Personal Branding: Beggars Can’t Be Sellers

A client and avid reader of my blog once told me that one of the most valuable pieces of advice I had provided him is that when you ask people for help with your job search, you’re not begging.

I thought that was pretty interesting. Because in all my job search years, on every side of the desk (as job-seeker, employer and career adviser), I always thought that job hunting was a two-way street. This seems lost on many people, no matter how bad or good the economy.

It is a key principle that when you approach someone in the context of your job search, you are providing something valuable. Whatever special combination of skills, aptitudes, interests and values you provide, it is ultimately what you get paid for. And you should only allow the right employer to partake.

Behind every winner is the ability to identify and project his/her USP: unique selling proposition. This is what makes you better than anyone else at doing what you do.

How do you figure out your USP, or brand? Here are some strategies:

Email Your Brain Trust

This is a group of people from different walks of your professional life, whom you consider to be mentors or advisors. They are people who will tell you the truth and have your best interests at heart. They should know you well, professionally-speaking. (They can also be teachers or other academics, or those for whom you’ve volunteered.) In your email, ask them to describe what they feel are your personal and professional standout traits and skills. What they say, especially if they all relate similar traits, will give you a window into what you provide that is special and unique.

Identify Your “What” and “For Whom”

Based on your conversations with your Brain Trust and your own thinking, begin by identifying your raw material. List your skills, interests, talents and accomplishments. Be as specific as you can. Then combine action words with nouns that define what you do, like “manage multiple projects simultaneously”, “convert ideas into actionable presentations”, or “deliver mission-critical projects, on-time and on-budget”.

Once you’ve created a phrase about what you do, think about for whom you do it. What are the roles and organizations that meet your criteria? Then put it all together to read: “Manage multiple projects simultaneously for large media companies”; “Convert ideas into actionable presentations for non-profit organizations”; “Deliver mission-critical projects, on-time and on-budget for entertainment companies”. You get the idea. Be as specific as you can while keeping in mind you should always tailor the “for whom” part depending upon the organization you’re pitching.

Project Confidence While Staying Humble

Back to projecting confidence with employers. While it is important to show a quiet confidence and a certainty that you have what it takes to exceed expectations, make sure you are the real deal. Be authentic and be true to yourself—you are looking for the best possible fit, and you will only be able to gauge that if you ask the right questions of the right people in the organization.

I can assure you that if you conduct your job search with that attitude, you will not only have choices but you will get paid more. Employers want to hire winners who are willing to work hard and give their best to the organization. If you know what you stand for and can convey that message, you will be way ahead of your career competition.



About the Author: Allison Cheston is a New York City-based career advisor who works with mid-career executives and young adults to help them identify their unique value in the marketplace and explore alternative careers. Allison is the author of an upcoming book In the Driver’s Seat: Work-Life Navigation Skills for Young Adults, to help young adults from late high school through college develop strengths and interests and match them to internships, coursework and, ultimately, the right job. Connect with Allison on Twitter!


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