How to stand out with your personal brand

It seems like it's impossible to stand out in the workforce today.

  • Everyone has a degree; in fact, 20.2 million students are expected to attend American colleges and universities this year.
  • Everyone has done similar clubs and activities that haven't really shown what they can do in a professional setting.
  • Everyone has applied for the same "prestigious" jobs you applied to. 

It's clear that the solution is to move in the opposite direction.

That means not relying on your resume to get you the job. In fact, it's clearly the losing strategy if you don't any special skills or work experiences to stand out on paper. So what do you do?

The first part of standing out is establishing your brand.

This isn't something you have to actually work towards building, as it's naturally what will happen when you produce work. People will see what you create and that will be your brand. In the past, employers could only judge you by your resume, but news flash: it's 2016, and the most important and accurate information on candidates can be found in seconds by a Google Search.

Who you portray yourself to be online has to be congruent with who you are in real life. Building your brand is about making it as easy as possible for the HR manager to say "YES". Leave no doubt in the mind of hiring managers of 1) who you are, 2) what skills you have, 3) what you've done, and 4) what your goals are.

How do you do that?

1. Choose what you want people to remember you by.

Start first by choosing your words. What qualities do you want to be remembered for? Are you the edgy marketer that creates virality? Or are you the workhorse programmer who seeks to end world hunger? Maybe you're the most organized, stats-driven, person who wants to help people travel more. 

What do you want people to know about you as soon as you meet them?

Really dig down and try to master one hard skill.

2. Establish your social identity.

Psychologist Tajfel's experiment investigated social identity and he proved that people tend to categorize themselves into groups.

They then build their identities around group affiliations & build boundaries to keep other groups separate. Our brains are hardwired to want to be in one or more groups.

This may sound competitive and the opposite of what we want as humans, but it helps you find your tribe. It's great to be open to new ideas, but it's also important to find people who you just get you. These are the people you want to be working with.

Managers should be able to tell from the get-go that they want to work with you.

Use your brand to find like-minded people who work well with you.

3. Connect with people, not companies.

My most successful interviews were where I had an "in": someone within the company who I knew would vouch for me.

The weakest first impression you could make with a company is a flimsy resume in their pile. Make sure that the first time they see your name, it isn't through your resume.

What people really want is the ability to connect to each other, not to companies.
— Seth Godin

The purpose of your brand is to make it as easy as possible for strangers to immediately know what you are all about.

For a hiring manager, it's so much better to just know that a person is driven, motivated, and thoughtful, and that their brand supports it. A resume literally shows none of this. A strong digital presence that establishes your brand takes the guesswork out of things.

4. Be consistent and show your work.

Keep your brand association consistent.

People will remember their experience with you and that will be your brand.

For example, with McDonalds: you recognize the golden arches, the crispy fries, and the juicy chicken nuggets.

You know exactly what you're getting when you go to a McDonald's: cheap, but quality product delivered in under 5 minutes. Literally anywhere you go, you'll get the same quality of food, whether you like it or not.

When building your brand, you have to create the ideas that you want people to remember you for.

If you're trying to establish yourself as a trustworthy hard-working person, you better deliver on it. As soon as someone sees something that is not consistent with this image, your credibility is questioned.

It's much easier to maintain your brand when you are actually true to it, so make sure to live up to the person you want to be.

Show your work to as many social websites, people, you know. That's how you build your brand.

* * *

Many of these ideas were inspired by Brainfluence, a book on neuro-marketing. YOU ARE THE PRODUCT -- so it's always beneficial to learn how to sell yourself. A brand is like politics; whether you want to be involved or not, it affects you.