One of the cool things about working at a university (and in particular a business school) is having a chance to sit in on presentations by business leaders from an almost limitless number of industries. Each has their own unique story and each leaves me with at least one takeaway.
I first became familiar with Brunner Advertising  (formerly Blattner Brunner) from my friend Andy who happened to work there at the time. I don’t know if it was their cool website or a little Andy-bias, but since then I’ve always thought they were one of the coolest businesses around. And others must agree as they’re consistently ranked as one of the top 100 advertising firms in the country. So, when I heard their CEO was coming to speak at the business school, I jumped at the chance. And, although Michael Brunner’s presentation focused on the advertising business and advertising a business, I thought a lot of the principles he talked about related directly to personal branding. In particular…
Do compelling work--clients notice. As he pointed out, consumers (or in this case recruiters) have “thousands of choices. You want to be noticed and scene.” Use the quality of your work (or your pre-interview preparation) to differentiate yourself from other candidates.
Invest in your brand. This can apply to so many areas. Invest time—figure out what you want to be known for. Invest financially—make sure you’re dressing the part and that you have the right training even if it means enrolling in some courses on your own dime.
Learn and grow  professionally. One of the cool things about his vision for the firm is their focus on professional growth. At work, ask questions and take on new responsibilities. Set stretch goals for yourself.
Define and articulate your vision, mission, and message. At Brunner, he mentioned that the vision, mission, and message are posted everywhere. He did that so members of his team keep them top of mind in everything they do. As a job seeker, what is your vision (both your personal vision, and your vision for the position for which you’re interviewing), your mission (what are you about? What do you hope to accomplish?), and your message (those 3-4 sound bites that you want recruiters to remember about you).
Stay connected. Whether you’re a business or an interviewee, you’ve got to stay on top of industry news and trends. I’ve said it before, but Ii you have time to update your status on Facebook, you have time to read relevant industry publications before a job interview.
If you have some extra time before you leave for the holidays, you might want to take a second to check out Brunner’s site—especially their mantra .
Shawn Graham is Director of MBA Career Services at the University of Pittsburgh and author of Courting Your Career: Match Yourself with the Perfect Job (www.courtingyourcareer.com ).