4 ways to improve your personal brand

Our agency does quite a bit of branding work for clients. In fact, our first engagement with new clients is usually a brand audit, which fleshes out values, ideals, differentiation, target market, etc. Basically, we give companies a personality that they can feasibly deliver on. In doing so, we focus on four elements to ensure a strong brand essence:

1. Credibility
2. Relevance
3. Differentiation
4. Consistency

Without these four elements it is still possible to have a good business, but it is likely that you won’t have a memorable brand.

But in this era of economic downturn, we aren’t doing as many brand audits. In fact, many people in the advertising industry are getting let go. So how are these people going to get new jobs? The best way, in my opinion, is to leverage their personal brand. It’s really their reputation, but if you think of it as a personal brand, it can be easier to dissect for these four elements to ensure it is working for you instead of against you.

Ask yourself the following questions:

Credibility
Are you credible? Do you pad your resume unnecessarily? Do you over-embellish details of the stories you tell? Do you have a reputation for being truthful?

Relevance
Are you up to date on your industry? Do you have a reputation for being a dinosaur or for being inflexible?

Differentiation
What makes you different than any other applicant out there? What do you stand for? What are your three best attributes?

Consistency
Are you consistent in your behavior? Is it consistently good or bad?

Even if you can answer all of these questions yourself, your should corroborate them with colleagues and friends – ask for honest feedback. I think if you have the temerity to go through with this exercise, you’ll get some surprising results, but valuable ones, all the same. In fact, it can be the most valuable brand audit you’ll ever go through.

11 Tips for getting the job you want right out of school

gradEvery so often I am asked to speak to business co-op students at the local universities about breaking into advertising. The truth is that advertising agencies hire people much like any other business does. So, if you’re interested in getting the job you want right out of school, here are 11 tips for getting hired at an agency or any other business.

1. Don’t just be interesting, be interested.

I’m sure your trip to Thailand last year was fascinating. But I want to know what you know with respect to my industry. Do some research about the company you’re interviewing with before you walk through the door. Know about the industry, the competition, and the clients/customers. At the very least, have a good understanding of the kind of position you’re seeking.
2. Ask good questions.
Leading with “So, how much vacation time do people get around here?” only leads to the door. If you lead with “I noticed that retail sales tend to fall off after Christmas, how do you overcome this challenge?” I’ll take notice. Remember, the more the I talk, the better for you.
3. Schedule informational interviews.
I have yet to meet an employer who has turned down a request for an informational interview. Why? We love to talk about ourselves and our companies. You should also schedule interviews with people who have jobs you’d like to get. For example, if you want to be an account coordinator, go meet with one. And believe me, it’s much easier to meet with an account coordinator than it is to meet with the president.
4. We’re not interested in what we can do for you – We’re interested in what you can do for us.
We know you’d like to make some money to move out of your parent’s basement, but we’re not a charity. If you can’t tell us what you can do for us, you can look forward to more of mom’s cooking for the next while.
5. Smile.
A great attitude is everything at the entry level. Don’t walk in to an interview looking like you’re passing a gallstone. Who wants to work with that guy? A company I really admire, Westjet, hires for attitude and trains for skill.
6. Have someone rate your handshake.
Sounds cheesy, but it’s a first impression. There is nothing worse than a limp handshake or when someone doesn’t look you in the eye. It says ‘I’m not confident’.
7. Spell check your resume.
True story. I received a resume from a Communications Professional who misspelled “Comunications”. No, she did not receive a callback.
8. Tell people you’re looking.
Most jobs come from weak links/acquaintances (people you’ve only met once or twice). So the more people who know you’re looking for a job, the better for you. And be specific about what you’re looking for.
9. Carry business cards.
Much as you’d like me to, I won’t store your resume on my desk and look at it daily. You need to communicate with me on my terms. That means get yourself a business card.
10. Suck it up and network.
Give your resume a face and personality. Go to industry functions and meet your potential employers.
11. For god’s sake, follow up.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve given my business card out to a room full of students only to have 4 of them actually contact me. If you want to separate yourself from the pack, pick up the phone and call me.

There’s a great book I’d recommend to anyone looking for a job. It’s called Work The Pond, written by a former colleague of mine, Darcy Rezac.