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The Toronto Sun CareerConnection

Jumping on the 'brand' wagon

By Linda White
Special to The Sun

The Donald has one. Ditto Oprah, Martha Stewart and Tiger Woods. Just the mention of their names conjures up an image of who they are and a promise of what they have to offer.
Paul Copcutt, a personal branding strategist, recommends that people take stronger control of how they communicate their strengths.

In a world in which we're bombarded with advertising, it's hard to dispute the power of branding, but have you ever considered jumping on the "brand" wagon to further your own career?

Personal branding helps you clarify and communicate what makes you unique and use your special qualities to guide your career, explains Paul Copcutt, a personal branding strategist who worked as a headhunter before establishing Square Peg Solution in Hamilton three years ago.

"There's no stronger brand than Donald Trump," Copcutt says. "Love him or hate him, he's a classic personal brand who exemplifies the three Cs: consistency, constancy and clarity. He's consistent about how he does business, his message is constant and he's very clear about that."

Personal branding is a relatively new concept that has been gaining ground over the past few years. As the workforce continues to shift, it's an increasingly legitimate way for people to be identified and manage their careers, Copcutt believes.

"The world of work is changing drastically," he says. "My father spent 43 years working: two with his first employer and 41 with his second. People in my generation will typically have six to 12 employers. For my five-year-old son, 70% of the jobs that will be available to him upon graduation haven't even been invented yet.

"As a result of these changes, people are having to adapt and change and recognize their unique skills," Copcutt says. "People can't rely on their career path being set for them by their employer. They have to take stronger control of how they communicate their strengths."
Paul Copcutt, a personal branding strategist, offers the Seven Ps of Personal Branding:
1. Personal. What values impact you and what passions drive you?
2. Perception. What are your attributes?
3. Potential. What other hidden talents do you possess?
4. Positioning. Who is your target audience? What segments? Who are your competitors in the job market?
5. Performance. Can you and have you delivered? Develop a personal brand statement.
6. Packaging. How do your resume, cover letter and portfolio look? How do you present yourself? How are you priced?
7. Planning. Plan your professional path. Promote yourself and rebrand where necessary.
-- Visit www.personalbrand to learn more

The benefits of personal branding for the self-employed or small business owner are clear. But job seekers at the professional level, career changers and even students stand to benefit. "We're very much free agents, attracted to contracts or projects," Copcutt says. "We gather experience and move on to the next project. Still, people want to feel they're making a difference and are contributing. They're trying to find projects in line with their own passions."

So how do you identify your own personal brand? One of your first steps, Copcutt believes, is to "appoint the VPs of your life": values, passion, vision and purpose. "What vision do you have for the world? What can you do to affect that? What makes you passionate and want to get up at six in the morning? What angers you?"

He also recommends reading Now, Discover Your Strengths by Marcus Buckingham. "Rather than spending too much time trying to raise your weaknesses to mediocrity, concentrate on your strengths," Copcutt says.

Take stock of your strengths and weaknesses. Copcutt uses a tool called "360 Reach" that allows a client's colleagues and friends to identify their strengths and weaknesses by responding to an anonymous questionnaire. Its results can be broken down into various groups. "That's valuable, because you may present a different brand to your friends than you do to your colleagues," Copcutt says.

He suggests purchasing your own domain name, where you can post a portfolio that highlights your unique skills and achievements.

Finally, google yourself. "You want to be sure your online identity is consistent with other materials," Copcutt says. "That's the power of personal branding."

-- Paul Copcutt is president of the Hamilton chapter of International Coach Federation. He will be speaking at the National Job Fair & Training Expo ( at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre on Thursday, Sept. 15 at 10:30 a.m. The fair also runs today.

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