, you will be happy and relieved at what you find. Here are the key places to conduct your research:
  • Search the Internet using your full name (with variations, nicknames, if necessary).
  • If you are on Facebook and other social networking sites, look closely at your profile(s) -- including pictures and friends' comments and postings. Check your privacy settings.
  • If you are on LinkedIn or other professional networking sites, review your profile from an outsider's perspective.
  • Check forums or other places in which you have posted comments. If you Tweet (whether professionally or personally), review your history to see if you are showcasing your expertise... or something else entirely.
  • If you have a Website or blog, examine how you are portraying yourself.

Your second step involves sifting through all you've learned in the first step and making action plans for modifications, deletions, and improvements you can make. For example, if a friend has posted so not flattering photos of you on Facebook, you can ask him/her to remove them -- or, at the least, untag you. (That will not totally solve the problem, but it will help.)

Note: You may need to entirely delete and rebuild your profiles using your new branding. When in doubt, it's often easier to start from scratch than make a million small changes/modifications.

Next, examine what you're missing -- what you don't have or use. For example, if you do not have a LinkedIn profile, build a complete profile -- and make a plan to actively use the site daily (or at least several times a week). For more specific tips, see my other article, How to Use LinkedIn Effectively -- and Efficiently -- for Your Professional Gain.

While LinkedIn is a great tool, a personal website or blog is another key instrument for branding yourself -- even if you just use the site to publish your resume. (Even better if you develop the site into a career portfolio -- with resume, mission statement, awards and other recognition, work samples, and more.)

The key takeaway here is that everything online about you is a piece of the puzzle that builds your career brand. The more you manage the pieces, the more the puzzle looks like the brand you want to project.

Why Should You Care About Your Career Brand?

Do you want to have an easier time obtaining your next job? Want to be first in the mind of your boss when it's time for a promotion? Establishing a positive brand and then promoting it personally and digitally will have a tremendous impact as you move forward with your career.

Your career brand serves provides a powerful snapshot of who you are and what you're capable of accomplishing (beyond what you've already accomplished) -- and is a powerful tool for overworked hiring managers looking to make a smart decision.

Final Thoughts on Career Brands and Career Branding

All successful products have a well-defined brand -- and workers and job-seekers need to do the same. As you work to create yours, remember to keep it truthful, authentic, focused, and compelling.

Furthermore, not only do you need to develop your brand, but to truly understand how to power your career forward, you should tackle not just your product's branding, but the other 3 P's of marketing, including price (salary), promotion (resume, elevator speech, social networking), and place (the job market).

Finally, remember to keep your brand current; revise it as necessary -- and keep all your supporting materials (resume, social networking profiles, website/blog, and the like) updated.

For more key branding tips, see my other article: Five Essential Career Branding Elements/Tools.

EmpoweringSites.com CEO Dr. Randall Hansen Dr. Randall S. Hansen is an educator, author, and blogger, as well as founder and CEO of EmpoweringSites.com, a network of empowering and transformative Websites, including EmpoweringAdvice.com. Dr. Hansen has been helping empower people to achieving success his entire adult life. He is also founder of EnhanceMyVocabulary.com, MyCollegeSuccessStory.com, and EmpoweringRetreat.com. He is a published author, with several books, chapters in books, and hundreds of articles. Dr. Hansen is also an educator, teaching business and marketing at the college level for more than 25 years. Learn more by visiting his personal Website, RandallSHansen.com. You can also check out Dr. Hansen on Google+, as well as Dr. Randall Hansen on LinkedIn.


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