If everything you publish about yourself as a professional–and that includes your resume, cover letter, LinkedIn profile, and more–makes you sound pretty much like hundreds or thousands of other people…your brand is not a brand. It will not make you stand out to prospective employers as a promising candidate for the job you want. Without finding a clear way to distinguish yourself and convey your desirable value to those employers, you will blend in with your competition the way trees blend into a forest–at least, they do if they are basically all the same kind of tree.
Brand Differentiation, Not Cliches
In a recent article called “Passionate, Creative Thinker Seeks Job: How to Fix a Personal Brand That’s A Total Cliche,” author Nacie Carson points out just some of the terms people use to describe themselves that have become meaningless cliches. “Everyone is a passionate, hard worker and creative thinker.” Carson then offers a bad news-good news take on the problem. “It’s hard to truly establish competitive differentiation when you share the same brand descriptors as a thousand of your closest competitors. But there’s hope for your generic professional brand. Those very same overused terms can be as a starting point for developing a deeper, more accurate, and more memorable brand differentiation.”
Carson’s solution for cliched brand descriptors that make your brand a cliche is to use a “why chain.” The solution is to “start with a statement about yourself as a professional using one of your current descriptors, like ‘I am an excellent communicator,’ and then ask yourself ‘Why?’ Why are you an excellent communicator?” Whatever your answer to that is, you need to drill deeper and ask why and keep asking why until you reach the essence of your competitive differentiation. Of course, as Carson makes clear, just defining your descriptors more clearly is only part of the battle. You need to make sure your actions match the brand and communicate it compellingly.
What Your Resume & Other Job Search Tools Can & Can’t Do
If you have a strong, well-defined brand in your head, you want to make sure it’s reflected appropriately in your job search tools (aka career marketing documents and the like). You can’t fall back on the lazy man’s (or woman’s) answer, which is to load up your resume, cover letter or LinkedIn profile with phrases that don’t present your brand in a way that will catch the attention of employers. Even an otherwise good resume can’t overcome a poorly defined brand or one that’s not well communicated–in other words, if you’ve done great things for employers that could reinforce your unique brand, those contributions need to be presented clearly and consistently in line with your brand.
I “preach” this to clients all the time–or so it seems. I don’t want them to have me manufacture good points about them in their materials. I do want them to think hard about what it is that makes them special…and especially valuable to employers. I believe everyone has at least some of this. Sometimes they just have to dig a little deeper to find it and bring it out.
If you have been shying away from the whole concept of branding, now might be a good time to accept that if you don’t consciously brand yourself, you will do it unconsciously or–worse yet–let others do it for you. The result is not likely to be a happy one. Acknowledge that you are special in a way that can benefit potential employers, and then work to communicate that to them. There aren’t any shortcuts to success in this or in just about anything else that’s worth having and doing.
This is not my typical blog post, but I wanted to prompt you to think about letting the “world” (potential employers) know about your professional accomplishments and career success record, in an appropriate way.
My new “‘Brag’ About It” document:
“Our memories are short. Can you remember all the details of the project you worked on last week? How about last month? What about a year ago?
One of the best ways to prepare for a time when you will need to share your accomplishments is to collect details of your achievements as you go along — and there’s no better time than now to start! Accomplishments demonstrate your skills and experience. It’s one thing to claim you can do something — it’s another to prove you’ve done it.”
Important note: The full (13-page) accomplishment-gathering document–including numerous questions to ask yourself to get the information flowing–is available to you at no cost between now and January 2, 2013. Just send your request by email to firstname.lastname@example.org. I will be happy to send you the document ASAP.
No blog posts between Dec. 24 and Jan. 2
Here’s wishing you happy holidays, Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, or whatever greeting is most appropriate to your personal situation! I am going to take a short “vacation” from blogging to enjoy the holidays, regroup and recharge, and get ready for a dynamite 2013. I hope you are able to do the same.
If you’re at all like me, you probably enjoyed the “Winnie the Pooh” stories as a child (and maybe still have a soft spot for them as an adult). So I was immediately intrigued when I saw an article by Jeff Davis titled “The Eeyore Candidate.” However, the title was the only whimsical aspect of the article, which dealt with a BIG problem that job seekers can have–possibly without even being aware of it. What is that problem? For whatever reason, being lackadaisical or otherwise unenthusiastic prior to and during a job interview.
When a Poor Interview Follows a Great Resume
In the case mentioned in Davis’ article, the candidate looked wonderful on her resume, and he was basically expecting the interview to be a no-brainer that would quickly result in a perfect fit with his organization and its needs. Unfortunately, the job seeker blew the interview big time by seeming uninterested, unprepared, unable to demonstrate the value that her resume had promised. You name it, anything she could have done to torpedo her chances, she did it! Did she lie on her resume about what she had accomplished? Possibly but not necessarily. However, there was definitely a disconnect somehow between what the resume indicated and what she demonstrated in the interview that she could bring to the employer. Her behavior during the interview was the reason Davis described her as like “Eeyore, the depressed donkey” from “Winnie the Pooh.”
Don’t be an Eeyore!
There might be a number of reasons you would have a down day when you’re scheduled for an interview, but it’s important–maybe essential–that you work things out ahead of time, before you show up for the interview, so you can present yourself at your best. Otherwise, it’s likely to be a waste of everyone’s time. As Davis put it, “I understand that being unemployed and looking for work can turn even the best of us into an Eeyore, but keep in mind that Eeyores don’t get jobs.”
Obviously, there could be a number of reasons you show up at an interview as an Eeyore job seeker. For example: (1) You’re feeling down because you’ve been out of work for an extended period. (2) You’ve just lost a job you loved and aren’t looking forward to the challenge of finding a new one. (3) You’re still gainfully employed but concerned that your company/industry/etc. is struggling and your job might end up on the chopping-block. (4) You’ve had a family trauma recently and are struggling to maintain your emotional balance.
In some cases, if it’s at all possible, you should probably postpone your job search and interview scheduling in order to give yourself a breather and get your act together. That could help keep you from coming across as an Eeyore. However, if a significant pause isn’t practical for some reason, then your best course might be to get whatever help you need to improve your job search and interview preparation activity in the short term. By focusing your attention as strongly as possible on what you need and want to accomplish–not to mention what you have to offer potential employers that they would find valuable–you have a much better chance of communicating the enthusiasm and expertise that those employers will be looking for.