This time of year is when most Undergraduate students are hot on the hunt for jobs after graduation. Companies are going around to various schools, touting themselves to be best employers around and trying to recruit the best future talent. A year ago, I remember being one of those students. I remember being fascinated by all the different offerings of various companies, the thought of earning some good money and most importantly the distinguished nature of some job titles... Assistant Brand Manager of this... Assistant Marketing Manager of that. It's safe to say that there were many carrots being dangled before me and I was a sucker for every one of them.
Little did I know, this was all a big trap. It is a common trap that most Undergrads fall for. The beauty of the trap is how it can fool you into making you think you are someone who you really aren't. The idea is pretty simple: A company comes along and advertises a position. Naturally this position will have a short description, some responsibilities and then some traits/experience that the ideal candidate should have. A foolish student like me, would look at the position being offered (the carrot being dangled) and consider all the benefits of getting the position - the status, the money... possibly the responsibility - then, essentially transform him or herself into the ideal candidate. This is done by finding a few specific lines in the job description and merely tailoring your cover letter/resume to match those lines exactly. The problem with this method... is that it's an entirely backward way of approaching any job application. It is the clearest sign that you have fallen into the big trap.
There is a way to avoid the trap. Having fallen victim of the trap myself and after having experienced a fair amount of failures in the hunt for a job, I have found myself in a position where I can offer advice to someone who is just starting out. It's simple... you have to define your personal brand. Regardless of whether or not you are considering marketing as a career, you are already a brand manager... the brand you manage is your own. I challenge you to define who you are. Understand everything about yourself - strengths, weaknesses and competitive advantage. I don't really know if I'm making this sound easy, but if I am... I'm saying something wrong, because this is not an easy thing to do. However, the beautiful thing about it is that, once you have defined your own brand... then you are ready to match yourself with another brand. This makes the task of identifying with a company much easier. The approach is the right way round now, the company is not recruiting you... you are in fact recruiting the company.
You have probably noticed that I have a few pictures of Rafael Nadal scattered throughout this post. The reason for that is because in my eyes, Nadal is a brilliant example of someone who re-defined his personal brand this year... and was very successful as a result. At the start of the year he made a statement about how his goal was to win the US Open (having never done so in the past). Many people still saw Nadal as a clay court player and didn't really think a hardcourt surface would suit his game. On Monday, September 13th of this year.. he did it. Not only did he win the US Open but he also won the French and Wimbeldon titles earlier in the year as well. Nadal re-defined his personal brand and developed himself into a truly dominant all-surface tennis player.
Final thought: Understanding who you are today, is the the biggest step towards becoming the person you will be tomorrow.