5 On Your Side

Career branding can help you stand out

Posted June 11, 2009

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— With the nation's unemployment rate at a 26 -year high, the job market is obviously competitive. But there are ways to help you stand out from other applicants: branding.

Personal branding is big in tough job market Personal branding is big in tough job market

Debbie Castrodale is a career coach with the Avadon Group. She teaches a class on how to make yourself shine by coming up with your own personal brand.

Among her students is Diane Clark, an executive assistant, who was laid off after 13 years.

“It's really hard,” she said.

Another student, former sales manager Manuel Zepeda, has been unemployed for two months.

“It's tough not knowing where the next paycheck will come from,” he said.

Joanne Granger, an associate director of clinical research, found herself out of a job after more than 20 years.

“I want to learn how to sell myself,” she said.

But Castrodale says before the students can sell themselves, they must brand themselves.

“You have to differentiate yourself. You've got to take your top three or four benefits, and my hope would be you could package those into a brand that is memorable,” Castrodale said.

She shared an example with her class from a former student.

“It sounds cheesy, but she said, 'Everybody called her the energizer bunny at work.' But she had a great story to back it up, why she was scripted as the energizer bunny. Right, wrong, or indifferent, guess who I'm going to remember?” Castrodale said.

Castrodale also says a background story is just as important.

“I don't need to know how many phone calls you needed to make, how many contacts, (or) how many letters you wrote. I don't need to now all the details. I quickly need to know the situation because what I'm listening for is the outcome. But the story again needs to back up the brand, the person that you say that you are,” Castrodale said.

Castrodale says everyone has a story to tell.

“Pick a defining moment. Was there a time in your life where you had what I call an ah-ha moment, where you decided that's how I knew I wanted to be a writer. Or that's how come I knew I wanted to build houses,” Castrodale said.

Students say the class shows how different today's job search market is from the last time they looked for work.

“I've always been sort of more introverted and laid back and let my actions speak for themselves. Now it's something I've got to let people know what I've done in the past,” Granger said.

“The competition is so fierce, so fierce out there with so many people unemployed. I'm trying to find just that one little piece that might make me stand out,” Clark said.

Castrodale says standing out is what it is all about.

“I am hiring skills and talents. But I'm a person. And I'm hiring a person. And so at the end of the day, I want to hire somebody I like. That I'm going to have a good time working with,” Castrodale said.

Castrodale also wants to point out that most people who get hired know someone in the organization, or have some sort of a connection. So even when you are just meeting new people, she says it is important to share your personal brand and make yourself memorable.

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