Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Brand Yourself

Build your brand and spread the word to succeed.
To get a job and keep it, market yourself effectively


In traditional Japanese culture, conventional wisdom dictates that you shouldn't stand out, invoking the metaphor of the nail that gets beaten down because it's higher than the rest. That may no longer be true, but in the United States, success is often determined by individual achievements. Even in team settings, we invariably gravitate toward individual performers and stars.

To have a successful career, one must cultivate an individual identity a brand, if you will. Yet it's vitally important to build a network of connections to make it happen. Three new
books attempt to explain how it's done.

Me 2.0: Build a Powerful Brand to Achieve Career Success. Dan Schawbel. Kaplan Publishing. 256 pages.
Dan Schawbel's title suggests reinvention, but it's really about refining one's identity (and the perception of it) to align with who you are and what you do. He presents a very detailed and comprehensive guide to employing a full arsenal of mostly online tools — including social networking — to develop a public persona that will enable you to be the go-to person for your area of expertise. In addition, he provides a very thoughtful set of self-assessments and bullet points for evaluating and acting upon the appropriate combination of tactics to ensure that top of mind attention is paid.

Much of what he writes may be obvious to regular (and mature) participants of social networking sites, though it's also a brave (and cowardly) new world out there and the risk of tainting one's reputation and poisoning the well in other ways has increased exponentially, at the very least. But Schawbel also throws in a bunch of fundamental tips for career development and life in general that make his book a valuable one-stop source of practical wisdom.

Career Building: Your Total Handbook for Finding a Job and Making It Work. The editors of Careerbuilder.com. Collins Business. 288 pages.
With this book, the recruitment website CareerBuilder does a better job than rival Monster.com did in their effort a few years back in offering an accelerated course in virtual and actual job hunting. The dirty truth is that most online job applications rarely elicit responses. It's a buyers' market right now, so few employers apparently feel the need to respond to or acknowledge receipt of an e-mailed or online application — or are so
swamped that they simply do not have the time to just set up an autoresponder. But rudeness aside, there are right and wrong ways to conduct an employment campaign, and it's worth understanding the process regardless of which side of the desk you sit on.

Though other books like Sweaty Palms and What Color Is Your Parachute provide similar tutelage, this is an excellent and very current primer for those starting out — or starting over.

Who's Got Your Back: The Breakthrough Program to Build Deep, Trusting Relationships that Create Success and Won't Let You Fail. Keith Ferrazzi. Broadway Business. 336 pages.
Never Eat Alone, Ferrazzi's previous book, is often lauded by networking gurus, though I disagreed with its title, since I prefer solitude for lunch, at least occasionally. In terms of networking, however, this forthcoming book (due next month) takes it to the next step. Instead of going wide, the author narrows his focus and advocates establishing a few super strong ''lifeline relationships.'' This team will guide and support you through the ebb and flow of your career — and life. The idea of mentoring is certainly not a new one, though in this age, when some of our strongest relationships are virtual and not face-to-face, Ferrazzi's update is a valuable and useful contribution.

published in The Miami Herald on 4/20/09

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