6 Personal Branding Mistakes That Can Threaten Your Job Search

In their haste to differentiate themselves during the worst job market in decades, job seekers are making personal branding mistakes that can undermine their job search efforts. Here are six things that you should never do.

Wed, January 13, 2010

CIO — In 2009, personal branding became the buzzword of choice for job seekers and career coaches alike, and for good reason. When done right, personal branding—the act of identifying and communicating your unique value to people who can help advance your career—promised to be the job seeker's silver bullet, his surefire way to stand out in a crowded job market.

[ 8 Personal Branding Tips That Will Help You Stand Out ]

The social media and social networking technologies that took 2009 by storm sure made personal branding easy. Too easy, perhaps, since many job seekers made careless mistakes in their haste to brand their way to a new job.

Personal branding experts say some of these mistakes can undermine professionals' job searches and career management plans. For example, too much self-promotion can alienate the audience you're trying to reach, says Catherine Kaputa, an advertising executive turned personal branding strategist.

[ Personal Branding Really Is the Key to Finding a New Job ]

Kaputa and two other prominent personal branding strategists list the six most common and most damaging personal branding mistakes people make, so that as you recharge your job search for the new year, you can ensure your personal branding efforts put your best face forward.

[Find out how one IT infrastructure director is putting the promises of personal branding to the test in her job search: Developing a Personal Brand for Your Job Search ]

1. Putting the cart before the horse. The biggest and most common mistake people make is using the tools for personal branding, such as blogs, LinkedIn and Twitter, without first taking the time to define a strong, authentic brand for themselves.

"One of the most prevalent myths about personal branding is that it has to do with just creating a lot of visibility," says personal branding strategist and Career Distinctionco-author Kirsten Dixson.

Consequently, people lay "a lot of digital footprints," she says, before considering who they are, what they want to become known for long-term, and how they can differentiate themselves from people with similar goals and backgrounds.

Kaputa advises clients to think strategically when they're defining their personal brand. She recommends they go through many of the same exercises marketers use when releasing a new product. These include such tactics as: SWOT analyses, setting goals for themselves, considering the visual and verbal identity for their personal brand, and establishing a marketing plan for themselves.

Dixson says honing in on your personal brand is hard and takes time, but it's worth the effort as it guides all of your future personal branding efforts. What's more, many of the other personal branding mistakes people make stem from not having a clearly articulated brand. Therefore, taking the time to define your brand sets you up for success and function as a preventative measure.

2. Having an unfocused brand. Many job seekers purport to practice personal branding. But instead of identifying and demonstrating their unique value through their communications, they continue to brand themselves as, say, an IT project management expert and a business process improvement expert and a virtualization expert.

"People have 'slash' identities, and it's a problem," says Kaputa, author of You Are a Brand! "In the world of branding, being a generalist, jack-of-all-trades gets you nowhere."

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