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The AIU blog shares ideas, information and tips aimed at helping you get ahead personally and professionally, with topics ranging from online learning success to career development.

3 Ways Your Personal Branding Might Be Missing the Mark

Image: personal  branding

All too often, the picture we paint of ourselves in our resumes, cover letters and social media profiles—our personal brand—lacks the substance and style necessary to make a strong connection to the jobs we are after. Instead of a compelling snapshot of our professional and academic backgrounds, the brands we create read more like compiled job descriptions from our previous positions: comprehensive, but without focus and without telling a real story. Read on to find out if you're missing the three key things your personal brand should be communicating to make sure your message is thoughtful, effective and unique.

1. Define your "Special Skill(s)"

Whether you are building your resume, preparing for an interview or writing a social media profile, your success depends on your ability to connect to your target audience. You need to figure out why they should choose you over all the other applicants.

Think about your background (work history, volunteer experience, hobbies and education) and try to identify a few things you've done that you enjoy and feel you do well. Then, pick apart the experience and try to identify why you were successful. Was it your intuitive understanding of the interests and needs of others? Do you excel in an environment where things move quickly and constantly change? Do you possess special industry knowledge? When you understand your strengths and have a few examples that back them up, you gain the ability to build and market your personal brand in a deliberate and thoughtful way.

2. Identify Your Target Audience

Any discussion about personal branding is also a discussion about taking control of your career search. A personal brand is useless if you don't know who your audience is, or what they are looking for. Once you know the type of career you are interested in, try to build industry-specific knowledge into your branding documents. For example, if you want to work in a healthcare office, make sure you list any knowledge or experience you might have about HIPAA; career searchers interested in accounting will need to understand GAAP; and those in HR will find a background in FMLA helpful.

3. Tailor Your Message

Take a look at the job posting you want to apply to, or one representative of it, and start comparing it to your work history. Consider whether you held relevant or similar responsibilities before. If you have, what were they? Did you handle them well? If you answer "yes" to both of these questions, consider placing this responsibility prominently on your resume, and be sure to list any corresponding accomplishments. This step doesn't just apply to your resume, though – think about how you can tailor your answers in an interview, or how you might tailor the content of your LinkedIn profile to contain more position-specific keywords.

Interested in more posts on job search-related topics? Check out our Career Development blog.

If you're a current AIU student or alumnus looking for more career advice, please contact the Career Services Department at 877-221-5800, Option 5, or at