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Refresh Your Resume & Revive Your Job Search With a Personal Brand

by Michelle Dumas

Unemployment is high and the job market is more competitive than ever. These factors are enough of a challenge for most job searchers; for the over-50 crowd they may seem insurmountable. After all, with so many candidates to choose from, how will you stand out and land the job you want, especially when competing with a younger workforce?

Luckily, there is an easy answer to that question -- infuse your resume with your personal brand.

With some changes to your resume, you can give it a makeover that provides a more "hip," fresh, and youthful appearance, promoting you and your value offering to employers in a compelling way that differentiates you from the masses (including the less "seasoned" job hunters!).

If you are not familiar with the term, personal branding (the process of clarifying and communicating what makes you and your unique value proposition different and special) allows you to make a name for yourself. It differentiates you from your peers and helps to position you as a leader in your field - as a specialist and an authority who knows how to do a job and fill a particular niche in the workplace better than anyone else.

Rather than finding yourself constantly pursuing jobs opportunities that never quite pan out, imagine what a positive and secure feeling it would be to have employers and recruiters actually seek YOU out. With some time and effort put into identifying and communicating YOUR personal brand as it relates to your career, even in the most competitive of job markets, this is one of the key benefits you will enjoy.

Here are 6 tips for incorporating your brand throughout your resume, your cover letters, and your entire career marketing portfolio.

Tip #1 - Define exactly what it is that makes you and your contribution to the workplace special and valuable. Are you a specialist in driving business growth, but more importantly, doing so in a profitable and sustainable way? Perhaps you are a rainmaker who has a talent for opening doors that nobody else can. Maybe your true talent is reorganizing operations and business processes to create maximum efficiency and streamline a company so that it can outpace the competition. Whatever your answer is will become the key factor in your personal brand.

Tip #2 - Branding provides your resume and other career marketing documents with instant, precision-like focus that positions you as the ideal candidate for the specific type of opportunity that interests you. An unfocused resume is boring and ineffective. An unfocused resume wastes your readers' time and will land in the circular file. A properly branded resume is, by definition, focused, and addresses not only your unique value proposition, but it does so in a way that addresses the concerns of your target audience. In other words, be certain that the way you express your personal brand will be relevant to the intended audience of your resume and is aligned with the overall focus of your resume.

Tip #3 - Use your personal brand profile and personal brand statement to project a cohesive brand image and value proposition across your resume, cover letters, and all your documents. In my work, I have the opportunity to review a lot of resumes, letters, biographies and other documents that my clients and prospective clients have tried to write for themselves. This tip relates to one of the most common mistakes that I see. Too many people try to be too many things to too many people. Their career marketing portfolios (resumes, cover letters, biographies, etc.) are a hodge-podge of documents written over a number of years and added onto randomly whenever the need arises for an updated resume. Certainly across the portfolio, and sometimes even within the same document, I find multiple design and content styles, as well as disconnected and outdated messages. When you brand your job search documents you immediately correct this problem.

Tip #4 - During the first review, resumes are scanned for mere seconds in a process that is meant to do nothing more than filter out unqualified candidates. Clearly and succinctly incorporating your personal brand statement into the profile or summary section of your resume is a way to ensure that your resume will stand out and get attention. One way to accomplish this is with a headline statement followed by a sub-headline that promotes your value proposition. The body of the summary should include accomplishments that serve as real-life examples of how your personal brand has added value for past employers.

Tip #5 - Personal branding gives you a way to truly let your personality shine through and to establish an emotional connection with your audience. It can be tough to make this connection in your resume, but your cover letters and your narrative biography are great opportunities to promote soft skills and weave in examples of key brand attributes. In a very real sense, personal branding requires that you be courageous about really "owning" yourself and acknowledging yourself for the strengths and value you bring to the table. Let your personality come across in your letters and in your biography. Don't be afraid to make a connection by accentuating your strengths and value proposition as they relate to your audience. This is a great way to establish rapport and trust with your reader even before you have the chance to speak by phone.

Tip #6 - Keep in mind that one of your primary goals in branding your job search documents is to paint a compelling portrait of your unique value proposition. To do this, you will need to structure your resume so that it promotes your key skills, qualifications, experiences, and achievements in a way that is both convincing and compelling and clearly illustrates to the reader that you can meet their needs and help them to achieve their goals, all the while adding value to their organization and delivering a strong return on their investment in hiring you. This is a lot to accomplish in a single resume! One of the most effective ways to do this is to focus the chronology of your work history on achievements and results. Write your achievements so that they tell a succinct story of the challenges and problems you have faced, the actions you took to meet those challenges, and then the results and benefits of those actions - the actual return on investment of your actions. Writing your professional chronology in this way will engage the reader, supporting your brand and helping them to envision how you will add value in the future to their organization.