How to Use a Cover Letter to Define Your Personal Brand

What sets you apart from the thousands of people who are looking for jobs these days? It’s called personal branding, and it can make the difference between career limbo and career success.

Branding: businesses do it, organizations do it, advertisers do it, and job seekers do it – if they’re smart. If it’s done right it can make the difference between a hit-and-miss approach (throwing a volume of resumes out there and hoping against hope that one of them will hit the mark) and honing in on a clearly defined target.

Career Advisor Georgia Adamson uses the analogy of the impact of color on a black and white image. You’ve seen the commercials: they begin by showing everything in black and white and then suddenly add a splash of color that draws attention to the product, making the advertiser stand out from its competitors. By defining your personal brand, you can do the same.

With more than 23-years of experience as a resume writer and career consultant, I have found that cover letters are especially conducive to creating a personal brand. The cover letter accompanies and introduces the resume and is sometimes called a letter of introduction. There’s a formal “resume-ese” required when writing a resume. On the other hand, a cover letter – while remaining professional – can be a little less formal and speak in a more personal tone. This allows you to tell your story: who you are, what you’ve accomplished, and what you have to offer, in a way that can be very engaging and distinctive.

But here’s the kicker: people squander this wonderful opportunity by trotting out over-used and canned cover letter verbiage: “To express my interest in a position with your company, I have enclosed a copy of my resume.” I’ve read that line, or variations thereof, a thousand times. I ask you, what does that say to grab attention or make the writer stand out? There’s got to be a better way!

There is. Do you have a favorite quote that expresses your core professional values? Or is there a quote about you from your letters of reference or job evaluations that is particularly glowing and sums up what makes you unique from the pack? Put it at the top of your cover letter. Is there a story in your career history that defines who you are and what makes you stand out? Lead with it! Then use the rest of the cover letter to support your story – your brand, if you will.

For example, a client of mine has a great deal of experience in all aspects of manufacturing management. He is up-to-date on all the new processes, he’s implemented state-of-the-art systems and streamlined operations, and he knows the meaning of the word “lean.” But most production managers have those skills and expertise today. What makes him different?

In talking with him, it became clear to me that he also has an extraordinary amount of integrity, he cares deeply about his employees, and he is very accessible and down to earth. In short, he offers the best of both worlds. In writing his cover letter, this is how I began:

“There was a time when pride in a job well done, personal integrity, and a great work ethic were all it took to succeed. In today’s increasingly competitive business environment, it’s about process improvement, cross-functional teams, and continually identifying strategies to exceed performance, quality, and productivity objectives.

“Would you be interested in someone with a history of balancing both the old and the new? Someone who combines practical, old fashioned common sense with a proven ability to design and implement processes and build lean operations while upgrading production and quality? If you take the time to review the enclosed resume, I think you’ll agree that I have a history of doing exactly that.”

It’s not rocket science, but it is unique to each individual. Creating your personal brand requires that you take a good look at yourself and zero in on what you have to offer that stands out from the competition. Once you’ve got it down, identify a strategy for getting the message across.

A well-written personal cover letter can help you do that succinctly. It can deliver a knock-out splash of color amid all the black and white out there and help you land the job of your dreams.

What’s your personal brand, and how are you getting it across to prospective employers?

~ Anne Follis, Certified Professional Resume Writer

© Copyright 2013, Anne Follis. All rights reserved

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