Do you remember the old Canon camera commercials of the 1990′s? I think Andre Agassi had it right: Image is Everything.
20 years later, we are still consumed by image–and probably even more so. Especially when it comes to what we wear, drive, who we associate with, and even what technology suits us best. From Madison Avenue to Madison, Wisconsin, brand image is everything and an integral part of our culture and society.
Why do people respect certain companies and brands? According to a recent Fortune survey, the top five most respected companies are Apple, Google, Berkshire Hathaway, Johnson and Johnson, and Amazon.com. Each of these companies is an industry leader in what they do. From the innovative iPod, to search engine dominance, to ordering just about anything online and having it shipped to your home, these companies have found ways to connect with their customers in bold fashion like no one else can. They are the most respected because they are also the best at what they do.
Today, brand image is also a vital part of any job seekers success. To garner notice and win the job in today’s challenging job market means positioning yourself as the best of brand ; doing things better and more efficiently than your competition. Being the best of brand means being innovative, effective, high quality, a problem solver, and offering something that employers want and need. You create demand for your product by doing things better than your competition. It holds true for Apple and Amazon, and it holds true for you too.
Over the years, I have met many job seekers that possess the necessary attributes to call themselves the best of brand. But the enigma is this: most job seekers do not see themselves as a leading brand or product, but as a commodity (i.e. “just another job seeker”) in a watered down pool of applicants. Though they may posses what it takes to be successful, most job seekers simply don’t do a good job of selling themselves as a leading brand or product able to fulfill a finite set of criteria. They hope that the employer will make the connection on their own that they can do the job.
Today, selling yourself as someone who can simply “do the job” is not nearly good enough.
The truth is, with some minor adjustments, any job seeker can implement a plan to improve their brand image. And in today’s uber-competitive job market, it’s only the best of brand candidates that will get noticed and ultimately get hired.
Here are 3 Brand Image Types job seekers need to be aware of when building their brand and increasing their marketability:
1- Personal Brand Image
This is the brand type you carry with you in all business interactions. It describes the way you look, act, talk, and your overall attitude. This is the single most important brand image you have because you are being judged every time you interact with another individual.
We are all judging creatures, even on a subconscious level. You’ve heard the expression “You only have one chance to make a good first impression,” right? The fact is we generally formulate first impressions within the first three seconds of meeting someone. And after 30 seconds, they dry like resin. So it pays to make a good one right off the bat.
Here are three key areas job seekers need to consider when enhancing their Personal Brand Image:
Attire: Are your clothes out of date? Are they wrinkled or frumpy? Looking unkempt or like you walked out of 1977 can be the kiss of death during a job interview, career fair, when meeting a person of influence, or when attending a networking event. Think about your buying habits. Would you purchase the microwave oven that’s dented and has a big scratch along the side? Most people wouldn’t. Most employers want to hire a candidate that looks the part of a high quality product. Take a field trip to Macy’s, Nordstrom’s, or any other softline retailer with a solid reputation. Ask the sales associates what the latest business attire trends are, then watch for sales and promotions. A business fashion overhaul doesn’t mean spending thousands of dollars. Major deals can be had right now just by being a strategic shopper and purchasing smartly and selectively.
Grooming: Choose a hair style that’s both contemporary and professional. Nails are trimmed, neat, and clean. Facial hair for men is discouraged, but if you must keep the beard, ensure it’s presentable. Investing a few dollars on a teeth whitening product is also a good idea. Ladies, heavy makeup is not necessary and can be distracting. Walk the middle road and let your accomplishments—not the bright blue eye shadow—make an impact.
Lip speak: You don’t have to speak the Queen’s English but slang, street lingo, mispronouncing words, and improper use of grammar is just plain unprofessional. Sure building rapport counts. And some hiring mangers may be 20 years your junior. But sound like a professional when describing yourself in providing value for an organization. Listen to any national network news anchor. They speak in a personable yet professional tone. They do a good job of conveying information to people of all backgrounds and educational levels in a proficient, clear, and likeable manner.
2- Written Brand Image
How do your communication documents read? Are your emails and correspondence well-written? Or are you one of the people who communicates in all low case, nonsensical acronyms, and throws caution to the wind when considering grammar and capitalization? How about your resume? Is it a high-quality and high-impact marketing document that’s free of errors? The answers to all of these questions describe your Written Brand Image. It covers all types of business communications from the simple and mundane to the mission critical. Communication skills are key today in just about any type of profession. Ensure everything you produce in the written form is of high-quality, well versed, and mistake free.
3- eBrand Image
According to a recent article in the New York Times, 75% of recruiters are required to screen online. What are they looking for? The answer: information, both positive and negative. All online information as it relates to you comprises your eBrand Image. Blogs, message boards, and especially social media and social networking sites all count. What other people, maybe even some of your friends, have to say and show about you on their sites also qualifies.
So what comes up on a Google search under your name? If you’re a professional, you probably have a LinkedIn and maybe even a Twitter account. Do they brand you as a high-quality professional or are they confusing, erratic or incomplete? Are you talking smack about politics or other controversial topics on Twitter? Is your main Facebook picture tame or risqué? Anything that you can control on the internet like blogs and social networking sites should be used to build your brand. Offer tips, advice and recommendations about your occupation and/or industry. Blogs can now be set up for free at Google Blogger. Stay away from controversial topics and people on any type of site that uses your real name. I’m all about verbal sparring and taking a stand in a particular belief. But when it comes to protecting and promoting your brand image, stay away from the polarizing characters and debates. You, being an elephant, just never know if your prospective boss is a donkey reading your rants and posts. Set up an alias account for this purpose. Build your online brand by positioning yourself as the best of brand professional you are!
Professional image is one of the most important intangibles in determining whether a job seeker will be considered or hired for position. Are you positioning yourself as a high-quality product or an also-ran commodity? Are you an achievement-minded problem solver that will create value for any organization or a C+, run-of-the-mill employee? Your brand image speaks louder than your words, so do everything you can to maximize it. In many cases, all it takes are some minor adjustments to some of the previously mentioned areas to boost your chances for getting noticed and getting hired!
You owe it to yourself to be the best you can possibly be. Realize your true potential and position yourself as the Apple or Berkshire Hathaway of your particular business.
They say history always repeats itself, but in this case I don’t think the concept ever went away. The rules and methods may have changed, but as Andre Agassi said in 1991, the same holds true for 2012: Image is Everything!