Personal Career Brands: A Competitive Edge

There has been great debate over the years about the concept of career branding and what a brand may or may not do to gain the leverage necessary in a competitive hiring market for communications professionals. Some communications pros are of the school of thought that a good career path and a résumé packed with solid companies should speak for itself. But in today's marketplace, becoming your own chief branding officer is an imperative, whether you're seeking a new role or simply looking to advance in your current organization. The tight job market demands that you differentiate yourself from droves of other candidates. But even in a strong job market, you should go into a search process with a career "brand" in mind: When you're being heavily recruited, it becomes intoxicating, and you could make a critical mistake if you don't have a path for your career in mind. When you develop a clear personal brand, you have a strategy to gain competitive advantages in ways that others cannot. Here are some strategies that, although they may appear to be obvious, many professionals fail to use: Candidate Know Thyself: Professionals who are seeking new employment often become consumed with the notion that they can do everything, be everything, and are the very best candidate for every job available. Guess what? You're not! Now, that doesn't mean that you aren't a talented and highly qualified professional. But being discerning about your career choices and knowing the types of operating environments in which you can excel is the first step to building the right career brand. Knowing what fuels your drive and passion, knowing whether you are best in crisis management situations or as a behind-the-scenes brand builder, for example, is a critical factor in competing for a job. Do you thrive in a grueling, highly aggressive and political environment, or are you best suited to a more tempered operating culture where nurturing is the primary descriptor of the organization? You simply cannot compete effectively - meaning interview well, get the job and succeed - if you are ill-suited to the opportunity. Competitive Knowledge: When considering, or being considered for, a specific position, immerse yourself in as much content about the prospective employer as possible. No, don't just glance at Yahoo's corporate capsule, and no, don't rely solely on the corporate Web site either. What I am really addressing is the strategy of complete immersion into the knowledge well. Identify board members, former employees, talk to current and/or former investor relations and public relations agencies, review and analyze Wall Street analyst reports - all in an effort to glean critical knowledge to build your competitive advantage vis a vis other communications professionals who may be considered your competition. Use the knowledge to formulate the strategic ways you as a communicator can contribute to that company's business goals, and share that insight with the company. Defining Your Brand As communicators, we are all expected to define brands and market our employers (or clients) and their products or services to distinguish them from others in their market segments. Rarely, however, are we encouraged to be as bold with our careers and define our own personal brands and market them appropriately. We are currently in the worst modern- day, depression-like economy that most of us will ever experience. In addition, as the economy steadies itself in '03, we will be entering one of the most fascinating eras in modern business - what I consider to be recovery from decades of trustless employee-employer relationships, competitive aggression that has resulted in the virtual demise of corporate souls, and greed I hope we never experience again. Inside the Inner Circle Coming out of a long era of chaos, communications professionals will be the first to the inner circle - but will be first only if we: Define our brand; Immerse ourselves in the inner sanctums of confused corporations; Position ourselves as owning knowledge about our own individual competitive advantages that will advance the corporation's own goals. Smooch Reynolds is president and CEO of The Repovich-Reynolds Group, a national executive search and management consulting firm specializing in investor relations, communications and marketing functions. Contact her at 626/585-9455 or

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