The peril of being a copycat

I came across a website the other day, a competitor of sorts who offers some similar services.

I immediately detected hints of the brand. Nothing super alarming, really. In fact, it was initially somewhat flattering. As I explored further, however, I saw phrases and mannerisms that rang oddly close to ours, as well as some visual elements that were just a bit too "like us" to be coincidental. And then I felt a twinge of irritation.

But as I studied further, something occurred to me:

The brand that this competitor is attempting to pull off just isn't native to what I know about the founder's personality or style. As such, the tone of the website, comes across as awkward and disingenuous more than a few times, certainly to me but (I suspect) to others who visit with a less critical eye.

How this relates to you

As job seekers, you will never (and I mean not ever) find a shortage of dry, textbook-y advice on what, exactly, you need to say or not say on on your resume, LinkedIn profile, cover letter. You'll find all kinds of very official looking templates and catch phrases that you're "supposed" to use for this purpose or that, in this situation or that.

People (oh, trust me on this) will give you a continual stream of advice on the "right things" you should be doing, at any given point of time throughout your career transition.

Your mom will, for sure, insist on one thing.

Your best friend will insist on something else.

Your husband will suggest that your mom and best friend may quite possibly be smoking the funny stuff, and that you really should do this instead.

In short, the message will be this:

Don't be you. Be this other thing

Be safe. Be correct. Be what worked for that other guy.

But if you adhere to this advice, is it at the expense of being YOU?

Think about the most compelling professionals you know. The ones you admire, adore and wish you could figure out how the hell they pull it off.

I'm guessing the common thread running through every single one of these people is this:

They aren't copycats.

They break some (or plenty) of the rules.

They're endearing and likable.

They're authentic

So while career guidance can be terrific, and support from those around us helpful, you simply cannot live or die by the textbook advice. You can't lift messaging that's not "you-ish" just because it seems to have worked for someone else, and expect it to serve you just as well.

In addition to making it crystal clear to your target audience that you've got the tangible goods, you've GOT to make sure that your professional brand yells one big thing from the rooftops:

This is me 

(And, holy cow, don't you just want to hug it out and have me over for cookies and wine?)

Worry less about "correct" or "what that guy's doing." 

Worry more about letting the world see the incredible brand that is Y-O-U.

Photo: Flickr Creative Commons (Mohamed Aymen Bettelab)