There’s a line in an old song that goes “The old grey mare, she ain’t what she used to be”. Replace “old grey mare” with “search for a job”, and you’ve got a catchy little phrase that describes what job hunting is like today. Put another way, the traditional, tried and true methods of pursuing new employment are tired and, if not obsolete, certainly of less value than they once were.
Although still useful, an application consisting of a simple chronological resume and cover letter is no longer sufficient to distinguish yourself in the marketplace. And that’s exactly what you need to do, distinguish yourself, much like a product or service.
“Wait”, you say. “Are you saying I need to advertise?” Well, not advertising really. What we mean is that you need to market yourself. Why? Because, like companies that provide products and services, you are a brand. But, unlike most products and services, your brand is absolutely unique.
Let that resonate for a moment. You are a unique brand, unlike any other available in the labor marketplace. Yes, we know that there may be dozens (perhaps even hundreds!) of candidates applying for the same positions you’re seeking, many of whom may have the same or similar education, background, training and experience. But not one of those candidates is exactly like you. However, because the internet has reduced, if not eliminated, job postings that you could be fairly certain were geographically limited in scope, the number of job seekers applying for the same job as you render traditional job search methods generally ineffective. As a result, personal branding is an essential component of any comprehensive employment search strategy.
Competition requires that companies effectively market their products and services in order to establish a strong brand identity. So too does competition in the job market require you to establish an identity draws consumers which are, for our purposes, prospective employers. Known as personal branding, this strategy serves not only to improve your chances of finding new or better employment, it also helps you to build a reputation which can lead to promotional opportunities, higher standing in the industry, awards, perhaps even academic or professional writing or speaking opportunities.
The Internet is the primary reason that taking a proactive personal branding approach is so important. When you apply for a job, you can rest assured that the prospective employer will “Google”, “Bing” or otherwise conduct a web search of your name. Your online presence is likely to have been fully vetted before the employer calls you for an interview, and that’s assuming an interview is still desired after your web persona (i.e., personal brand) has been thoroughly evaluated.
You should focus on taking full control of your personal brand. Nature abhors a vacuum and so does a Google search. If you don’t work to develop and maintain your brand, others will do so for you. This puts you at their mercy. While it’s unlikely that someone would intentionally cause information which might be perceived as negative to make it’s way to the World Wide Web, passive personal branding permits exactly that possibility. Even if unintentionally produced, bad information about you is just that: Bad.
Engaging in effective personal branding increases your ability to disseminate the information you want others to know about you, both personally and professionally. And, as your “consumers” include prospective employers and industry professionals, you can’t afford an unsuccessful personal branding campaign.