last updated: October 04, 2010 07:24:26 AM
Lethia Owens explains branding to job hunters and people seeking to advance in companies. Her consultancy, based in St. Peters, Mo., is Lethia Owens International Inc. - - Liz Schneider
The job-hunting process depletes a person's imagination. If you don't have a brand or your campaign is getting stale, look for a fresh approach to differentiate yourself. The knowledge that employers and recruiters match needs with applicant brands will help inspire you to sharpen what you have to offer in the marketplace.
Lethia Owens of Lethia Owens International Inc., in St. Peters, Mo., stresses that "a brand isn't what you say it is but what you show people. Don't (announce), 'I'm cutting-edge.' Demonstrate the abilities and share information that shows you're credible."
The concept of branding is well-known to sales, marketing and HR people, but many job seekers don't know how to use it in their campaigns. A brand needs "a compelling story that speaks uniquely to the challenges facing a prospective employer," observes corporate consultant Joseph McCool of The McCool Group LLC., in Amherst, N.H. "That message has to be wrapped up tightly and conveyed convincingly to stand out."
How do you identify your brand if it isn't already clear to you? Janice Ellig, co-CEO of New York City's retained search firm Chadick Ellig Inc., shares her secret. "Think about what people have said about you," she says. "Listening to those who've given us feedback and advised us in our current careers tells us a story about our strengths. The strengths become your brand, certainly your selling point, what differentiates you. Look to companies that might be really interested in what you bring which might be different from where they've been."
Owens recommends being strategic. This means, in part, selling benefits. It also means, as Ellig suggests, "Don't try to sell yourself from a position of weakness. Sell yourself from a position of strength." Appealing to every employer can sabotage a job search.
Owens continues with the need to "craft the message with language that paints that picture. Imagine you're painting a picture using words, those that help build the image of the type of brand identity you want, that you read periodicals, do community-based networking and attend professional organizations related to your industry or field. Mention recent updates of news you've discovered. Demonstrate by talking about what interests you and what you're doing. Brush strokes paint the picture."
How do employers use branding? Owens conducted behavioral interviews for an IT company hiring people full-time and on contract. "I was responsible for matching the gifts and talents of employees with opportunities within the organization," she explains, "which required evaluating the personal brand and capabilities to assure proper fit." She was looking for similarities between what a company needed and a candidate offered and now specializes in brand development as an advancement method for job seekers and people on the job.
Not everyone uses brands in the recruitment process. Not everyone thinks that brands apply. Mike Purcell, vice president of HR at Ambius, a global business interiors company headquartered in Buffalo Grove, Ill., speaks from the perspective of hiring senior managers. "I don't think people walk in thinking about what their brand is but the kind of organizational culture they've come from," he says. "In my experience, 'brand' is not a highly-used word in the interview process. In the general work world, 'culture' has universal application. It's like vanilla. When you throw out 'culture,' everyone immediately knows what you're talking about. Brand and culture right now are not synonymous in my view."
You have to decide whether you want to think in terms of branding. You can certainly apply the concept of your compelling story as you market yourself, but never mention the word.
Dr. Mildred Culp welcomes your questions at firstname.lastname@example.org. © 2010 Passage Media.
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