Forget personal branding – use competitive advantage in your job search
Since the Recession, career coaches have been preaching the need for personal branding in the job search.  However, many job seekers don’t fully understand what “branding” means.
What is branding?
In a nutshell, branding is a marketing concept, where a company will use consistent messages and images to convey an overall impression of their goods or products.  Corporations like McDonald’s, Pepsi and Nike spend millions on branding, just to create a positive image in consumer’s minds.  But job seekers can struggle with the cohesive image.
There is a better way: Competitive Advantage
In the business sense, competitive advantage is what sets one company apart from the competition.  It could be a unique product or service, their effective distribution or even their customer service.  Every successful company has some sort of competitive advantage.  The highly successful ones know how to use that edge to gain a greater market share.
Find your edge
What do you do that is better than the competition?  Are you an efficient worker?  Or a creative problem solver?  Is it your education or experience?  What do you really have to offer as an employee?
Accomplishments, past performance reviews, promotions and awards can be competitive advantages.  Accomplishments don’t have to be just awards; they can also be the intensity of your work.  For example, an accountant who creates the financials for a $14M company is very different that the accountant who handles the books for a $1M company.  Telling the employers about quantifiable workloads always adds to your worth.
Know the competition
In order to make the most out of competitive advantage, you must have some understanding of the competition.  Otherwise, how will you know that you have an advantage at all?
For example, Denver has one of the highest amounts of bachelor degrees in the country.  This makes it difficult for job seekers without degrees to compete.  However, if you can find a different advantage – such as practical experience or specialized training – you can step around the competition to land the job.
Know your target employer
Communication and research can provide a leg-up over the competition too.  In job seeking, the person who gets their resume directly to the hiring manager has a huge advantage.  Research the company and the target hiring manager fully.  When you do contact them, speak to their needs, not about what you want.  If you’ve done your research correctly, you should have some insight into their company, what they do and how you can help them reach their goals.
Donna Shannon teaches three great classes for job seekers at Colorado Free University, Ace the Interview, How to Write a Relevant Resume, and Get the Job: How To Build an Effective Job Search Strategy.  See her classes in the career section of the CFU course offerings.