Over the years, people have talked about self-branding as something we purposely do to distinguish ourselves from others. I believe this to be true. Whereas some have referred to branding as simply behaving in a favorably consistent manner, it amounts to much more than that. Although branding must not seem contrived, it’s a mistake to assume that it takes no conscious effort. This misconception will lead to wasted effort, albeit small, and cause one to abandon future branding efforts.
Branding is a conscious effort businesses and people make to set them apart from the norm. Businesses that are maintaining the status quo or jobseekers who are seen as average, are failing in their efforts to brand themselves. Do we have to live by a five second statement that defines us, constantly repeating a rehearsed mantra wherever we go? No, but we have to know how to present ourselves in all situations and at any moment. In other words, we have to be on guard at all times.
I recognize the serious jobseekers who understand what branding is. They come to our urban career center with their branding statement written prominently across their chest. I’m reminded of the occasional jobseekers who are well dressed in business casual, and sometimes wearing a tie; for the women, a nice blouse and slacks. These are the ones who understand the importance of always looking their best, because at any moment a potential contact will be in their midst. Even at an urban career center. They’re the ones I look at and think, you won’t be here soon; there’s a job awaiting you.
There was a former customer named Al who branded himself with business cards, a name tag, and stationary which were identical in appearance–his concerted effort to brand himself. Although he had been out of work for a year, he found a job shortly after coming to the career center. He maintained a pleasant demeanor and a can-do-attitude. (During an honest moment, he and I talked about what a complete bummer it is to be out of work; but in an instant Al went back to being Al. Pleasant as ever.)
Branding reaches into everything a jobseeker does. It’s evident in her entire marketing campaign. Her résumés, cover letters, LinkedIn profile, networking, telephone techniques, and finally the interview are all part of branding.
So to say it’s subconscious, just as natural as can be, is to deny branding the respect it deserves. When we see the red hue on the television, we realize it’s a Target commercial even before those familiar bulls’ eyes hit the screen. The international swoosh of course symbolizes Nike. The eerie fluorescent streaks of liquid running down an athlete’s face are none other than Gatorade. We don’t need to see the names of these companies to realize who they are; their logos and images are enough.
Jobseekers may not have the immediate impact of a Target or Nike, but they need to think more in terms of conducting a successful business marketing plan and think that branding is serious business.