Personal Branding: Developing Your Clients' Competitive Edge

By Dan Schawbel

Competition for College and Jobs is the Problem
The competition is constantly intensifying for college and job applicants.

  • 5.6 million college applications were filled out in 2007. Top tier schools, such as Harvard, accepted less than 9% of candidates.
  • There were 1.3 million college graduates in the class of 2007 in the United States.
  • Employers expect to receive 73 applications for each available entry-level position according to Monster.com.

Both prospective college students and entry-level candidates will require a new innovation in order to contend in a world where competition reigns and supply for certain jobs, such as advertising, and colleges, such as Princeton, are declining. The question countless individuals are asking is "what can the client do now that will better prepare the client for the future?"

Personal Branding is the Solution
The answer lies in a concept called "Personal Branding." The notion that an individual can take on a brand name, as corporations and products have in the past, is revolutionary. By definition,Personal Branding is an individual's total perceived value, relative to competitors, as viewed by their target audience. In this situation, the audience is either a hiring manager or college that has to review numerous resumes and applications over a set period of time. The goal is to take your client from where the client is to where the client wants to be, by examining the client's Personal Brand. The generic makeup of the client's Personal Brand lies in the integration of four distinct elements: appearance, personality, competencies and a differentiator.

The Four Elements Defined:

  • Appearance is how the client dresses and the nonverbal body language.
  • Personality is the client's behavior and interactions with the target audience.
  • Competencies are the skills necessary to fulfill a job or scholastic-related requirements.
  • A differentiator is the deciding factor in an interview because it allows the recruiter to select one candidate over another.

The assimilation of all four elements is your client's core message or elevator pitch to the target audience. Each element secures an area where an individual must discover, create and maintain.

Where do you start with your client?
Discovering the client's brand is the hardest part, but time invested in this area will help expedite the creation process later. Remember that your client's success is representative of your success, so be proactive in developing the client's brand. To find the client's Personal Brand, you must identify the client's values, interests, objectives and long-term goals. To do this:

1. Brainstorm these areas

2. Start piecing together who the client is now and is determined to become in the future

3. Highlight the client's strengths in each area for each element and work with the client to weave a core message.

There are two parts of your client's brand to which you must pay close attention. The intangible part is the client's core message, and the tangible part is the client's "Personal Branding Kit." Consider this kit a personal sales kit, configured to the specifications of the client's target audience. The collateral represented in this kit includes a resume, cover letter, references document, e-profile or personal website, work portfolio, and flash introduction (using the client's core message). You have used many of these materials as best practices in the past.

When you have completed both the client's core message and the Personal Branding Kit, it is time for them to actively apply to colleges or entry-level positions. Your job is never finished, even after the client's acceptance letter, because a Personal Brand is grown and maintained over time. The growth is naturally associated with the client's career development, including new knowledge and experiences. It's your job to be the point of contact for Personal Brand growth over time and to ensure that the client's brand is not only positive, but it is consistent.

Competitive Edge!
As competition for jobs and college entrance increases, candidates are forced to differentiate in order to achieve success. Personal Branding is a new concept that enhances the competitiveness of clients. Soon your clients will be requesting information on Personal Branding, so that they will have a competitive edge in the marketplace. Personal Branding requires an up front investment of time, with brainstorm sessions, uncovering interests, and developing the core message. By helping your clients discover, create and maintain their brand over time, they will contribute to their success, and your own.


Dan Schawbel, MS (Marketing), has a world recognized blog, a TV podcast series, awards and a magazine on the subject of Personal Branding. He is also the creator of the first 360 degree personal brand website that mixes his professional and personal life together fused with social media. Dan has been featured in Fast Company Magazine, BrandWeek Magazine, Yahoo! Finance and has written for The American Marketing Association, MarketingProfs and other major resources. As a product of Personal Branding, Dan strives to further the practice, by teaching others how they can achieve the same success.
DanSchawbel.com - http://www.danschawbel.com/
Personal Branding Magazine - http://www.personalbrandingmag.com/
Personal Branding Blog - http://www.personalbrandingblog.com/
Personal Brand Awards - http://www.personalbrandawards.com/
Personal Branding TV - http://www.personalbrandingtv.com/

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