Personal branding: A new focus in job searching

(ARA) – A record number of people across the nation are unemployed and looking for work. As competition among candidates grows, it becomes more and more difficult to stand out in a crowd. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Aug. 6 that 14.6 million Americans were unemployed, a number that hasn’t changed much since the beginning of 2010. This translates to an average of six people now competing for each job opening.

Career development professionals are creating new strategies to help clients increase the chances of getting noticed among the throngs of job applicants vying for positions. One such professional is Martha Schottelkotte, director of career services at Brown Mackie College – Cincinnati. She guides students and graduates regularly as they create resumes and seek employment to begin new careers.

Schottelkotte introduces students to the concept of personal branding. Branding is a term borrowed from marketing, where brand names are carefully managed. In marketing, a brand is an intangible collection of perceptions in the consumer’s mind about a product or service. A brand name helps to raise awareness and build trust in a crowded, competitive marketplace. Personal branding is the process of distinguishing the essence of an individual’s relevant career attributes and communicating them consistently throughout the resume and interview.

“We begin work on personal branding by looking at brand icons that we all know, like the McDonald’s arches,” Schottelkotte says. “The icon represents the business and how they want to be perceived.” The same principle works for individuals. The resume becomes a personal marketing tool to communicate core attributes, not just as a medical assistant or paralegal, but also as a human being. “For a truly effective resume, you must know who you are and what you stand for,” she says.

To this end, she next asks students to develop a personal statement of philosophy. Schottelkotte shares the one she wrote for herself with students as an example to guide them in writing their own. “So many resumes out there are overblown, copied, or misrepresentative of the person applying,” she says. “Writing a personal statement of philosophy helps students crystallize who they are and how they want to be perceived by the world. It gives them a launching pad for how they can effectively and authentically market themselves.”

In developing the statements, key words come up for each student as they describe themselves. When they distill their life views into five or six key words – such as integrity, enthusiasm, accountability, or reliability – students can develop a greater understanding of themselves and what drives them as a professional. “It truly helps them to focus on themselves, and personalize the content in a resume,” says Schottelkotte. “It’s not just about where you worked and what tasks you did. It’s about your range of skills, what you have accomplished, and how you accomplished it. It comes down to who you are at your core, and translates to what you bring to your work and your employer.”

As students read their personal statements of philosophy aloud in class, Schottelkotte says, “There’s always hugging, and sometimes tears, as they see each other in a new light. It reminds people to be conscious of other people’s stories.” In an interview, they can weave attributes from their personal philosophy into the conversation.

“The dominant interview questions are behavioral,” Schottelkotte continues. “What you’ve overcome, how you would take action in a given situation. Students get a heightened sense of confidence when they’re able to respond to interview questions in a more authentic way. They’re no longer as anxious going into an interview.”

Recent college graduates and experienced professionals alike can benefit from personal branding during a job search. The discipline and soul-searching required to develop a personal statement of philosophy seems to be well worth the effort. It results in greater understanding of self and heightened authenticity in professional endeavors.

Courtesy of ARAcontent