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Make a Brand Name of Yourself to Stand Apart From Crowd

April 29, 2001|AMY JOYCE | WASHINGTON POST

When you hear the word Swatch, what's the first thing you think of? How about when you hear Mercedes? Coke?

You probably thought: 1. Watch; 2. Luxury car; 3. Soda.

These are brands that immediately make you think of one product. You too can be a brand.

In making a personal career brand, you'll be the go-to guy or gal for that one thing you like to do, you'll be different from the man or woman in the next cubicle, and you'll have something to talk about at your next job interview.

If you're relatively new to the work force, this is your time to make a plan--and a name for yourself. That way you won't fade into the background and can work on the projects you want. That skill may gain you a nod, a notice and perhaps a new job.

Do one thing and do it well

"Everyone in the job market is a free agent," said Robin Fisher Roffer, author of "Make a Name for Yourself: 8 Steps Every Woman Needs to Create a Personal Brand Strategy for Success."

"You have to really think about who you are and declare that to the world in a very provocative and definitive way," Roffer said. "Otherwise, you're going to be pigeonholed. If you don't brand yourself, someone else will."

Call it what you like--brand building, making a name for yourself, finding your niche--it's important, especially today, when jobs aren't falling into people's laps.

Personal brand building is much like corporate brand building, said Mahan Tavakoli, director of Dale Carnegie Training. "It's effective when the brand actually stands for something very clear but doesn't stand for everything."

Ask yourself, "What is the one characteristic . . . that I have that I want to emphasize? What is the one thing that can stand out about me?" Tavakoli advised.

When Tavakoli joined his organization, he knew he wanted to be recognized as a people developer. "Which means if there's a major sales opportunity, they're not necessarily going to come to me," he acknowledged. "So when branding, you close doors. But when they need people developed, they come to me."

"Young people sometimes feel like they're not taken seriously by others who are more established," said Dan Sondhelm, partner and vice president at Morrison/Carlisle, a financial public relations firm. "But when you do build a brand for yourself, it shows credibility."

Build your own buzz

Sondhelm sees his brand in four categories:

* Delivery: "When I tell a client or prospect that I can help them grow their businesses, I'm going to deliver that," he said. "I want to be known for that. I don't just want revenue coming in, I want [clients] to be happy."

* Knowledge: "I really understand the industry our client works in, and I want people to know that I'm a specialist. I know the trends in their industry."

* Contacts: "I want people to know that I'm connected with professionals and [others] that our people need to know."

* Partnership: "I want to be considered a partner, not just a service provider. I am dependable, reliable, tell it like it is. I'm not just someone who's doing a job for them--I have a vested interest."

It's easy to come into a job, do the work handed to you and go home, but that will only get you recognized as "that new kid."

"Young employees need to be their own public relations firm," Sondhelm said. "I am 28 and working in an industry where a lot of the people are much older. I need to be experienced and credible."

Develop an expertise

Make yourself an expert. Talk to others you admire. Stay informed on industry news. Take classes.

And "make sure that the thing you've developed the expertise in is something you really want to do," Roffer said.

Now you're ready to start selling yourself as Brand X. "Create open lines of communication" with your boss and "the other stars within the organization," said Rick MacDonald, vice president of career management consulting with Right Management Consultants. Don't be shy about telling others your accomplishments, he said.

"With so many people who are losing jobs, it has become very competitive. Creating a brand is essential now," Roffer said. "Figure out what is the end game and make every move toward that goal."

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