You may have heard that a resume needs to reflect your personal brand. You may have then asked yourself (or whoever gave you that piece of advice), “What in the world is a personal brand?”
No matter how familiar you are with the concept of personal branding, identifying, refining, and marketing your own personal brand can be more than a little intimidating. I’ve written thousands of resumes, bios, and other personal branding documents throughout the years, and even I routinely reach out for help when it comes to writing about myself. No matter how objective we think we are, the truth is that almost everyone is biased when it comes to writing about themselves, and when it comes time to distill your life’s work into a short document that highlights the most important parts, it can be challenging to deciding what exactly is important or “on brand.”
What is My Personal Brand?
Ever since I started studying personal branding in graduate school, I realized that people react very differently to this term. People who are in marketing tend to feel pretty comfortable with turning themselves into a brand. Those in non-profit, academia, and other more “people” centered professions – not so much. Their concern? The phrase “personal branding” sounds tacky and fake. They’re wondering if they are going to be someone they aren’t, give up a part of their personality they enjoy, or inflate their achievements to create a solid personal brand.
The good news is that this is not what personal branding is about – not in the slightest. Personal branding isn’t focused on designing, improving, or changing yourself. There are plenty of personal and professional development programs for that. Instead, personal branding is focused on communicating who you are to the rest of the world in a way that they understand. When you can communicate your value add more clearly, you can help more people.
How Do I Indicate My Personal Brand on My Resume?
Ensuring your resume is aligned with your personal brand is simply a matter of ensuring your resume effectively displays your skills, experience, and capabilities. It also means you need to pick and choose. Suppose you throw all of your experience on the page without any strategy. In that case, it will be challenging for a recruiter or hiring manager to pinpoint your most valuable skills and future contributions and how they can add value to the organization.
Take me, for example. I have Bachelor’s Degrees in English, Political Science, and International Relations; A Master’s Degree in English with a specialization in Personal Branding, and certifications in Resume Writing, Teaching, and (almost) Interactive Media Writing. I was a college professor for 10 years, started multiple businesses; published quite a bit of creative, academic, and journalistic writing, and am a single parent to 3 performing arts kids.
How do you think I would arrange those skills differently if I were applying for an academic position or a copywriting job? How would I communicate my skills if I started a new business focusing on academic coaching?
How you indicate your personal brand on your resume is simply how you arrange your life experiences and strengths to send the message you want to send about yourself.
Think of it this way. Imagine all of your skills, strengths, achievements, and certifications as flowers. All are beautiful and can be arranged in many ways. Each arrangement has a different appeal and sends a different message. If you and another person were asked to arrange the flowers, you likely wouldn’t arrange them the same way. That’s what personal branding is – your opportunity to take all your flowers (skills, etc.) and arrange them the way that sends the message you want to send instead of leaving it to someone else who doesn’t know you well (the hiring manager or recruiter).
Now, instead of flowers, ribbons, and vases to work with, you have words, fonts, font sizes, bullet points, and headers.
Of course, as I mentioned earlier, it can be hard to write about yourself. This is where I come in. I love it when people tell me what they want their message to be and I arrange their resume to help them say it. Or, when people don’t know what they want their resume to be but we are able to review their skills and help them put together a positive message.
As I always say, tell your story yourself – don’t let others make one up for you!