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So What's Your Personal Brand?

You're sending out resumes and getting nowhere. You wonder why employers aren't biting. You have the experience, the skills, a sharp resume. Landing an interview shouldn't be a problem. So what is the problem?

Your personal brand could have something to do with it. Everything is branded today, including job applicants. Think about the products you use and why you started buying them in the first place. There was something memorable about each product that piqued your interest to delve a little further, try it out (or on) and buy it.

Employers who are going through hundreds of resumes are no different. Of course, they're dealing with human beings instead of razors and soap, but the basics are the same. They're looking for people who pique their interest and make them want to hire.

It might be hard to think of yourself as a product, but that's what you are to a potential employer. The last thing you want to be is unsellable inventory that's sitting on the shelf gathering dust in this job market. And just like retail products, job applicants need a good hook -- e.g., a way to get the employer to delve a little further, to interview them and to hire them.

So how to you create a personal brand? The good news is, it's not that hard to get started. Here are some general tips:

1. Analyze your online footprint.
Google yourself to see what comes up -- the good, the bad and the potentially ugly. Modify what you can to look more professional. Goodbye, revealing Facebook profile picture. Hello, professional head shot.

2. Create your own website. Wordpress and Blogger make it easy to start your own website. This might be a general resume site or a blog. Create it in your name (www.janedoe.com) and keep it professional by offering your insights and advice on the industry you would like to enter (or re-enter). Update it regularly.

3. Be what they see.
Don't look like Polly Professional in your online photos but more like Polly Partier in person. An employer's worst nightmare is hiring Mr. Hyde but getting Dr. Jekyll on the job. Hiring managers are looking for the inconsistencies in your overall presentation, so deliver on your packaging. Make sure your offline persona matches your online persona. Think of it like selling a house: If you put photos of your house online that don't match what potential buyers see when they stop by for a showing, they'll walk away with nagging doubts.

4. Create a logo. A resume with a hand drawn logo or professional head shot will help you stand out in the hiring manager's mind right away. You want the hiring manager flipping through the short stack of resumes thinking, "Where did I put the one with the sunburst logo on it?" They might not remember your name at first but they'll remember your branding. Humans are visual creatures, so use it to your advantage.

5. Find a slogan. Why not? All good brands have one. Sit down and sum up your personal brand in 10 words or less. If you're looking for a job as an accountant, you might use something like, "You can count on me to count for you." I just made this slogan up in the last 10 seconds; I'm sure you can come up with something even snappier. A slogan shows you have creativity, spark and are working hard to set yourself apart. Don't get too crazy but have fun with it. Ask friends and family for their ideas, too. As Nike would say, Just Do It.

6. Create a business card. Invest in a set of business cards that includes your name, logo or headshot, contact information and slogan. You're in business now, and your business is finding a job. Create your own thank-you cards to snail mail after an interview. Yes, snail mail. Emailed thank-you notes are tacky. Write a personal note that thanks the interviewer for his or her time and reiterates how much you're interested in the company and the job. Mail all thank-you cards within 24 hours.

7. Synch you social media pages. Can you make your logo the wallpaper for your Twitter page and add a professional head shot? Adjust your LinkedIn page accordingly, too. You are on Twitter and LinkedIn, right? Think of them as free opportunities for personal branding.

8. Look for unique opportunities. Making a brand stand out is getting harder, so you have to get creative. The most successful brands continually look for new ways to sneak into our heads. Why not create a t-shirt to wear during your off hours that has your name and logo on the front and your resume on the back? Hey, you never know who might be standing behind you in line. It's a conversation starter, anyway. Say goodbye to the Life is Good t-shirt and hello to Brand Me.

9. Get away from your computer. In this world of online job hunting, it's easy to sit in front of a screen all day long. Make it a personal challenge to attend a few offline networking events every month. It might be a Chamber of Commerce after hours function, a presentation at a local university, or a job networking group that meets over coffee. Look for anything that vaguely relates to what you would like to be doing professionally. Getting away from your computer also forces you to practice the social skills you'll need for interviews.

10. Do some freelancing. Look for side projects that build your personal brand. Ask people you know for project leads, check out sites like Guru.com and Elance.com, advertise your services on Craigslist, Twitter, Facebook and anywhere else you can think of. You may do so well as a freelancer you don't need to work for anyone else but yourself ever again. Besides, busy hands are happy, less neurotic hands.

Of course, Former Labor Secretary Robert Reich says on his blog that we're about to head into a double dip recession so tighten your seat belt. Well, anything that makes you stand out from the competition in this economy won't hurt. I still think personal branding is the way to go.

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