07/13/2011 04:20 pm ET Updated Sep 12, 2011

Building Your Personal Brand

Gosh, today's job market certainly isn't what it was when I was in college -- and that was just over a decade ago! I remember meeting with college guidance counselors who told me to look for a job that matched my skills. My skills? I didn't think I had any skills then -- wasn't that the point of getting a job?

I couldn't agree more with Tom Friedman's July 13th op-ed, "The Start-Up of You," in the New York Times, (h/t @skabakoff), where he writes:

Whatever you may be thinking when you apply for a job today, you can be sure the employer is asking this: Can this person add value every hour, every day -- more than a worker in India, a robot or a computer? Can he or she help my company adapt by not only doing the job today but also reinventing the job for tomorrow? And can he or she adapt with all the change, so my company can adapt and export more into the fastest-growing global markets? In today's hyperconnected world, more and more companies cannot and will not hire people who don't fulfill those criteria.

I don't think today's college graduates really consider the above. I have interviewed and talked with many college graduates looking for jobs, and I am often left wondering: what makes them different? When I was in college, I was just waiting -- literally waiting -- for an employer to knock on the door and offer me that big job (with a big salary) -- #fail! College graduates and other job seekers must find ways to shine and articulate the value they can bring to a potential employer.

In a previous blog post, "Are you an Apple or Banana?," I made the point that my title really doesn't matter when it comes to describing what I do -- but rest assured, the things I do on a daily basis sure do. People need to differentiate themselves, develop a niche or specialty and add value in their own way.

I recently talked to a soon-to-be college graduate who asked for advice on next steps. I may have been a little cynical and adamant about making the following point:

Whatever you do next -- wherever you go next, the best advice I can offer you is to ensure that you bring value to your employer. Why should they hire you?

The economic climate is turbulent, as Friedman accurately notes. The job market fluctuates up and down. You never know what could happen. Now, this is not to say that you should act as if you are indispensable -- I don't think anyone really is -- but, your value can help your stability and advancement. So can being creative as you roll with the punches of an oft-changing career path.

After a few years (few years -- LOL!) of being in the working world, I have also learned that it's no longer the corporate world my grandfather lived in (he was a company man of the 1960s). People don't stay in jobs for many, many years; rather they jump around and skip along to the next economic heartbeat. Adapting and changing (and recognizing the how) is key to value building!

The start-up of today could easily be the legacy firm gone tomorrow. The food truck business is now the brick and mortar business of yesterday. Find your niche, perfect it and you just might find that big job.