How Your Personal Brand Is Critical to Your Transition

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(U.S. Marine Corps/Lance Cpl. Ismael Ortega)

Resumes. Social media profiles. Networking contacts. Job descriptions. If only a transition was simple.

Today, competition for every open job is fierce and focused. Are you approaching your transition from your military to civilian career with strategy or with randomness?

Personal branding is the key to unlock possibilities and potential, particularly in the turbulent job market we’re seeing today.

What is Personal Branding?

Your personal brand is your value proposition. It’s what differentiates you from all the other transitioning veterans with your same skills and experiences. It’s also what sets you apart from the hundreds of civilians who’ll also compete against for every opportunity you’re interested in.

Your brand comes to life in the perception other people have of you, which means that you’ll have a brand whether you design it or not. Are you leaving to chance that the people you want to work with will find you compelling and relevant? Personal branding means you take control over the way you’re perceived (as much as you can) and you’re intentional and strategic about how you show up.

In the civilian sector, personal branding matters. The people you’ll network with, connect with online, interview with, serve and lead will look for indications of what you believe in, what you can offer and why you’re passionate about what you do. Without those aspects of who you are clarified, you risk competing for opportunities -- from jobs to resources to access -- based on who’s the least expensive. This is a mistake many people make when they try to compete off of a resume alone.

Your experiences and skills are what you did. Your personal brand is where you tie your past into a narrative of who you are and what you can offer.

Are you a Swiss Army Knife or a Scalpel?

A common complaint I’ve heard from hiring managers interviewing job candidates who are prior military is that the candidate isn’t specific. When asked, “how can you help us grow the company?” the respondent's answer is typically, “I’ll do whatever you need. I’m a Swiss Army Knife of skills and experiences.”

To the interviewer looking to fill a specific position, remember they are looking for a candidate who will speak confidently of their past, but also be specific about how they can return value, quickly. The candidate who can articulate how they are trained for the opportunity, where their past gives them the experience to be in the conversation today, and how they’ll add value to the team, company or effort is the one who gets noticed. This candidate has taken stock of their personal brand and can speak of their offer in more direct, specific ways.

Transition is Ongoing

If your personal brand is critical to your transition, then it’s important to note that you’ll transition often over the course of your civilian career. You may change jobs or even industries, requiring you to position yourself in new environments. Even going from manager to director is a transition to be prepared for.

Your personal brand gives the people around you the trust, confidence and belief in who you are and what you stand for that will carry you over the many transitions you’ll experience. As such, building your personal brand now -- wherever you are in your military or post-military career -- is vital.

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