Skill Development = A Better Personal Brand

I was hoping to begin a new series on the importance of personal branding after the New Year – and I’ll do so in detail, but I read an article posted to Bloomberg News today that illustrates the importance of developing and cultivating a personal brand. In fact, I believe that personal branding could literally mean the difference between success and failure for a significant portion of the American workforce.

Without question, the US unemployment rate is troubling – especially to the millions of job-seekers competing for the attention of Hiring Managers. Interestingly (and not as surprising as one might believe), there is an equally high number of available jobs (and open positions) that cannot be filled because of the lack of qualified applicants:

Skills ‘Mismatch’ Hurts Unemployed in U.S. as Job Openings Grow

Federal Reserve policy makers yesterday said that while the American job market shows signs of improving, they are still concerned with the “elevated” level of unemployment. One reason may be because employers can’t find qualified help, according to economists like Dean Maki…

“What’s going on here is a mismatch of the skills of the unemployed and at least some of the positions that are becoming available,” Maki, chief U.S. economist at Barclays Capital in New York, said in an interview. “This seems to be slowing the pace of filling those job openings.”

A dearth of skilled applicants may prevent the unemployment rate from declining further and could crimp consumer spending, which accounts for about 70 percent of the economy. Companies also may remain reluctant to expand their workforces as the threat from Europe’s debt crisis and political gridlock in the U.S. weighs on the economic outlook.

The article is very insightful, especially as it relates to industries impacted by this conundrum – and the view of officials from the Federal government (click the article title above to read it in entirety). I’d like to underscore what I see as an obvious opportunity for job applicants to develop their personal brands so that they can differentiate themselves from other job-seekers: skill development.

By definition, a  brand is a design, mark, symbol or other device that distinguishes one line or type of goods from those of a competitor. Branding – specifically personal branding is assigning value or attributes that distinguish you from someone else, creating an identity in the minds of others about you and your skills or talents.

By developing skills and talents that separate you from other job seekers, you’re allowing Hiring Managers to develop a positive identity of you, so much so that they’ll be confident that you are qualified to help them solve their business challenges. These are my two key tenets to help one begin the process of developing their skills:

  • Read. I know it sounds simple, but you should always seek to read all information relating to your career or industry. Thanks to the internet, it’s easy to access newspapers, business journals, applicable industry or market magazines and journals, and corporate websites. Don’t have a computer at home? No problem – visit your local library.
  • Access vocational courses through community colleges and/or your local Department of Labor. Many companies provide free training through municipal government and social service agencies, so look for and take advantage of free training. If you have internet access, there is a plethora of free courses online to help enhance your skills (various Microsoft courses, communication courses, videos and recorded presentations, and more).

I could go into detail, but you get my point – differentiation begins with an individual’s desire to distinguish him or herself from others. Am I off the mark here? What else can job-seekers do to ensure their skills match what Hiring Manager’s are looking for?


2 responses to “Skill Development = A Better Personal Brand

  1. Dr. Bolden

    You are not at all off the mark. As a matter of fact, the Bureau of Labor statistics (BLS) supports your assertion, as the unemployment rate amongst the college educated is about 1/3rd of that of those with no college education, and has been that way for the last few years during this great recession. (

    This does not mean that competition is not high, but it does mean that there is opportunity for those who invest in their credentials and brand as a way to differentiate themselves. The current economic climate is a hurdle and not an excuse..

    • I agree – competition is a factor in unemployment, but the desire to outshine your “competitor” should drive you. Ten years ago, I was a successful yet freshly unemployed sales professional (the first of several subsequent downsizings) when I decided to go back to school and finish my undergrad degree. I had the practical experience, but my “competitors” were all college graduates, so I had to further develop my skills to elevate my brand.

      Three degrees later (including a Doctorate), I’ve never again been bested by a “competitor”, and I probably would’ve never re-evaluated my brand identity had I not been downsized in the first place.

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