Imagine this scenario: You're sitting in the lobby of an office, waiting on a job interview you feel good about. You believe you are the right candidate for the job. You're confident, experienced, skilled and people (not just your mother) like you. During your military career, you were given increasing levels of responsibility, and you delivered on them consistently well.
What you don't know is that the candidate sitting across from you also has a great track record, people who like them, and good skills. In addition, they've got a well-known reputation for leadership, collaboration and team building, and a network of supporters who will advocate for them in the job search. The other candidate has a strong and defined personal brand.
Today, it's not enough to have skills, experience and a pleasant personality. Employers seek job applicants who stand out and represent a commitment to similar values as their own. While the resume is helpful to see what you've accomplished so far, and where your skills and training line up, employers care about who you are as a person and how you'll fit into the culture and mission of the company. They care about how you can help them move forward.
Personal branding gives you the strategy and system through which to promote your values, articulate your offer and contribution, and build meaningful connections to grow your career. Think about your brand as a way to explain and promote your "why."
- Why have you made the choices you have? From joining the military, to the career path you pursued, to the reasons you exited the military, what was your motivation or reasoning?
- Why should someone find you interesting for an opportunity? What sets you apart from others who might have similar experience or skills?
- Why are you passionate about your career path? What is it about this kind of work that excites you?
- Why are you motivated and who do you seek to serve? Your drive and motivation comes from your "why" and is a key attribute of your attractiveness to an employer.
Just because you can do something doesn't mean you should or want to. For example, I'm a great cook (just ask anyone I've prepared a meal for!) but I have no inclination or interest in cooking for strangers or running a restaurant.
Consider, as you exit the military, whether you want to continue doing the kind of work you did before. In some cases, the market for your talents may not be available. For instance, if you were a Rifleman in the Army, you might find similar jobs in the business sector more limiting.
But if you have a skillset that lines up with what you're interested in doing, look for opportunities to promote your value to potential employers. Your personal brand will help you connect your past (experiences) to your future goals and offer.
You'll focus on tying your skills to your why and then aligning those with the needs of an employer. Again, employers require you to have certain qualifications for the job, but what they seek is someone who'll fit into their culture and team, and add value.
When you've clarified your personal brand and set your brand strategy, you can consistently position yourself in person (with your networking contacts), online (through social networking sites like LinkedIn) and in how you communicate (your narrative, elevator pitch, resume, etc.)
The goal of personal branding is not perfection -- we can't be perfect. Your brand needs to be consistent in how you speak about yourself and how others speak about you in order to be trustworthy and credible. Then, your reputation will precede you in powerful and opportunistic ways, providing you with the right career options from which to choose.
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