Today’s post is in honor of Job Action Day, a day for all job-seekers and workers to take stock of their situations and make plans and/or take action steps to improve their careers. QuintCareers.com spearheads and runs this event every year, and I’m delighted to contribute and to suggest you visit other post about the topic. Follow #JAD2012 on Twitter for information.
Experts often disagree about exactly how important it is for job seekers and professionals to focus on the concept of what is widely known as a “personal brand.” Reach Personal Branding defines the personal brand as:
“What is authentic to you, differentiating from your peers and relevant and compelling to those who are making decisions about you…Personal Branding is the process of unearthing your unique promise of value and demonstrating that value in everything you do. It’s about consistently being your best self so you achieve your goals while adding tremendous value to your team, organization and company.”
So, what’s controversial? Some people believe asking people to focus on themselves and their brand is self-centered, and any “branding” they do is too ego-centric to be important for job seekers or others who seek to advance their careers.
Regardless of what you believe about the existing conversation about personal branding, one thing is certain: the job market is changing. Research continues to come out showing that the contingent – otherwise known as temporary, or contract, workforce, is growing. The Harvard Business Review’s Tammy Erikson wrote, “Temporary placement service provider Adecco predicts the growth rate for contingent workers will be three to four times the growth rate among traditional workforces, and that they eventually will make up about 25% of the global workforce.”
What does this mean for you? Even if you have a traditional job now, you may eventually find yourself in a position where your livelihood depends on your ability to market yourself as a one-person company. The writing is on the wall: the job market and career opportunities are changing – you need to change, too. If you want to secure a place as a known expert in your field – someone people will mention and refer to others – for both traditional and contract jobs, it’s up to you to step up and focus on what you have to offer outside the walls of your traditional office and beyond the realm of the colleagues who know you personally.
Hannah Morgan and I have been discussing personal branding as it relates to people who many need to start to re-envision themselves as entrepreneurs instead of job seekers. We even coined a new term that we believe hones in on what people engaged in personal branding really need to understand.
The term is VIV-id, which stands for Virtual Individual Verified-id.
Dictionary.com defines the word vivid:
1. strikingly bright or intense, as color, light, etc.: a vivid green.
2. full of life; lively; animated: a vivid personality.
3. presenting the appearance, freshness, spirit, etc., of life; realistic: a vivid account.
4. strong, distinct, or clearly perceptible: a vivid recollection.
5. forming distinct and striking mental images: a vivid imagination.
We thought it was a perfect launching pad for an acronym to replace the term personal brand, and to help people redefine the concept in a way that makes sense for today’s reality. (Note: we’re not redefining the concept of personal branding, but we hope this new term, broken into definable parts, can help clarify the elements that go into creating a strong personal brand.)
Virtual reminds us that we no longer have the luxury to bask solely in a community of people who know us personally if we want to be competitive in this new economy. Instead, we’ll all be judged, in part, based on our online and social media activity — our virtual selves.
Individual concentrates on what is unique and special about you. You want to know yourself first and be sure the “package” you create represents you authentically as an individual. You won’t be able to represent your VIV-id without knowing yourself and engaging in some self-exploration. This piece of the acronym also reminds us that your “real” self (not only your “virtual” identity) comprises your VIV-id (your personal brand).
Verified. This is an important factor we believe many people overlook. It refers to the fact that we cannot define ourselves inside of a vacuum if we want to make effective connections with other people. In other words, you can do a lot of self-reflection and know what YOU offer, but that is only part of the equation. You must also look outside of your own needs, skills and accomplishments and understand how to market what you offer in a way that your target audience will appreciate it.
Reach’s definition captures this concept by explaining that your brand should be “relevant and compelling to those who are making decisions about you.” Hannah and I hope choosing the word “verified” (as in researched, or double-checked) as 25% of our acronym to explain the concept of personal branding will remind people to focus on this important aspect of learning to market their own skills.
My analogy for this concept of “verified” is wrapping a gift. When you focus on your VIV-id, you package yourself, and it’s important to consider the recipients in order to ensure they are thrilled with the offering . For example, if you are preparing a gift for a 4-year old boy, it’s unlikely you’ll use pink, frilly bows and princesses. Even if you really love pink, bows and princesses, you’ll think first of the little boy and what he will want; what will make the package look like it was uniquely prepared for him?
Similarly, it’s your job to research and investigate exactly what you offer that your target audience will appreciate. (It’s going to be a little more involved than deciding a young boy likely prefers cars and trucks to frilly ribbons.) You’ll need to study job descriptions, read and analyze online information from companies that interest you, comb through publications and blogs from thought leaders in your field, conduct online and in-person conversations and read what’s said at your professional associations and conferences.
The Id refers to your psyche, or your unconscious. It is closely aligned to something that makes you happy, or gives you pleasure. It’s an important piece of this definition, not just because it rounds out the acronym, but because, to be most successful, what you offer should be authentic (real) and something you’re excited to showcase.
Hannah and I hope re-explaining the concept of personal branding via this new acronym will help job seekers and potential entrepreneurs focus on what is really important when they market themselves. Think about your VIV-id — how can you define and package what you offer?