You are a dynamic, energetic, creative, and smart person. You know how to get results, you’ve built some amazing relationships throughout your career, and when someone wants to get something done, they turn to you because they know they can count on you to do whatever it takes. In short, you are one in a million, and any employer would be thrilled to have you on their team.
That is, if they actually read your resume. You might be one in a million, but the way you’re branding yourself makes you sound just like everyone else. Based on how you’re presenting yourself in your resume and online profiles, you might as well just be another zombie, shuffling around with the crowd without any particular destination or defined goal. It might sound harsh, but if you aren’t getting calls or hearing from recruiters, it’s probably the truth.
What Is Zombie Branding?
You might think that a trend that most branding experts list among the worst possible mistakes anyone can make with their brand would be uncommon, but the opposite is true. In fact, most people who have a zombie brand think that they are doing the right thing, since they are doing what they’ve always been told to do.
Simply put, a zombie brand is one that lacks life or personality. It’s the same language that every job seeker uses to find a job: “Motivated, results-oriented professional with experience in cross-functional teams who meets or exceeds expectations in all areas.” Did your eyes glaze over? What does any of that even mean, really? It must mean something because the recruiter you sent that to saw it on 50 other resumes today – but does it say anything about you as an individual? Or could it describe anyone?
Zombies personal branding is filled with buzzwords and empty, meaningless phrases that don’t describe you or your capabilities. Describing yourself as a “results-oriented professional” doesn’t define you, nor does it tell an employer anything meaningful. It doesn’t provide any context for your skills, any clue about what drives you, or any insight into what you bring to the table. It does show that you can regurgitate what employers list in their job postings as far as desirable traits (and yes, employers are to blame for the zombie outbreak as well), but it does nothing to differentiate you from your competition.
Channeling Your Inner Daryl Dixon
You may not consider yourself a zombie hunter, but you want to protect your personal brand against the brain eaters. That means not only avoiding buzzwords and empty descriptions like the plague, but also remembering a few key aspects of personal branding:
- Be authentic.
- Focus not on your achievements, but how you can put them to work for others.
- Start with the why. Why should someone hire you? What makes you different?
- Be consistent. Branding is all about consistency.
This is not impossible to do. Many people, such as journalist Amy Walter who has painstakingly built her brand around being a political analyst with plenty of Washington insiders at her beck and call, have mastered the art of personal branding and setting themselves apart from the crowd. Again, this means thinking about your audience’s dreams, goals, and aspirations, and how you can help them achieve them. It’s not about how awesome you are, but about how awesome you can help them be with your skills and talents.
Authentic, non-zombie branding also means moving away from the superlatives and the clever descriptions and offering evidence of your credibility. In other words, don’t tell employers that you are results-oriented and expect them to believe it. Offer evidence of your skills with concrete facts, numbers, and testimonials. In fact, any time you use a superlative, be sure that it comes from someone else, not you. That gives you credibility and sets you apart, not the buzzword that everyone else is using too.
Building a personal brand takes time, and you must work at it. Don’t fall into the trap of relying on generic, one-size-fits-all descriptions, though. You are in individual, so don’t be afraid to show your individuality. Being different will get attention, and get you interviews, where employers can see exactly how great you are, and that the dynamic, engaging person presented on paper was only the beginning.