In the previous two articles we discussed the upcoming recession, how to match yourself to the job market and how to find that dream job. We now need to increase your chances of winning that job by getting your brand right.
This material is part of our Course: Start your New Career Strategy: How to Land that Dream Job
Why your brand is Important
Just like branding is important to you when choosing a new expensive product, so is your brand important to recruiters when they are choosing a new member of staff. To get your brand right, you need to align your talents with the recruiter's needs.
Your brand is often omnipresent. Your photos, statements, profile, achievements, opinions - and opinions of others about you – may be in many places, easily accessible online. Your online presence reveals a lot to recruiters about you. You, therefore, need to try your best to ensure your whole public image across all media consistently supports your brand and does not undermine it.
Sadly, there are many examples of people who were not recruited, or sacked, after posting provocative messages or images on social media.
Moreover, your image should fit your chosen career. If you want to work in the creative arts then some leeway is allowed. However, in most cases, you should be positive, confident, caring, and professional. You may want to have a different private online image that you share with close friends and family but remember it only takes one careless or malicious act for this private image to leak into the public arena.
Personal brand positions
We all have a perception of everyone else. Sometimes this is informed by our direct experience of them either personally or professionally. Sometimes this is a result of indirect messages via friends, family, colleagues, or the media. Sometimes these are a result of nothing more than stereotypical images that we hold about them based on their age, gender, looks, nationality, etc.
In the above image, we have taken two traits: Fame and Respect to show how these two traits are different and how it leads to quite different brand positions for people. If you learn nothing else from this article, please learn the difference between fame and respect. Unfortunately, some people without real talent pursue fame at any cost which can actually reduce our respect for them.
However, the key point is that you need to think about the traits that you need to cultivate to develop the right brand positioning for you to get that dream job.
Figuring Out Your Brand Proposition
The way to do that is to think about your brand proposition. Your brand proposition is the value that you bring to the table. You want your proposition to be different and superior to all the other candidates. In other words, your personal brand needs to be differentially superior. By different, we mean that you stand out from the crowd. By superior we mean your differences add significant value to the job in question. In other words, the benefits of hiring you are far superior to hiring anyone else. Benefits are key here because it is not so much what you can do, but how your talents can bring unrivaled success to the recruiter(s), their team, and their organization.
To explain this further, let us use the template below to work on your Personal Value Proposition.
On the bottom, we have the five competency types that a recruiter will be thinking about: Experience, Knowledge, Skills, Abilities, and Attitudes.
On the left-hand side is a simple 0 – 5 scoring system where zero means no performance and five means a very high level of performance is required on that competence type.
We can then draw different lines to show the different performances required by the recruiter and how you might compare versus the other candidates. Do not worry about getting this exactly right. It is much better to be approximately right than precisely wrong. The gaps that this generates will help you focus on the key actions to improve your personal brand.
An Example: David Swift’s Value Proposition for a specific job opportunity
We will use David Swift (see Part 2 of this series) as our example to understand how useful this is. One segment he was particularly interested in was being a Business Development Director at a mid-size sales consultancy. He now has an interview lined up at “Flash Sales Ltd” (not its real name) within that segment and he wants to ensure he gets his value proposition right for it.
We can pull out some interesting points from the Value Proposition chart:
a) The good news is that David has only one Inferior Competitive Gap where another candidate performs better than him. This is in Experience in Sales Transformation.
b) There is some bad news on How to Exploit Technology where everyone is on the same performance level and there is no differentiation between the candidates.
c) There is mixed news on the high-performance requirement of being Skilled in Growing Market Share. On the plus side, David is the best. However, on the negative side, no candidates meet the level needed and so we have an Unmet Needs Gap. This may mean that all the candidates get rejected.
d) David is far ahead of the competition and far ahead of the Recruiter's needs concerning being an Ethical Leader. In other words, he is over-qualified and he should not overplay this ability.
e) There is a similar Unmet Needs Gap for the second high-performance requirement of having a Results-Oriented Attitude.
These gaps provide very important insights into how you should demonstrate your value to the Recruiter. In this case, David can emphasize his knowledge of technology, his skills in growing market share, and his results-oriented attitude. He should spend more time on the market share and results from needs as those are key needs for the recruiter. He should also mention his ethical attitude but not spend too long on it. He will need to think of how he can overcome his weakness in sales transformation and be ready to defend himself if questioned.
A useful tip for using this tool is to be future-focused. Think about how the dotted line might change in the future. Needs are ever-changing and sometimes the recruiter themselves will have not have thought about it. You can then match your strengths to these future needs and educate the recruiter on why your strengths (e.g. flexibility, multi-cultural experience) will be needed even more in the future.
Bringing it all together in your Personal SWOT and Statement of Value
This analysis can also be transferred to your Personal SWOT (see the first article in this series) which is now refined for a specific job or job segment.
For David, it raises four key questions that he needs to consider. These are shown in ranked order of importance on the right-hand side of the SWOT. Note that the SWOT is not completed until you have generated these key questions.
Finally, from all of the above analysis, you should be able to write a Personal Statement of Value. This is a memorable summary of your key strengths that fit the recruiter's needs and position you as the best candidate for the job. You should also have answers ready for any areas of weakness. If you want to do a really good job of this, see if you can quantify the payback for the organization to hiring you. This is a quantified summary of how hiring you will payback for the organization very quickly. For some jobs, this will be more difficult than others. However, the objective of trying to quantify the ROI to them of your value as far as possible is a good one to achieve. The further you can get with this, the more you will understand them, how you can benefit them - and you will impress them with your efforts.
So, to complete your thinking about how to get your brand value right, do the following exercises:
a) Pick a real job at the start of your new career.
b) Complete the Personal Value Proposition sheet for that job.
c) Are there any gaps?
d) Refine your Personal SWOT for this job. What key questions emerge from it?
e) Have a go at writing a Personal Statement of My Value
f) What actions do you need to take to improve your Personal Value Proposition?
Some of the exercises we have covered in these three articles will be easier than others. However, none require advanced mathematics or knowledge of particle physics. They all should all be within your grasp but if you are struggling, ask a friend, colleague, or family member to help. The objective is not to get it perfect. It is simply to have a better idea of where you want to be in the future, why, how you will get there, and beat the next person to that position. Just like in many competitive events, the difference between first and second place can be very slim, and doing your homework could be the difference that gets you over the line first.