Career Coaching, Networking

Become the Leader of Your Brand

man thinking with hand holding his chin
Photo by Rahabi Khan

Perhaps rapper Jay-Z put it best (or at least the simplest): “I’m not a businessman. I’m a business, man.” This line of thinking helped him become hip-hop’s first billionaire, and it can help you get better at marketing yourself to prospective employers.

You are the product or service [business or brand] that you are trying to convince a consumer [an employer] to buy into,” says Colin von Liebtag, assistant director for alumni career development at Rutgers. “Just like any effective commercial, you need to catch your audience’s attention before they change the channel.”

In his Working Lunch Webinar: Be Your Brand, von Liebtag LC’08, SSW’15 encourages Rutgers alumni to identify their unique selling points and learn how to highlight them online, in print, and in person.

Here are a few quick and easy exercises from the webinar to get you started.

Identify your skills—and niche

Your personal brand is a composite of your skills, experience, education, and abilities. When writing your brand statement, Angela Kim RBS’18, an associate brand manager at GlaxoSmithKline, recommends focusing on character traits. “Technical skills are easy to learn, but soft skills are not,” she says. “You had your whole life perfecting the person you are. Worry less about being known as the Excel-guru but more about being known as a kind and helpful team player.”

Exercise: Write down all of the traits that describe you, then narrow it down to five.

Look at your life as an epic tale

What challenges in your personal life have you overcome? What do they demonstrate about your character and work ethic? Having a great story to share makes it easier to start conversations and makes you more relatable. It also can strengthen your brand image.

“We’re so advanced as a society, there are rarely any completely ‘new’ ideas,” says Victoria Wang SAS’15, SMLR’16, a human resources department head at Hitachi America. “It’s your own personal anecdotes and how experiences have impacted you—that is the only thing you have that is truly unique on the subject.”

Exercise: Choose one of your most triumphant life stories, then condense it into three to five sentences.

Write a proposition that touts your value

A value proposition is a statement that is designed to convince a potential customer that a product or service will be more valuable to them than that of a competitor. You can write one for yourself, too. This should tell your audience about your title/level, character traits, and unique skills that colleagues may not offer.

Exercise: Fill in the blanks: “I am a [role/title] who offers [basic specific benefits/value]. I also offer [unique benefit], which will provide [my audience] with [a measurable result/return on investment].”

Update your messaging everywhere

Use your list of traits, story, and proposition from above to update all of the materials in which you market yourself. This includes your cover letter and résumé, job site profiles, business cards, and voice mail greeting.

Remember, though, that your most powerful brand messaging comes from how you behave. “The best place to market is in how you show up every day,” says Kim. “It is astonishingly a small world, and people will remember how you made them feel. Join groups at work or even just smile at people in the hallways! It seems like a little thing, but it’s a lot more sustainable and will go further than a curated LinkedIn post.”

Resources to Build Your Brand

As a Rutgers graduate, you can access a robust set of career development resources. Here are a few that can help you create, build, and practice delivering your personal brand:

Student-Alumni Career Connect: Be inspired by others’ self-marketing materials. Also ask alumni mentors in your desired field to review your brand messaging.

CareerShift: Create personal marketing campaigns and materials, including résumés and cover letters. Bonus: You can save to and print from this site.

InterviewStream: Practice implementing your personal brand and demonstrating your value proposition with simulated mock interviews and Q&As. Visit the New Brunswick, Camden, and Newark career center websites or contact your specific center for access.