How I Found My 'Personal Brand' (And You Can, Too)

personal brand job search: Gail Belsky

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:

What do you think? And how well does your profile sell your "brand"?

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