From Career Services

­A “Brand” New Approach to Career Development
Angela J. Doty, MA, GCDF, Associate Director of Career Services

Nike. Starbucks. Apple. What do these three companies have in common? Companies that hire our graduates? True, but the answer I’m looking for is actually strong brands. Each of these companies has invested significant time, energy and resources to create a unique brand. When you see or hear Nike, perhaps you immediately think of the tagline, “Just do it,” or the “swoosh” that accents their shoes and apparel. Starbucks conjures up images of a customized coffee beverage in a white cup with a green circular logo. For Apple, you may envision the iconic apple emblem on your child’s university-issued computer or your own iPhone. These brands are more than just products; they represent an experience.

Depending on your experience, some of these brands may resonate favorably with you. On the other hand, you’re less likely to invest in their products if you’ve had a negative experience. Either way, these companies have intentionally branded themselves to attract a particular demographic and sector of the market, competing against companies who offer similar products.

Originally a marketing term, “branding” has become a hot topic in the field of career development, especially “personal branding.” Much of the job search involves some form of self-promotion. From the cover letter and resume to networking and interviewing, the job seeker’s primary objective is to secure employment – hopefully employment that aligns with their skills, interests, personality and values. In an increasingly competitive job market, candidates must set themselves apart in the process. Personal branding is one tool to do just that.

Everyone has a “brand” whether they like it or not. Branding is based on impressions and perceptions, what others think and feel about us. Savvy professionals use personal branding to strategically shape their image, capitalizing on their personal attributes – character traits, personality style, strengths, passions, and/or values. These attributes must be real and authentic; otherwise, the professional would lose credibility. Through self-exploration and feedback from trusted individuals (like family and friends), students can begin to establish their “brand” before embarking on a job search.

Often applied in social media, personal branding allows the individual to express their identity using photos, words, colors and graphics – much like the companies mentioned above. Through clear, consistent and constant messaging, the savvy job seeker begins to attract opportunities – much like the pull of magnet.

Keys to communicating one’s brand:

  1. Clearly define your personal attributes – those characteristics and qualities that set you apart and make you a valuable contributor. Who are you? What do you stand for? How do you live your life?
  2. Consistently convey these attributes through your interpersonal communication, online presence and behavior. Authenticity draws people in. Incongruence may lead to mistrust and/or a loss of integrity.
  3. Constantly promote these attributes – live them out daily. Infuse them into everything you do.

Let me introduce you to Sidney Tafflinger to illustrate my point. We recently hired Sidney as career coordinator to manage office operations and the flow of information in and out of Career Services. One of the attributes that stood out about Sidney during the hiring process was her organization – “bringing clarity to chaos.” She used the phrase in her cover letter as well as her interview. Her organizational style was evident in how she formatted her application materials, and now, it shows in her daily work. We are continually impressed by her ability to create structure and coordinate the details of a fast-paced university career center. Sidney’s brand of “clarity” has been reinforced and strengthened. When you encounter Sidney, you will experience it, too!

Cover letters, resumes and interviews remain key components in the job search process. Personal branding allows the job seeker to communicate this information in a strategic and cohesive way – from the words and phrases they chose to the modes with which they communicate them. Career Services continues to come alongside students in this journey of discovery and application, equipping them to secure employment – potentially positions within strongly branded companies.

Engage in Career Services, Envision Your Best Future!