Why Personal Branding Is So Important

It’s no surprise that today’s markets are still very competitive amongst job seekers.  In order to get noticed, and not left behind, a competitive personal  brand needs to be developed.  This brand gives you the advantage you deserve in your career search.  Your specific brand solidifies the recognition of valid distinction and helps you cultivate the image you portray to your target audience.  Separating yourself from the competition is a good thing because it makes you memorable. Your brand is your reputation, your first impression to others, and an example of the expectations you have set for yourself from here on out! It is truly that important.

So how do you capture and promote your individual strengths to a specific audience? First of all, you need to take a look inward and see what it is about YOU that is worth branding! Grant it, this is not an easy thing to do, but knowing who you are and what you stand for will become effective when communicating during a networking event or interviewing with a potentially new boss.  When you are able to effortlessly self-promote, you increase your visibility and awareness, and doors to a variety of job opportunities open that fit your personal brand.

You need to develop this brand purposely. Your brand promotes your best self, not who you hope to be one day.  Once you have established your brand, you can use it as the foundation to give your resume a bit of personality, and to stay consistent with your images on social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.  Your brand will also attract other followers, and these followers should be identifiable as your brand followers.  Mastering the ability to sell your personal brand in cyberspace is important in today’s technology-driven world, and equally important is knowing your image also exists offline.  It will be noticed in person by the behaviors you display, the way you present yourself, your body language, and your personal appearance.  If you want to be treated like a professional, look and act like one!

If you think a personal brand only helps you, think again. Potential employers want their employees to fit the mold of the company’s brand.  By promoting your personal brand, you also are promoting the brand of the company with whom you are seeking employment.  Staying relevant to the market and the latest forward thinking not only benefits you, but it also makes the company look good, too! Brands advertise who we are, what we stand for, and where we have set our sights.

I hope by now you realize the importance of your personal brand! Here are a few parting words of wisdom:  When you develop your online biography, make sure it includes your vision, goals, and passions.  Once developed, you can use this biography to help script your elevator speech, redefine the beginning of your resume, and strengthen your profile on LinkedIn! Hence the reason why you MUST be certain your brand matches your personality.  You don’t want a potential employer calling your bluff! By being consistent and authentic with your brand, you allow a true version of yourself to emerge wherever you are and whenever you are promoting yourself. Finally, remember that as you grow and evolve professionally, your brand will also grow and evolve.

Generation X and Y: Who are we, exactly?

If you’re like me, you are not really sure where you fall in the generational name calling.  Baby Boomers know who they are and will proudly tell you, “I’m a Baby Boomer!”  But for the younger age group, we don’t put a name on our generation, even though our elders are trying to categorize us in some form or fashion.

I did a little bit of research and here’s what I learned about “my people.”

Bristow, Castleberry, and Cochran classify Generation X as individuals born between 1965 and 1980.  We were the products of workaholic parents who often came home to an empty house.  Did you wear your house key as a necklace like me?!? Latchkey kids could be trusted to be home alone since our parents were always working.  Because of this, we raised ourselves.  Mac’n’cheese and hot dogs for dinner? You bet!  We know how to be self-reliant and original, but we didn’t want our future children to grow-up without a family unit.  Therefore, it’s very important to us that we strive for a balance between work and family.  We find it difficult to network because we remember what life was like before cell phones and social media.  We do embrace change because we bared witness to Watergate, the fall of the Soviet Union, and the beginning of the first Gulf War.

But what about those Gen Xers that were born in the early part of the 1980s like myself? I see traits from both categories present in my overall demeanor.

According to Bristow, Castleberry, and Cochran, Generation Y was born 1981-2000.  We (since I think I’m both an X and a Y) were raised during economic growth and technology progress.  I totally remember seeing a computer for the first time and thinking it was the coolest thing ever!  We are literate in various trades, cultured, and one of the most ethnically diverse generations in US history.  We focus on practical results and our individual income is less important than community involvement.  Having a balanced life of work and play is important, but on most occasions, the scale tips a little heavier towards play.  We believe we can do anything, be anything, and we are all superstars.  Thus we have high self-confidence and have set high standards for how we should be viewed by others.  We don’t believe strongly in big-business institutions because we have seen them fail more than they have succeeded. We witnessed the birth of the Internet and the tragedies of 9-11.  We know life is short and thus want instant gratification.

So, where do you fit in? Do you see a bit of yourself in each of the categories? If so, welcome to adulthood (GASP!)…. But for the time being, let’s call ourselves Young Adults. We are NO WHERE near the age of the Baby Boomers!

Age is a State of Mind

I’ve been thinking about this topic for a very long time, and want us to be honest with each other. I believe that if you’re in the market for a job, and you’re 50 or so, you need to think about what “age” you project to others. This topic has many layers of discussion, and I want to address one here that has to do with “first impressions,” i.e., how you look when you walk in the door of an interviewer’s office.

I read the blogs, discussions, and columns on LinkedIn, career sites, and numerous publications, and I know many of you are offended at the suggestion that we plant ourselves in front of the mirror and take a physical inventory of “how we look” when job hunting. I see it more as “how we come across:” our energy, our vitality, and our willingness to keep up with the times. And, men, this is not just for women. When you’re in job search, you need an updated haircut, wardrobe and pair of glasses as well.

It can seem inappropriate and insulting to suggest that looking “younger” can be advantageous when we are actively seeking a new job. But, I will go on record with my opinion about how necessary it is for us to come across as having as much youthful energy as possible when we are competing in the hunt. It’s particularly true if we are unemployed and in transition, since unfortunately, that alone puts many of us at a disadvantage in the job market.

“Isn’t the only important quality a person takes with them to an interview their capabilities and experience?” we can insist. Sure, if you’ve been blessed with great genes, a love of exercise, and you look 42!

I’m not suggesting that you don the attire of a 20-something year old, and tug at your miniskirt when you get out of the car; or adopt the posture of “pants on the ground.” I am, however, encouraging you to see that age is indeed a state of mind, and if you begin to think more youthfully, your exterior appearance will undoubtedly begin to look more youthful as well.

Take a moment right now to look in the mirror. What “age” do you see looking back at you? And I don’t just mean physically. There is so much more to vitality. Do you see a spark of energy? Do you see a constant interest in self-improvement and new things? Do you see someone who makes an effort each day to look as healthy as he or she possibly can? We are all different, and your vitality factor is relative to your past health and life experience.

The point is, once you honestly assess your physical appearance and your ability to alter it in a positive way, you will know just how youthfully you can realistically come across, and that, my friends, is your “aha” moment. “Youthful” does not mean ridiculous. It means being able to enter the competitive job market with a statement about your interest in being a contender.

Jobs: Where We’re Finding Them Now

We still hear so much bad news about the state of job hunting, that we can’t help but wonder if there really are any more out there. There is good news, however, thanks to researchers who are in the trenches, studying employment opportunities that may not be common knowledge to us.

AARP, for example, regularly publishes studies and reports about our economy and how our 50-plus workforce can get back to gainful employment. A perhaps unintended result of these reports is that Americans of ALL ages can utilize the intel. This is great news for the 31% of Americans over 50 who are supporting adult children because they’ve been benched in the employment landscape due to the recession.

The AARP organization gives us food for thought in a new report, and perhaps the incentive for reinvigorating our job search.

Their report called “Best Employers for Workers Over 50 Winners,” cosponsored by the Society of Human Resource Management, is an example of a blueprint for constructive job search. The report literally lists names of organizations who seek people of all ages and abilities. Some of the best employer winners are large chains; others are smaller independents. There is no emphasis on any one part of the country, so winners are across the nation.

The top ten employers include not surprisingly six healthcare organizations, which is right in line with the statistics that tell us that healthcare jobs are among the fastest growing in the nation. Five of these healthcare companies literally make up the “top five” hiring employers for workers over 50. They include the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Scripps Health, Atlantic Health System, The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, and Mercy Health System.

Completing the top ten hiring companies for those over 50 are The YMCA of Greater Rochester, West Virginia University, Bon Secours Virginia, the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, and Wellstar Health System.

Other winners are universities, as education services have exploded with the rush to return to higher education by Americans since the economic downturn.

The report goes on to state that Cornell University, West Virginia University Hospitals, George Mason University, the Department of the Interior, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and Monongalia General Hospital make up employers number eleven through 15.

Another report by AARP reveals the prevalence of jobs for Americans in rebuilding Afghanistan after the longest war in U.S. history there. Engineers are needed for their expertise, and there is an emergence of high-paying contractor jobs. The location may be dangerous, but the paychecks for highly educated Americans are often in six figures. Some jobs in helping women and children are also beginning to flourish, teaching them job skills, educating them, and finding them work.

For many Americans, the job search landscape may be daunting still, but AARP reporting has shown that opportunities are out there. And they’re for everyone.