Personal branding is all the rage these days in job search books and seminars. According to these sources, you can't be successful without a strong brand. It's good advice, but also only partially true. While a strong brand is necessary for success, it cannot produce that outcome by itself. What's needed is a more comprehensive approach that I call job search entrepreneurism.
Entrepreneurs are the people who organize and operate businesses. In many respects, they are the engines of our economy's growth. To be successful, they must attend to not one but three different and equally important tasks. These tasks establish and promote their company's value to consumers.
The same is true for job seekers. In order to convince employers they would be a unique and valuable addition to their workforce, they must attend to personal development, personal branding and personal selling. Let's take a look at each of those tasks.
You can't find a new or better job with an out-of-date or damaged set of qualifications. Even the best written resume and a bezillion connections on LinkedIn can't overcome such a deficiency. But for those in transition, the challenge is even greater. It's not fair, but it is the truth: the longer your job search goes on, the more likely employers are to view you as damaged goods.
How can you overcome this perception?
With personal development. Whether you have thirty years of experience or thirty days, a high school diploma or a Ph.D., find an appropriate academic course or training program and enroll right now.
The key, of course, is figuring out which course or program will best upgrade your credentials. As it is with entrepreneurs, the goal is to enhance your perceived value to focus your informational interviews and networking on identifying the skills and knowledge employers prize the most and have the hardest time finding.
Contrary to conventional wisdom, marketing your credentials - or branding as it's popularly known - is not a function of how many friends you have on Facebook or followers on Twitter. It is, instead, based on how many people feel as if they know you well enough to recommend you to their employer or to a colleague who has an opening in their organization.
How do you raise your branding to that level of credibility?
Practice the Golden Rule of Networking. It's as simple as it is profound. You have to give in order to get. If you want people to be helpful to you, you must first be helpful to them.
The key, of course, is knowing where that kind of mutual support actually occurs. As it is with entrepreneurs, the best approach is to look for venues where you already have relationships. So, use one or at most two of the following: a LinkedIn group that focuses on your profession, craft or trade; the discussion forum on the alumni organization sites of your undergraduate and graduate alma maters; and the discussion forum on the site of your professional society.
Building a strong brand only gets you considered. Getting hired is a separate and distinct challenge that requires both hard and smart work. That means devoting a full business day and week to your job search and spending that time on the activities that have the highest probability of persuading a prospective employer they can't do without you.
How do you get into that kind of regimen?
Practice Career Fitness. Think of your job search campaign as a physical fitness program for your career. Then, set goals for the number of employers you will identify, research and contact each week.
The key, of course, is to focus your effort on those employers where you have the best shot at closing a sale. As it is with entrepreneurs, the key is to work only on qualified leads. Therefore, don't respond to every job opening for which you are even marginally qualified, but instead, apply only where you are an exact match with the stated candidate specifications. Then, tailor your resume so that it highlights those aspects of your qualifications that are most persuasive for that opening.
Branding is obviously important in a job search. It is, however, only one of three tasks required to sell yourself successfully to prospective employers. Job search entrepreneurism includes all three and integrates them into a seamless process that multiplies your odds of sealing the deal.
Reprinted with permission from WEDDLE’s LLC. Peter Weddle is the author or editor of more than two dozen books, including "The Career Activist Republic, Work Strong: Your Personal Career Fitness System," and WEDDLE’s 2011/12 Guide to Employment Sites on the Internet. Order them at Amazon.com.