February 27, 2009
By J.T. O'Donnell I still remember the first time I saw this scene. Once I got past his out-of-date suit with high-water pants to show off 1980's-style tube socks and boat shoes, I was captivated by Ben's character as he leaned back in his chair, and with all the confidence of a sports MVP, spouted off the most hilarious misuse of professional terminology I've ever heard. And yet, he manages to get the three stiffs to pony up $200! Now that, my friends, is a candidate with some serious personal branding power. The reputation of the talent sitting before them was so strong, these supposedly intelligent people willingly (yep, pun intended) opted to look past a good two dozen interview offenses Ben's character makes in a matter of minutes. But in all seriousness, here's the valuable career lesson to be learned from this scene... Don't get hung up on trying to be all things to employers. Instead, figure out what you are the 'go-to person' for and then just work to get yourself in front of the people that need it most. In doing so, your brand will take care of itself and you'll have more latitude in how you present yourself and what you can demand. Don't believe me? This will prove it: True story... In the 1990's, I worked in the technical staffing industry in the Silicon Valley. It was during dotcom boom and competition for talent was fierce. A good software developer could command a $10,000 signing bonus, an insane salary, and still be poached 3 months later by another firm. The most legendary story was of a guy that was so good, he was able to demand a private office with no windows because he liked to program in the nude - and they agreed! FACT: when your reputation is known and your brand is strong, you get to market yourself less and still get your choice of the best opportunities. How great is that? Now, for those of you who are saying, "I don't have any special talents." You're wrong. The fact is, everyone has the ability to brand themselves. You just haven't learned how to connect the dots of your professional strengths so you can develop your career identity - and that's because school teaches you everything EXCEPT how to get the job. So, unless you've got the confidence and swagger of Ben's character, it's time to start thinking about what you can do to get your personal brand in order. As I've just pointed out, it can make a huge difference in terms of the quantity AND quality of career opportunities that will come your way.