Stand Out With Your Own Personal Brand

Adjunct Lecturer Heather Aranyi recently offered guidance and advice on standing out in the job market during a webinar hosted by Northwestern's Master of Engineering Management (MEM) program.

When it comes to applying for a job, there is an often-cited belief that applicants should differentiate themselves as a way to stand out. That belief, however, is absolutely wrong, according to Heather Aranyi. 

Aranyi, an adjunct lecturer at The Farley Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation at Northwestern University, said this approach is almost a sure-fire way to ensure an applicant does not receive the job they are pursuing. 

"People are not logical, they are relational," she said during a recent webinar hosted by Northwestern's Master of Engineering Management (MEM) program. "They want the safe option. They want to compare."

The webinar, titled "Personal Branding, Self-Efficacy and the Modern US-Based Career Pursuit," was focused on helping students understand how to stand out in the job market. 

Instead of differentiation, Aranyi encouraged applicants to strive to be in a relational area with their competition. This idea, which she coined "proximate personal branding," is built on the fact that a person should be similar enough to their competition to be compared. Then, Aranyi said, individuals can show why they are better than the other candidates. 

Metaphorically, if there are three candidates vying for a job and the two other candidates are apples, you don't want to be a banana. You want to be an apple as well.

"So many people are focused on being different, and then what will happen is they are automatically eliminated," Aranyi said. "Once you've established that you can be compared, then you can show how you're the best in the group."

Aranyi dispelled another common myth during her talk, this time about what personal branding means. Prior to the webinar, she received several questions from current MEM students about how introverts can develop a personal brand for themselves. The mistake she said many people make with personal branding is thinking it means something along the lines of being an Instagram influencer. That's not personal branding. Personal branding, Aranyi said, is what people say about you when you're not in the room. Your actions, your history, and even your social media presence, contribute to that branding. 

During the webinar, Aranyi outlined a variety of ways of how individuals can leverage LinkedIn to control that branding. From understanding who is viewing your profile to analyzing what stands out about people who currently hold job positions you covet, LinkedIn can be a powerful tool in the job application process. 

"You want to do the intel so that you are being seen by recruiters for the positions that you want," she said. 

Aranyi gave a number of additional pieces of advice for personal branding, including:

  • Understand that someone hiring you is always weighing the risk vs. the reward. You want to help show how hiring you will help mitigate risk for the company.
  • Make sure that part of your brand is that you're easy to work with.
  • Try to join a board as a way to stand out and also meet potential mentors, supporters, and champions.
  • Be nice to everyone, because you never know who could play a role in your hiring process. 

For more information, you can view the webinar in its entirety.

McCormick News Article