Over the past couple of months the Gradifying team has examined a number of topics that relate to successfully navigating the road to meaningful employment. Within these topics (strategies for conducting a job search, networking, preparing for a job interview, and writing a cover/job letter), the value of effective self-promotion continually emerges.
At the Career Week Mixer I had the opportunity to chat with Dr. Bruce Seet, the President and CEO of the Science to Business Network (S2B). During our conversation he emphasized the importance of personal-branding or self-marketing. Bruce explained how creating a brand that tells a story of who you are, what your goals are, and what differentiates you from the competition is essential for capturing the interest of prospective employers. With that in mind, this post will briefly examine how to create a brand that is uniquely you.
Take an Inventory of Yourself – SWOT Analysis:
Objectively identifying your skills and shortcomings is critical for creating an attractive and accurate brand. In The Art of Self-Marketing, Kerri Harris recommends performing a SWOT analysis (Strengths, Weakness, Opportunities, Threats) as the first step in creating your brand. Traditionally, SWOT analyses are used by businesses/organizations to aid in decision making; but as Kerri Harris explains, a SWOT analysis is a great tool for enhancing your professional viability.
Strengths: What attributes make you stand out from others? What are your expertise? Who do you know (through networking or otherwise) that can align you with the right people/opportunities?
Weaknesses: What attributes may hold you back? Which areas need immediate attention? In some cases, weaknesses can be remediated by proper action. As Kerri Harris explains, modifiable weaknesses can range from a lack of accreditation to being poorly connected within a given industry.
Opportunities: What opportunities can I add value to? What opportunities can I take advantage of to advance my skillset and/or visibility within my field? For grad students, conferences and seminars are perfect opportunities to enhance your visibility and foster new connections. These interactions also afford the prospect of collaborating with individuals who could benefit from your expertise.
Threats: What current factors could impede your professional growth? Are there emerging trends/changes within your field that could directly impact you? Can you modify these factors to reduce their negative impact?
The purpose of this exercise is twofold:
1) It serves as a realistic and objective identification of your value and, just as importantly, an identification of areas that need immediate upgrading.
2) A SWOT analysis allows you to control the message of your brand, rather than permitting someone else to draw their own conclusions. In the same way that product advertisements specifically (and scientifically) tailor their message to consumers, you want to tactfully tailor your brand to prospective colleagues.
Delivering your Message – The Elevator Speech
Once you have honed in on your personal brand, you need to effectively advertise to the prospective consumers (colleagues, employers, etc.). Cue the elevator speech.
During the Super Bowl 2014, corporations paid an astounding $4 million for 30 seconds of airtime to promote their brand ($133,333/per second). To make this investment worthwhile, marketing pros effectively use every second to ensure that these commercials grab the audience’s attention and the message remains memorable following the interaction (i.e. 2012 Volkswagen commercial).
While the elevator speech is free, the value of an effective communication that is both exciting and memorable is on par with Super Bowl Sunday airtime. The opportunity to speak 1-on-1 with a key player in your field may be rare and unpredictable. Having your elevator speech neatly folded in your back pocket is, as Dr. Katherine Hansen describes, “… your Swiss Army Knife of job-search tools”. Within a very short period of time (15 to 30 seconds), the elevator speech allows you to describe, “… who you are, what makes you unique, and the benefits that you provide”, all of which you have identified in your SWOT analysis. To be effective, an elevator speech needs to have a hook and a request for action. It’s not enough to tell someone how great you are, you also need to appeal to their interests and propose a means of adding value to their organization. For Dr. Hansen’s full guide to creating an effective elevator speech HERE.
Creating a personal brand prompts you to align with your strengths, improve your weaknesses, and control the message delivered to prospective colleagues. SO! Get down to it and begin forging your personal brand and your Super Bowl Sunday commercial.
We’d love to hear of your personal experiences and/or tips for developing your personal brand.