To Be Relevant, Know Your Brand

Before you sell something, you must thoroughly understand the product you are selling. Likewise, in a job search, you must know your brand (yourself) before you can sell yourself to a prospective employer.

Begin by creating a clear picture of who you are, where you’re going and the impact you can have in the workplace. This requires quiet, thoughtful contemplation, so don’t rush the process.

Several years ago when I lost my job as a marketing professional, I began my job search by spending quality time in a re-branding process. Though I love everything digital, I deliberately went “analog” for this planning exercise. I took a journal and a fountain pen to a local coffee shop. Journaling is a magical practice for tapping into a deeper creative consciousness.

There in the coffee shop, over several sessions, my brand came into focus as I wrestled with answers to questions that were easy to ask but surprisingly difficult to answer.

Questions I Asked Myself

The foundation for my introspection was laid by a series of questions such as:

  1. Who am I?
  2. Where have I been?
  3. What have I done?
  4. Where am I going?
  5. What can I do?
  6. Why would someone hire me?
  7. How am I different than other candidates?

Wresting with these questions proved to be invigorating and I gained the momentum necessary to find an incredible career opportunity.

In your job search, you may be tempted to hurry through the planning stages. If you do, I predict you’ll flounder later.

Keywords Describing My Brand

As part of my planning process, I also brainstormed a list of  keywords that defined my brand. I made a lengthy list of what I perceived my brand to be. I pulled keywords from my resume and cover letter. I also listed the phrases others used when describing me, my performance and my reputation.

Make a list of at least 25 keywords that define your brand. Go for quantity and make the list as lengthy as possible. In a later post I’ll describe how to focus this list so you can differentiate yourself from your competitors. For now, though, be creative without unnecessary editing or critiquing.

In the early phases of a job search, my advice is to become very conversant on the basics of your brand—who you are, where you’re going and what you’re looking for.


These ideas on personal branding were originally presented during two workshops I conducted for the Nonprofit Leadership Alliance. The sessions were attended by current and aspiring nonprofit leaders who came from across the nation for the annual Alliance Management/Leadership Institute, the nation’s largest leadership development and networking symposium for students, faculty and nonprofit professionals. —DH

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