How I Found My 'Personal Brand' (And You Can, Too)
I've been at the career-reinvention wheel for nearly two months now, and I've applied for exactly one job. That's because I'm rethinking my new identity and direction. Last week I made a major leap forward as a result of talking to Karen Kang, a personal-branding guru and author of BrandingPays: The Five-Step System to Reinvent Your Personal Brand.
Here's what Karen helped me realize last week.
Personal branding isn't nonsense. Before talking to Kang, the idea of marketing myself like a bottle of soda seemed totally contrived. Now, I get it. The word "branding" may feel weird, but the concept makes total sense: Packaging yourself in a clear, marketable, and enticing way -- and being consistent about it.
"People think it's an act of vanity or narcissism but it's not," Kang says. "In this economy, we have a more collaborative work model; we are all free agents. It is everyone's job to brand themselves -- you can't find other agents if they're hiding under a bushel basket."
I may have strayed too far with my reinvention ideas. Two weeks ago, I created a resume that cast me as a communications professional, which in many ways I am. But I suddenly worried that when I apply for Communications (with a big C) jobs I won't look like the other applicants who've already worked in the field. The fact that I could do the job, or have done parts of it in a different way, won't matter.
The truth is, I look like what I am: an editor and writer with a wide range of experience, including aspects of communication and marketing. Kang gave me permission to be that person. She suggested that I build out from my identity, rather than change it entirely. It was enough to give me whiplash, but I was glad to be back.
Make sure your LinkedIn profile is consistent. Kang and I spent 20 minutes reworking my LinkedIn profile to build my editing/writing brand. I needed to define what, specifically, I can do for employers or clients in that capacity -- or in Kang's words, "to ice my cake." In my case, given my industry, she also recommended sharing some of my "emotional" selling points, such as enthusiasm and energy.
We only scratched the surface; it will take hours more to finish rewriting the entire thing. So like everything else, I'll have to fit it in where I can. Here's what I have so far: www.linkedin.com/in/gailbelsky
What do you think? And how well does your profile sell your "brand"?
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Gail Belsky is an editor, writer and project manager for online and print. She has held senior positions at Time Inc., Working Mother, and Parents magazine, and has written for such websites as CBS MoneyWatch.com, CNBC.com Health.com, Prevention.com, and WorkReimagined.org. She is the author of The List: 100 Ways to Shake Up Your Life.