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Personal branding is for people who are smart and talented by not good at branding themselves effectively. It’s for people who have come to realize that they need to take control of their career identity, job-hunt and career success. You can’t rely on (or blame) your university or on luck or other people.
The only person you really have control over is you. The only person who can develop a strong career plan that’s best for you is you. The relationship you have with yourself is your most important relationship. The more pro-active and self-reliant you are, the more luck and options will come your way.
You’ll have a surge in self-esteem as one benefit of finding your own solutions and options. You need to own your value, the real, tangible value that you – and only you offer – and use the principles of branding to stand out and get what you deserve in this job market.
Branding is a strategic and creative process, one that flourishes when you approach it with a sense of fun and exploration and withers when you are too analytical or try too hard.
Some students, new graduates and professionals both young and old alike don’t like the idea of personal branding.
They think it is not authentic or even downright phony.
Or they think it is manipulative or that getting a job should be about your academic credentials, not how well you market yourself or how well-networked you are.
How do you see the consummate personal brander? Someone who is a relentless self-promoter selling himself like a used car? That’s as far removed from authentic personal branding as stumbling is from dancing.
Like good product branding, good personal branding is always built on authenticity, on who you are and who you can be. In its deepest sense, personal branding is about self-actualization, being all that you can be
But it will be hard to succeed until you change your attitude, take a personal branding perspective and even start to love the game. You’ve got to tap into the dreamer and the realist inside you, demanding the best of yourself.
You’ve got to be an intrepid explorer discovering new growth areas in the marketplace, new careers and jobs are out there that you weren’t aware of before and you must find them.
You’ve got to be a chameleon. You’re in constant beta-mode changing as the markets needs and opportunities change. The key is to present yourself as a versatile employee who can take your skills and integrate them with what’s hot today.
You got to be a marketing whiz, your best brand ambassador. You’ve got to become a personal brand storyteller, connecting the dots between who you are now, what you can do and where you want to go.
You’ve got to be your own personal inspirer, a self-motivator who realizes that the process of launching Brand You can be hard, frustrating and even unfair at times, but it can be exhilarating too. You can do it and succeed if you show up every day and implement a multilayered action plan.
You’ve got to be a master networker, a magnet for business friends and personal contacts. Networking is the key to success. It’s always important, but never more so than at the beginning when you have a shallow network.
You’ve got to be technology and social media savvy, able to market yourself, network and job hunt on social media and mobile apps.
Above all, you’ve got to be tenacious. Fortune favors the people who keep on going. When one door is locked, you have to keep looking until you find a door that’s open.
In the good old days, college students could use their summer job earnings to pay their tuition.
That was once upon a time. It’s not true anymore.
College tuition has gone up a monumental 1,120 percent in the U.S. since 1978. Meanwhile, the cost of food has increased 244 percent during the same period. If you’re still paying off your college tuition loans, you probably won’t be surprised to hear that that student loans have overtaken credit cards as the second largest source of outstanding debt in the U.S. (Home mortgages are number one.) Indeed, tuition costs in the U.S. have gone up four times faster than the consumer price index. University tuition has also been under scrutiny in the U.K. due to tuition price hikes for home students (UK/EU) and an increase in premium charges for international students.
The high cost of a university degree along with the vagaries of the job market have created a student debt collection crisis in the U.S. The federal student loan balance has more than doubled from $516 billion to 1.2 trillion since 2007. And that’s just federal student loans. If you count private student loans to students, their parents and former students, you can add another $150 billion to the number.
It is hard to link more career success to having attended an elite school despite the wattage of a top brand image. Of course, having attended an elite school might help you win out over another candidate for your first job out of the graduation gate. Over time, though, it’s all about your performance, your leadership, your network, and your brand, not the school’s brand.
The answer appears to be a resounding, “No.”
If you look at the American-born CEOs in the Fortune 500 in 2015, only 30 went to elite colleges. The remaining 470 CEOs at the 500 largest companies in the U.S. went to a wide range of non-elite schools.
Of course, elite private colleges and universities have advantages. They have internationally acclaimed professors and cutting-edge curricula and low student-to-faculty ratios so presumably you get a better education and more personal attention. They have loyal alums and talented fellow students who can be a valuable career network. They have a well-staffed Career Services Office, which can guide you on the transition from college to career. And let’s not forget the lovely ivy-covered buildings, libraries and museums. (There’s even an arms race going on at some universities in the U.S over fancy recreation areas with water rides, spas and massage clinics.)
Above all, you are aligned with a prestigious brand whether it is Harvard or Cambridge or France’s grandes ecoles, which will provide a halo to your personal brand particularly at the beginning of your career.
Social is growing beyond the merely social and becoming professional. Social media like LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter are going after the young job seeker and it gives you industrial-grade marketing, PR and job hunting tools to build your brand, manage your job search and increase your professional network. LinkedIn’s sophisticated Alumni Tool plugin lets you search your university and see the fields and locations alumni have ended up working, even reverse engineer their career paths to give you ideas for plotting your own career journey. The good news is all this information is now right on your laptop, and the bad news is information overload.
Today, it isn’t tough for companies to find job applicants. The supply pipeline is strong. What’s tough is the challenge candidates face in getting a job, beginning with trying to get past the “iron curtain” surrounding companies. Today, it’s not easy for job candidates to get the opportunity to convince employers that they have the right skills, experience and personality for the job..
The job-hunting iron curtain is aided by powerful data tools and cheap online software that screens and blocks candidates. Many resumes today get their first read from a machine. That’s because large- and medium-sized companies use online automated tracking systems (ATS) to winnow job candidates and deal efficiently with the onslaught of online job applications. Piles of applications that used to take months to evaluate now take minutes.
Companies are also using pre-hire assessment tests to evaluate candidates. Of course, pre-hire tests have been around for a while but what’s different today is the sophistication of the assessment tests and their use for entry-level candidates, not just mid and management level hires, resulting in more hurdles for the beginning job applicant to jump. In 2001, 26 percent of large U.S. employers used pre-hire assessments, by 2013, the number had climbed to 57 percent.
But all this automated efficiency has slowed the process as well. In February of 2015, employers took 26.8 days on average to hire for open jobs, an all-time high, according to research done at the University of Chicago.
To get an idea of the future of work, look at the Hollywood business model and how films are made. A team is assembled, works together as long as needed to complete the task, and then disbands. All the various people involved are free agents.
Contrast that with the corporate model and its long-term business structure and long-term employees in open-ended jobs. The Hollywood model is being used in design firms and technical companies who put together a short-term team of various experts to develop new products or work on a big project, and it’s being adopted by other companies who are using more contract or temporary workers for jobs that used to be performed by long-term employees.
You can see the advantages for management and business owners. It’s a lot less costly: you just hire the people you need when you need them. Then, you’re on your own until you find the next gig. This model shifts risk from employers to workers for health insurance, retirement income and job security. And it’s very targeted to each business situation because you select the best team to do each particular job.
The Hollywood model can work surprisingly well for people who have in-demand skills and expertise, and who are good at personal branding, marketing and networking. It favors the adaptable employee who continually takes the pulse of the marketplace to find out what new skills are in demand and who the new players are. It favors those who are good at networking and building mutually beneficial relationships, and above all, who are good at creating and communicating their value in their elevator pitch, through their resume and on social media.
In short, the new world of work favors those who are good at personal branding.
You are your most important asset. In a sense, you are your only asset no one can take away from you. Each of us is unique with knowledge, aptitudes, looks and experiences that are powerful assets. Anything you have ever done or thought about can be an asset. We all have assets and opportunities, but they are worthless unless we recognize them and take action.
You are what you make of yourself. Personal branding is about identifying the best version of you and communicating that in person and online every day.
What do you want your brand to stand for?
Your ability to maximize the asset that is you is the single most important ingredient in your success. But I am also talking about becoming who you were meant to be, which means that success includes becoming who you truly are. The trick to effective self-branding is to devise a strategy that works in achieving professional and life goals but also is true to you—that brings more of you into the equation.
With branding, you learn how to look at yourself as a product in a competitive framework. Branding is the process of differentiating that product—you—from the competition and taking action steps to get where you want to go.
Any way you slice it, brands win over products hands down. A branded item is viewed as better than its generic counterpart. Brands are perceived as higher in quality. They are in demand. They sell for a premium price.
Generic products compete only on price, by offering a very low price. (And if you’re reading this book, I doubt that you want to compete that way.)
Personal branding can be subtle or grating. modern or old-fashioned, engaging or self-centered, but if you don’t participate you will be left behind in today’s job market. Career success, like branding, is a game of perceptions. If people think you would be a talented new hire, you will get the job offer. If people think you won’t be a good fit, you won’t have the opportunity to show them otherwise until you change their thinking. Personal branding can help you do that.