Being married to a marketer and brand strategist is no mean feat. I hear a constant commentary/critique on the latest adverts, billboards, product placements or the myriad other ways that companies find to bring their product to your attention. At times I find companies’ constant opportunism quite exhausting, and feel if I stand still long enough someone will stick a poster on me (if I’m not wearing a logo already). Being a counselling psychologist, I often see clients who are in a career process of some sort – whether it be for exploration, creation, transition or cessation. The overlap between these two disparate fields – namely psychology and marketing – is rather intriguing.
The need to distinguish yourself
It is well documented that the world of work has changed from a secure, stable, parent-child relationship to a much more flexible, dynamic, fast-changing and transient context, where individuals need to drive their own careers. The locus of control has firmly shifted from being external to being more internal. With this shift, a great deal of responsibility has been laid on the shoulders of the individual. Not only do we feel the pressure to perform well in our current positions, but we have to constantly take stock and responsibility for where we are, where we want to be and how to get there.
In the current economic climate, it becomes even more difficult and important to use all possible techniques to distinguish ourselves and ensure that we are not left behind. This is where the aforementioned synergy comes in. A good marketing company have to first really understand what they have to sell and who they want to sell it to; then it needs to create a message; and finally sell that message consistently.
You can ask yourself the following key questions in relation to your career path:
- What are your key differentiating factors?
Who are you and what do you want? What makes you competitive in your market? Why should a company choose you above the next person? Does your relevance stand out in the crowd?
- Who are you selling your services to?
Who is your employer of choice or your client? What are they looking for? What are their expectations and what do they value? As an independent consultant, who would be your ideal client or customer?
- How do you package and communicate those factors?
To be able to sell yourself in the ‘elevator pitch’, you need a succinct message – a tag line for want of a better description. It needs to be something that is true to who you are and that customers want. Your brand should be represented in your speech, interactions with others, dress code, CV, cover letters, online identity and more.
- Do you do this consistently?
Once you have identified your core essence, it should remain consistent over time. However, even though the essence of your message will remain the same; the expression thereof should constantly evolve. As your market changes and as you develop more skills, your brand should reflect your growing knowledge and experience. Like a CV, your brand should accurately represent you in the here and now, but include a promise of your aspirations, showing where you are heading.
What are your key differentiating factors?
I think the first of these questions is the hardest to answer, and let’s face it, if you don’t know the answer, then how can you expect potential employers to ‘buy’ into you? What you know, you can sell and manage. Otto Kroeger puts it succinctly in his DVD ‘The Basic Three’ when he says: “The fundamental gift (of typology) is heightened self-awareness for greater self-management” (1994).
Self-awareness takes time and effort, but there are excellent processes and resources available to assist you. In ‘Career Distinction – Standing Out by Building Your Brand’, Arrunda and Dixson lead you through a practical 9-step process:
- Brand yourself for career success;
- Determine how others perceive you;
- Develop your unique value proposition;
- Define your target audience;
- Tell your brand story;
- Express yourself clearly and consistently;
- Build and manage your online identity;
- Stay on-message and on-brand every day;
- Increase your “career karma”.
They add: “As a professional, your reputation is your most valuable career asset. Whether you’re climbing the ladder at your current company or seeking a new job, in today’s fast-paced work environment you must proactively and continuously position yourself for success. Your credibility, visibility, personality and personal style all make up your brand. Build and nurture your personal brand and you’ll make yourself a must-have, can’t-fail professional – and you’ll do it without having to be someone you’re not” (2007).
Selling your brand is the hard part, but once you have the customer’s attention, heed Deming’s warning and don’t be, ‘The Brand Who Cried Wolf’. Deliver on the promises and expectations that your carefully-crafted personal brand has created in your customers.
It takes a mind shift in managing your own career. You may feel as if it depersonalises the individual, but if done correctly, it can really help you present yourself in a congruent and consistent way, with a clear sense of purpose and direction. Please do remember the golden rule of marketing: “A good brand promises; a great brand delivers”.