Interestingly enough, the best book I've read about Building Your Professional Brand wasn't something I found in the "Business" section of any bookstore or this year's top reading lists selected by Harvard Business Review.
I discovered the book in the theatre section next to an entire aisle of books on "Acting." I had no intention of becoming an actress. Still, at the time, as I was beginning to step into a new industry and conquer the unknown, I thought it would be essential to learn a bit about what actors/actresses do to get their start in the entertainment industry.
Everyone has an origin story of how they got from point A to B. For me, one of the most notable origin stories was how Steven Spielberg got his start in the film industry. Spielberg snuck onto the Universal Studios backlot and hung around sets like an extra or a production assistant. While there, he built relationships with crew members who could then vouch for his character and help him get his start in the industry. By taking this risk, Spielberg was apocryphal, but his action demonstrated the importance of finding connections in a new industry.
The Professional Actor's Handbook: From Casting Call to Curtain Call by Julio Agustin and Kathleen Potts is a guide book for actors/actresses who are interested in obtaining advice about how to succeed in the entertainment industry. What I was able to extrapolate from this treasure trove was some great advice on building your professional brand.
Here are the two strategies suggested:
1. Define your unique selling points (USPs)
2. Follow your Stars
Define Your Unique Selling Points
When you define your unique selling point (USP), you are essentially defining what YOU bring to the table.
Take, for example, a job interview situation. A common question interviewers like to ask is, "tell me about yourself" or "why were you interested in this position"? Now I've always dreaded this question because it is so open-ended, and there isn't the best way to answer. A great tip to keep in mind is to find three (3) words that describe your professional brand, which ought to reflect your reputation, skillset, and personality. Choosing these three traits can be difficult and may take a bit of thought, but another helpful tip I've learned is to use personality tests to help you find your best traits.
Follow Your Stars
You can also build your own brand by following the stars or the footsteps of people you admire. This not only makes your professional brand relatable but also helps you identify your competition. Building your own personal SWOT table of Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats can be extremely helpful in measuring yourself against your competition in the job market. Why should a hiring manager or a talent acquisition officer select you specifically? By defining your unique selling points (USPs) and strategically identifying your competition, you can be more competitive in the job market.
Why Should I Read This?
Though this book focuses on helping actors/actresses find work in the entertainment industry, I think it's an excellent book for students, interns and young professionals to read as they begin their professional journey. I remember how difficult it was to stand out in a sea of resumes with so many who were much more qualified than I was for positions. However, even if you are qualified or unqualified, you still have an opportunity to present yourself in the best light possible. You are your own brand. As the author noted, "you are you, and thankfully there is no other person in the world like you, nor will there ever be."