Figuring out how to brand and sell yourself to future employers can seem like a daunting task in this competitive economy. Luckily, Chris Colbert's Personal Branding session at the MITX Career Combine last Tuesday provided some clear-cut, actionable advice for job-seekers to find their selling points and maintaining their personal brand.
Why is personal branding so critical now? Chris introduces the concept here, and then elaborates on the tough truths of what it takes to get a job in this economy.
(Click the subtitles of each section to see presentation clips.)
Find & define your One Simple Thing (OST).
Interviewers often simplify the information overload from job applicants (from cover letters to resumes to personal interviews) down to one or two definitive words to recall people. Assuming you don't want someone to assign you the label of The Guy with the Bad Hair or something equally negative/boring, figure out what you want to be known by - such as your stellar ability to persevere through tough circumstances - and make that OST really stand out to become your defining characteristic.
Work that network.
Capture every contact you make and keep a database. LinkedIn is a great tool to not only keep every contact you make, but also keep those relationships going. Don't judge - you can't tell who will be important in your career future in some way, so don't count anyone out.
Break through the clutter.
There are TONS of people with TONS of information out there - so make your cover letter and resume stand out. That's your ad for You, essentially. Think of yourself like a brand and employers as the consumer - figure out your target audience, and craft your ad to suit. Why do you fit for them? You're not generic, so don't make your cover letter and resume a mass-produced model.
Case the joint - figure out the culture of the company, and dress in a way that makes it easy for them to envision you working there. Don't wear a full suit if the only ones around are track suits; don't go too far though, and dress like you work there already. Just don't create barriers where you can prevent it.
Your questions matter...
...and you better have some. Do your research - there's plenty of info out there - so use it to form some solid questions. Listen carefully: if the answers come out throughout the interview, make sure you develop some follow-up questions (thus making it apparent you're always thinking on your feet!).
Follow up, follow up, follow up...
Don't ever stop following up with those contacts you've made. Your network is always going to be one of your most valuable assets. Down the road, it could come in handy more than you know.
Chris' advice may seem basic, but as he noted, these things are often overlooked or under-valued. What are your top tips for job-seekers?