Dear Matt: I’ve heard of hiring career coaches, but I’ve recently heard of people hiring a personal brand coach. What exactly is a personal brand coach, and how can one help me professionally?

Matt says: There is a lot of buzz around personal branding, but the term is confusing because it assumes we are creating a “brand” that didn’t previously exist. Many career coaches and consultants are jumping on the bandwagon by focusing on keywords in résumés and optimizing online searches, but there is so much more to consider, says Kathleen Crandall, a Twin Cities-based Personal Brand Strategist with Meaningful Connections (

“People’s brands already exist,” says Crandall. “The challenge is that most people are unclear and inconsistent in how they show up in person, online and through their résumé, communications and on LinkedIn.”

A personal brand coach helps people deliver a clear and consistent message. “Your brand and the lasting impression you leave behind demonstrates your impact on people and how that has an impact on business,” says Crandall.

For professionals, their brand shows through on their LinkedIn photo and profile. It shows through with your e-mail signature. It shows on Twitter by what you tweet and through your profile description. Any form of professional communication, whether it’s intended to or not, reflects your personal brand. If you attend a networking event, how you present yourself is how people perceive you and your brand. The business card you share brands you. As a job seeker, you have an opportunity to develop a brand that can develop your status as a respected industry professional.

“Many people, especially in the Midwest, tend to downplay our gifts, strengths and talents,” says Crandall. “And yet if you can’t tell me what you are known for and the impact it has, I have to guess. Most recruiters and hiring managers don’t have time for that.”

Your brand has to jump off the page and be reflected consistently. What you are known for must transcend skills, says Crandall. Many career coaches and personal branding consultants focus on the importance of keywords, most often limited to skills. But you are not a set of keywords or skills, a title or a job role — you are a person with unique gifts and talents. Show them.

“What employers want and need to know is how you will you fit into the team, organization and culture,” says Crandall. “Your brand is what distinguishes you from other qualified candidates. Be clear in what you are known for and what happens because of you.”

Job seekers need every advantage they can get to stand out. Your brand is the first impression people often have of you. Make it a strong one.

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