Starting from Scratch: The Importance of building your unique brand
By: Kamal Hylton
Whether it’s a company or person, one of the most important parts of the job market is identifying and possessing a unique brand. Defining what branding is can be slightly different depending what is being branded. The most common example that comes to mind is when companies present or carry out a product over a period of time. The best examples of this come from sports marketing, with the king of all brands being Nike’s Air Jordan campaign designed around NBA legend Michael Jordan.
Jordan is known to this day as one of the best and most popular figures in modern day pop culture, such is the power of his brand, but an important figure around the conception of Air Jordan is former Nike Sports Marketing Executive Sonny Vaccaro. Best depicted in the EPSN 30 for 30 documentary Sole Man and the part entitled The Jordan Effect, the film explains how Vaccaro pitched the Air Jordan concept to Nike big wigs and Jordan himself all with the big goal of helping Nike explode onto the scene back in 1984.
Building a brand from scratch for a products like Air Jordan shoes can be difficult, but it can be even more challenging to develop one around an individual within the job market. The reason for this seeming to be the need to be different, to stand out in the eyes of employers while at the same time being genuine and seen as a perfect fit for the job. I struggle with this myself when looking at my personal brand. When I look at myself, the key aspects I want to get across are that I’m detail-oriented, calculated, quiet and that my end goal is to get the job done. While these are good traits to have, and ones that companies see as positives, I’m not the type of person who likes to command attention which is a complete contradiction to what branding is all about.
To help tip the scales more in my favour, I have adopted a few tips for whenever I’m writing or for when I’m in difficult scenarios such as job searching, interviews or networking opportunities. These tips are not magic pills that will instantly make your brand a unique superpower, but when repeated daily, they will aid in giving you that much needed push start.
TIP 1: DEFINITION AND REPETITION OF YOUR BRANDS MESSAGE
You need to figure out your unique sales pitch and tag-line, the main aspects of what you bring to the table and how they make you the best candidate for your desired job. To work on this, get a notepad and pen and write out all your biggest strengths. From there, condense all those points into a small paragraph (3-5 sentences) and then into a single sentence. Once you’ve figured that out you now have your brands message, a paragraph (your sales pitch) and single sentence (your tag-line) that defines who you are in the job market, what you bring to the table and your ultimate goal.
Now that you’ve defined your brand, you now need it to stick. The only way for this to happen is through repetition, making your sales pitch and tag-line become second nature. Do whatever you need to do to remember them. Recite them everyday in the mirror, record yourself saying it over and over and have it in mind whenever you’re producing any work. Doing this will not only help you remember, it builds confidence and a foundation to work from whenever you’re pitching yourself for a job or meeting new connections.
TIP 2: CONSTANTLY READ AND RESEARCH
This is crucially important to building your brand. Reading and researching is the only way to keep yourself informed and engaged, not only for keeping up with industry developments but to also help understand the companies that best fit you. Beyond just reading about the job market, you should also mix in some self-help and inspirational material to figure out new or unique ways to think and approach life challenges.
I have a number of resources I continue to draw on, such as REWORK by Jason Fried and David Heinmeier Hansson on how to keep things simple and The Four Hour Work Week by Tim Ferriss (as well as his podcast The Tim Ferriss Show) for better productivity and how to get the best out of the job market. Currently I’m reading Feel the Fear And Do It Anyway by Dr. Susan Jeffers for ways to attack fears head on and become more positive and powerful and a series of books by Malcolm Gladwell, The Tipping Point, Blink and Outliers for ways to think differently when faced with certain situations. As the old saying goes knowledge is power and we need to arm ourselves with every advantage possible.
TIP 3: SLOWLY DEVELOP A CALM CONFIDENCE
This is arguably the most difficult to make part of your brand, and one I constantly struggle with. Once you have your brand’s message and have backed that up with newly gained knowledge, you now need to present your brand in a calm and confident manner. This includes everything from appearance to posture to even tone of voice. We can focus on hundreds of different aspects of our brand, but the majority of the time it will boil down to first impressions. If like me you’re not naturally charismatic then this tip is more of a marathon than a sprint. This is the equivalent in sports to offseason workouts, working on areas of your brand that need tightening up being akin to superstar athletes working on weak points of their game during the offseason.
My main weak point is being socially awkward. I don’t like talking about myself and get nervous in a lot of social situations. How I’ve slowly become more able to get myself out there is hitting people with my best stuff from the beginning and trying and hold my own for as long as I can. I started out only being able to do this for a few minutes, but with more practice in interviews or networking events I challenge myself to last a little longer. While I’m not where I’d like to be yet, where I am now allows me to handle it better. This is necessary whether I’m interacting with coaches, scouts, recruiters and leagues for a sports scouting network I co-founded in Prospect Eleven (http://prospectxi.com) or when pitching ideas for stories as a writer.
Looking at the newest brand I’m associated with in Plaid Zebra Publications (under Job Surfer), I plan to bring my personal brand is to the table. However, my ultimate end goal is to help readers see as many avenues, options and pathways possible, aiding in helping them achieve their definition of success within the job market.
Image sources: inc.com