By L. Drew Gerber
Whether you are looking for a job, thinking of starting your own business or even steadily working for someone else, this is a good time to start marketing and branding yourself.
Companies have long known the importance of making a name for their products and services to set themselves apart from their competition. Today's rapidly shifting economy combined with our increasingly Web-driven communications make it essential for individuals to constantly assess, update and promote their skills.
OK, you say, I understand why Microsoft, Apple, Nike, Kellogg's, Campbell's and Nabisco brand themselves. I'm not a computer, a shoe or a can of soup.
Well, just like those companies, you face competition every day, whether you know it or not. Branding yourself is the key to standing out, no matter if you are selling a product, a service or yourself.
This economy makes it essential for us all to rethink how we view and market ourselves. Why? If you are searching for a job, you are up against who knows how many applicants, many of whom will be promoting themselves as the most qualified.
Even if you have a job, it is really important to brand yourself because, in an unstable economy, you don't know what may happen in the future.
Plenty of employees who thought they might spend their entire careers with companies like General Motors now find themselves in a job market that is vastly different from those faced by previous generations. Online employment services such as Monster.com, Indeed.com and CareerBuilder.com have a far reach for both job seekers and employers. Companies that are hiring are accustomed to being flooded with resumes.
Many available jobs, whether full time, freelance or contractual, are under the radar and never posted. That makes it more important than ever to network. And there have never been more tools and services, most of them free, to get your name and credentials out there.
Here are a few tips for creating and marketing your brand:
•Use online social networking: Beverly Shepard posted a reward of up to $6,000 on LinkedIn for help landing a new job after a newspaper eliminated her position as marketing manager. She was flooded with leads and publicity from her post on LinkedIn, which reaches an estimated 40 million people. Your Facebook friends list right now may hold the keys to new opportunities you haven't dreamed of. The exponential reach of social networking makes it an essential tool for extending your networking reach.
•Position yourself as an expert: Your interests, talents, skills, education, hobbies and perspectives are unique. You may have in-depth knowledge, experience or a passionate interest in a particular area but have never thought about using the Web to share it. Free services such as www.PitchRate.com help you to do your own public relations and get valuable exposure in the media. I developed PitchRate to connect journalists with expert sources. Sign up, and you may be contacted and asked to speak as an authority or share your story as it relates to a particular topic or trend in the news. It's another way to get the word out and brand yourself.
•Network through associations: Even if you have not yet made the change to a new career, joining and becoming active in a professional association is a proven path for marketing yourself. Meeting other people involved in the same line of work will help you get up to date on the latest trends affecting that business and build networks that can lead to future opportunities.
If you are looking for a job today, you can't rest on your resume. What wins the day is creativity, persistence and the motivation to promote yourself. There have never been more tools or a better time to do it.
About the Author: L. Drew Gerber is CEO of Blue Kangaroo, Inc. and creator of www.PitchRate.com, a no-charge media tool that moves the best interviews to the front of the line for journalists and producers. Gerber's business practices and staffing innovations have been revered by PR Week, Good Morning America and the Christian Science Monitor. His companies handle international PR campaigns such as Landmark Education, Grameen Foundation, the Ms. Foundation for Women and Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day, and his staff develops online press kits for authors, speakers and companies with PressKit 24/7, a technology he developed (www.PressKit247.com). Contact L. Drew Gerber at: firstname.lastname@example.org, or call him at 828-749-3182