Positioning Your Personal Brand

In their iconic book aptly titled “Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind,” authors Al Ries and Jack Trout write that, “Positioning in the first body of thought to come to grips with the problems of communicating in an over-communicated society.” And that was in 2001, way before Facebook and Twitter!

If you regularly read my column than you know I’m a proponent of treating your personal brand much like you would a company brand – with tender loving care. Brands are not unlike children in many respects – they need to be looked after, cared for, nurtured and groomed. And your personal brand is no different. In an over-crowded job market, your personal brand positioning is more important than ever.

Your personal brand is comprised of your character, competence and charisma. It’s who you are, what you do and why you’re special. You have to create it, claim it and then make sure everyone in your network knows about it.

When we’re desperately seeking employment, it’s tempting to try and be all things to all people. We tell ourselves that by not carving out a niche we will appear more attractive to a broader pool of hiring managers. In my experience, however, it simply doesn’t work that way. A personal brand without a strong brand position just gets passed over.

Consider powerhouse brands like Starbucks, Apple or Zappos, easily recognizable for carving out a strong position in their respective markets. Now consider your personal brand and how you do (or don’t) market it. If I scan your resume, your handbill, your elevator pitch or your LinkedIn page, will your personal brand position be clear to me? Here are some tips to make sure it is:

  1. Consider keyword density – Be sure your messaging is consistent throughout. Emphasize the skills, talent and traits you want to be known for repeatedly.
  2. Strive for message clarity – Be direct. Don’t be shy about your abilities or talents; claim them outright.
  3. Take a position – You can start by trying out one of these phrases:
        - I am known for…
        - My teams rely on me to…
        - My clients often tell me that I…

For example, if you’re a marketing quant-jock looking for a client-facing role you might position yourself in this way: “I’m particularly skilled at distilling complex research findings into actionable marketing insights. My clients often tell me that I’m the first researcher that speaks plain English and makes their job easier.”

4.   Support your story – Get involved with groups that support your position
       - offline and online. Read the journals, join the meet-ups, volunteer where
       you can. If I connect your “brand dots” will I see a straight line?

Ries and Trout summarize the final chapter of their book with this: “To be successful at positioning, you have to have the right mental attitude. You have to become an outside-in thinker rather than an inside-out thinker. This requires patience, courage and strength of character…”

You can hitch your positioning to an industry, a skill, a line of business, a market segment… and you know what, you can change it later on if you like. But for now, right now, you have to leave the wishy-washy “I’ll be whatever you need me to be” story on the sidelines and pick a path forward. In your heart you know what you want to do – what career path inspires you most – now be sure to let the rest of us in on it!

Got more questions or comments, email Sima at sima@marketingjobwire.com

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Sima Dahl
Personal Brand and
Social Networking Coach,SimaSays.com