Building a Job-Search Brand? Make Us Care

03/18/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011
  • Liz Ryan Speaker, writer, soprano and mom; founder, Human Workplace

Check this Liz, says my friend Allan on the phone, I've been working on my job-search brand.

What have you come up with? I ask him.

Here it is, says Allan. I'm an explorer, like Marco Polo. That's the heart of my job search brand. I'm fearless, and I go wherever the action is. I dive into any type of situation and figure out what needs to be done. Whatever's happening, I will get there. I travel light and I get around. Cool, right?

Hmmm, I say.

You don't like my Marco Polo job-search brand? asks Allan.

Allan, I say, here's the thing. You take a product - a laundry detergent, for instance. The product has a brand, and the brand stands for something.

Like my brand: Allan, the Explorer, says Allan.

Okay, I said. Let's apply that idea to a laundry detergent. What if there were a laundry detergent called Blue? Let's say that the detergent is blue. The box could be blue, and the advertising copywriter could write ads that say "The only laundry detergent that's blue!"

A lot of them are blue, said Allan. Don't you buy laundry detergent?

Okay, whatever, I say, the point is that blue-ness is not something that necessarily attracts people to a laundry detergent. People are not walking around saying "But why can't I find a laundry detergent that's blue?"

You're saying that nobody would care that the detergent is blue, said Allan. (He had a bit of a sulk in his voice.)

Lookit Allan, I said, I don't mean to discourage you. You are on the right track, thinking about a job-search brand. The part you're missing is this. Why should an employer care? There may be a type of business pain where a CEO tosses and turns on his pillow at night, wondering how he can get hold of a fearless explorer to add to his team.  If there is that kind of pain, it's not the most common pain in the world. It's way, way down the list of Popular Business Pains.

What is your point? Allan wants to know.

My point is that your job-search brand needs to tell people what problem you solve, I said. A job-search brand is a philosophical and linguistic frame. It's a schema: a way to think about Allan. The frame needs to let the observer -- someone who's reading your resume or your LinkedIn profile, for instance - know immediately what you do that moves a business forward.

If your brand is based strictly on what you love to do, it's not likely to be very compelling to an employer. S/he has his or her own problems. "I love to explore uncharted territories" is pretty abstract. Business leaders are time-pressed and overstimulated. They're not going to spend the time figuring out how and whether Allan the Explorer can help them. They'll move on to the resume or the  LinkedIn profile of someone whose brand says I Solve Business Problem X.

Such as, says Allan, trying to keep the sulk out of his voice.

You might be the person who takes cost out of the operation, or who opens new sales channels, or the person who cuts customer hold times in half, or the one who goes out and finds the absolute best people in the industry and convinces them to join the team. If you were a consultant, would you hang out a shingle that says "I love to explore uncharted territory?" No way. There's very little demand for that service. It's the same way in your job search.

Employers are focused on their needs, I said. Who can blame them for that? We don't want to go to the job market as the Blue Laundry Detergent, right? We need to take the employer's perspective, and come up with a job-search branding message that focuses on how we make our employers' or our clients' businesses thrive.

Okay, said Allan. So Marco Polo is out the window?

Bring out your adventurousness in a story, I said. Put a mini-story in your resume Summary and another one in your LinkedIn profile. Telling us a man-of-adventure story beats the heck out of asserting "I'm adventuresome," in any case. Don't you think?

Give me an example, says Allan.

"At XYZ Plastics, I found a supplier in New Zealand to build a custom crammel fortis for us that now makes up 25% of sales and 38% of net profits," I said.

Okay, said Allan. I gotcha.

You have the stuff, I said. You have tons to offer an employer. You've only got to swivel your seat around to see yourself from that employer's point of view.

I'll be back to you later this week, said Allan. Now I'm on the trail.

Do it! I said. (He will.)