You hear a lot of talk these days about personal branding and how you should "brand" yourself in a job search.
But you hear very little about how you should sell yourself to employers.
Yet, I submit that, if you want to get hired as soon as possible, you should sell yourself as much as possible … and let the branding take care of itself.
First, let's define branding and sales, as they apply to a job search.
Then decide for yourself which to focus on.
In my view, your "brand" is simply your reputation -- what other people think about you when you're not in the room. The concept of personal branding was first popularized in "The Brand Called You," a 1997 magazine article by Tom Peters.
Now, don't get me wrong. Branding is a fine way to get recruited by employers and headhunters who learn of your excellent reputation.
You can build your brand through public speaking, publishing books and articles, writing a blog, networking with influential people, displaying emotional intelligence at work, etc.
Problem: You can't build a brand called you (or anything else) overnight. So branding is not an effective strategy to find work fast.
Selling, on the other hand, can and does produce rapid results.
And by rapid, I mean much faster than the 33.6 weeks it currently takes to find a job, on average.
Clients of mine have been called for interviews within 24 hours of submitting effective resumes and cover letters to employers -- even employers who have ignored prior applications.
Example: Debi C. from suburban Dallas, Texas and Robert B. from West Chester, Penn., both found jobs in the midst of the current recession -- in 3 weeks and 5 weeks, respectively.
They got hired after they did following:
* targeted a list of ideal employers;
* submitted resumes that emphasized results and included testimonials,
* sent cover letters that emulated sales letters, and
* followed up with employers by phone and/or mail.
These tactics -- emphasizing results, using testimonials, sending sales letters, and following up -- are Sales 101. Yet, how many of these tactics are you using in your job search?
Let's look at two more ways to sell yourself to employers.
1) Get read to get hired
What's the one letter that always gets opened? A FedEx letter. Smart marketers know this and use express delivery for their most important sales letters.
To make sure your cover letter gets read, send it FedEx 2-Day to the decision maker (never HR) at an employer. It costs less than $10-15 in most cases.
Can you do this for every job? No. Can you do this for your dream job? Yes, if your dream job is worth $15 to you.
2) Sell to past customers
Any sales pro can tell you it's easier to generate new business from existing customers than to convince new ones to buy.
Yet, how many of your past employers have you called about your job search?
Example: After being unemployed for six months, Eric H., a design engineer from Ohio, came to me for resume writing help.
I suggested he call past employers to request letters of recommendation, because those are valuable documents to bring to a job interview.
Four days later, he sent me an email: "Thanks to you making me call old employers for recommendations, one of them just offered me a great job!"
It turns out that a prior employer needed someone with Eric's skills. Because Eric had done good work before and was a fit for the corporate culture, he was immediately offered the new position.
Now. You may or may not get offered a new job by your old boss.
But you can call and discuss your search with past co-workers, managers, and clients, which can lead to new employment leads. Tip: Offer to help people you call with the work they're doing now. That way, you'll be seen as welcome guest and not a bothersome pest.
In the final analysis, personal branding is a future side-effect that you cannot control, while selling is a present action that you can control.
Selling yourself to employers can get you hired fast. I recommend it as your first course of action if you're unemployed. Yet, branding does have its place.
Example: If you write a white paper on your industry and mail it to an employer to prove your expertise, that's selling. If you upload that white paper to your blog or your Facebook profile, where it can be found by employers next month or next year, that's branding. And that's smart.
If you strengthen your reputation -- online and off -- during your job search, you will build your personal brand as a happy accident. And your next job may find you, as more hiring authorities discover you.
That way, you can have your job and build your brand, too.
Kevin Donlin is a contributing co-author of "Guerrilla Marketing for Job Hunters 2.0." Since 1996, he has provided job-search help to more than 20,000 people. For a free gift -- the Guerrilla Job Search Secrets audio -- visit MyNewJobHunt.com