Your Personal Brand and the Job Search

This blog post was contributed by guest blogger Matthew Hickerson. Thanks to Matt for graciously sharing his perspective on a relevant topic!

What is a Personal Brand?

Mitt Romney famously said, “Corporations are people,” and much mocking ensued. 

In a similar vein, can people be brands? For some, the answer is clearly yes.  In the sports world, Michael Jordan surely stands as a very distinct and powerful brand.  He built his sports legacy into a global brand.  And many have followed the Jordan example: super models are now brands with their own clothing lines, “celebrity chefs” now exist, the name brands of talking heads on the news now transcend the very networks on which they appear.  You name it, personal brands exist everywhere.

For the job seeker, building a professional brand is a necessity and should be an ongoing exercise.

How is a brand defined?

Corporate marketers think about brands in different, albeit related, ways.  Some call a brand’s core promise its value proposition.  For product marketers, it can be known as the USP – Unique Selling Proposition – which works as a way to differentiate the product from others in the marketplace.  Employers think about their offering to current and potential employees as the Employee Value Proposition, the differentiating factors that can set an employer apart.

So the question for job seekers is: what’s your professional brand?  What makes you stand out?  What would make an employer want to hire you?

Be the solution

Remember, employers are looking to hire someone to solve a problem; they have a role to fill and tasks that need to be performed.  An employee has left the company, too much work exists for the current team to keep up or they are moving in a new direction.  So they have a pressing issue, and someone out there in the pool of potential job seekers can solve it.

Ticking the boxes – I’m an Excel pro, I’m a project manager, I’m a salesperson with many contacts, etc. – will not be enough to make you, as the solution to their problem, stand out.  Consider any of those above phrases; how many people could make one of those claims?  Way too many.

Consider positioning your professional brand at a higher level – not simply as a long list of competencies, but as a complete package with a clear value proposition that would be attractive to an employer.  Think about it as your way of solving an employer’s particular set of challenges in your specific area of expertise.

What is your unique selling proposition as an employee and, more specifically, to the position at hand compared to other candidates?  Think about how you can summarize your competencies, experiences and passion into a tight narrative that tells a more compelling story than “I can do X, Y and Z.”  Frame your skills as a solution to their challenges.

Beyond the elevator pitch

In sales, it’s known as the elevator pitch.  And while many career coaches will tell you that you need an elevator pitch – and you do – you also need a refined narrative in that elevator pitch that positions you as an attractive candidate, as a brand, as it were. 

It’s not a one-size-fits-all summary, either.  Listen carefully to what the employer seeks in a candidate and specifically refine your narrative to the role’s needs.

Once you have crafted your professional brand, your job is not done.  Your brand will evolve as you progress along your career path: you will add new skills, take on broader responsibilities, and your list of professional accomplishments will grow.  So your professional brand will need to be able to accommodate that evolving story.  And you should think about ways to amplify your brand as you get more senior by pursuing speaking engagements, writing articles, hosting a webinar, being on a panel, joining a professional organization, etc. – outlets that will raise your brand profile.  In short, market yourself.

If you succeed, you still may never have your name on a pair of sneakers, but the name on your resume and your LinkedIn profile will ultimately say something more to the professional world than “here is what I have done.”

Matthew Hickerson is a senior marketing communications professional.  He helps companies develop brand, marketing and communications strategies that stand out and implements those strategies across multiple communications channels. He has significant experience in delivering strong results in brand strategy, marketing, digital, advertising, content development, public relations, executive and internal communications, events, philanthropy and management.

Connect with him on LinkedIn at

Cover photo courtesy © WOCinTechChat