How to Create - and Convey - Your Personal Brand

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By Jill Hinrichs, career coach at CareerBuilder

Tide or Clorox? Apple or Microsoft? When it comes to purchasing decisions, your perception of a brand can be the deciding factor. You consciously and unconsciously consider the values and benefits of what the brand or product has to offer. The same is true for employers reviewing job seekers. That's why I use my coaching sessions with job seekers to stress the importance of having a well-crafted personal brand.

When it comes to personal branding, job seekers typically encounter two big hurdles: The first is the concept of knowing how to "sell yourself", which makes many people uncomfortable. The second is the fear many job seekers have of defining themselves so narrowly that they exclude themselves from opportunities. While you may want to say to an employer, "Just give me a chance – I can do anything!" it's not always the best way to show your enthusiasm and eagerness to learn.What IS a personal brand?
A personal brand is a concise, consistent message that communicates your strengths to potential employers. A recent CareerBuilder survey reveals that 43 percent of employers research candidates on social media during the hiring process. The means it's important that you not only have a social media presence, but represent yourself as someone employers in your target industry would want to hire. And don't think this is exclusive to online networking or your resume -- your brand should carry through in your in-person interactions too.

Being an employer magnet.
In a recent coaching session, one job seeker shared that he was unhappy with the environment, culture and hierarchy of his current company. We discussed that his brand is the key to helping him move on. He identified his brand attributes but was afraid employers might see him as a "change agent" -- something not all companies like.

He's partially right. Branding yourself with your strengths could potentially scare away certain types of employers. But it's important to remember that those aren't the companies that fit you best. By remaining true to your personal brand, you will attract the kinds of companies that appreciate and need your skills and abilities and filter out the companies that don't. Ultimately, it means a better job match.

Bragging versus communicating your value.
Shift your mindset from bragging to illustrating how you can help or add value to the company or department -- this helps hiring managers make the right choice. Then, it becomes easier for you to advocate for yourself because you're taking the focus off of "me" and instead thinking about how your brand can help someone else. Once you gain momentum with this mindset, keep it going and avoid self-doubt by having a mentor or career advocate to encourage you along the way. It helps to have someone remind you to stay persistent and continue to broadcast your personal brand.

Strengths + opportunities + aspirations + results = your branding message.
This may all sound like great advice, but how do you actually create a branding statement? A useful exercise for creating your brand is SOAR, which stands for Strengths, Opportunities, Aspirations and Results. SOAR is a strategic planning framework that focuses on strengths and seeks to align values and passion with opportunities in your industry. The nature of the SOAR process helps you prepare your verbal, written and visual brand as a living, evolving, energy-creating part of your job search. It invites you to discuss or journal about what makes you valuable as a member of the workforce.

Your job search and career are exercises in knowing how to sell yourself. You are the product, and the employer is the buyer. A clear and compelling career brand helps employers perceive the benefits of your product, giving you an advantage in the job market.

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Jill Hinrichs is a career coach at CareerBuilder
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