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Personal Branding: the Scientists’ Version

If you’re a scientist or an introvert, one of the hardest things to do is talk about yourself.

Talking about it consistently enough to create a personal brand?

Anathema! (Bonus: you introverted scientists actually know what that means!)

Still, nearly 100 mostly introverted people, all scientists, turned out for the presentation, “Creating Your Personal Brand,” at Monday’s Jobs Network meeting. They listened as NC State’s John Hutchings told them just how important a personal brand is, not just to finding a job, but to their whole career.

Your personal brand, Hutchings explained, tells potential employers what you’ve done. To do this well, you have to identify your audience and really focus on what they are looking for. (If this sounds like marketing, consider that Hutchings has marketed American Express, Kellogg cereal and Vlasic pickles. He now helps NCSU MBA students market themselves.)

With the right focus, your story becomes clear. Your skills and knowledge stand out. And it makes it a lot easier for the hiring manager to figure out where you fit, which makes it a lot easier to get hired.

“A good brand makes you likable,” Hutchings said.

“It makes you true and authentic, and people will trust you.”

And that’s the impression that you want to make on a hiring manager.

Your Brand in 30 Minutes or Less

The idea is that you are able to identify and talk about these things

  1. Do your research.
    First determine who your audience is. Who are you telling your story to? What expertise, skills and qualities do they need in their next hire? Informational interviews are handy here, though a quicker version would be to browse LinkedIn people with similar jobs. How do they describe themselves?

  2. Ask your friends.
    Identify the 10 to 20 people who know you best. Send them the below questionnaire. Or simply ask them to describe you in three words.
  • What is John best known for?
  • What would be the best work for John?
  • When is John the most fulfilled and excited?
  • What work should John stay away from, and why?
  • What aspects of John does he need to change to be more successful?
  • What aspects of John should he not change?

Personal note: I’ve done this exercise, and it’s amazing what nice things people will say about you! (Save these notes for hard days in your job search.)

I found that other people were better able to articulate the things that I do well naturally. Also, certain words and phrases will begin to repeat themselves across the responses. These are the seeds of your brand statement.

My final thought: this is a great exercise for an introvert. One-on-one connections. Deep thinking. Personal growth. It’s all there!

The final product

Take all of this information and answer these questions. Just one sentence per question!

  • Who are you? (What are your qualities and attributes?)
  • What (job qualities and attributes) are you looking for?
  • What are you known for? (an example)

Put this together. (It might sound a lot like your pitch for a networking event). Viola! You have your personal brand statement. Now put it to use - on LinkedIn, on your personal website, in social media, resume, cover letters, the possibilities are nearly endless.

Still not sold on this personal branding stuff? Hutchings left us with this thought from a colleague at another Triangle university. (Dorie Clark, well known marketing strategy consultant and an adjunct professor at Duke.)

“Consider personal branding as … helping others understand where you excel, and ensuring that your talents are put to use in the best way possible.”

Editor's Note: View a PDF of John Hutchings' presentation here.

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