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Creating a Personal Brand That is Not Cliche

Cover letters, resumes and LinkedIn profiles all seem to be flooded with the same descriptors -- "hard working," "passionate," and "creative." Using the same terms over and over again can send you into a pile of forgettable applicants. By simply asking yourself a few (albeit tough) questions, however, you can spin your personal brand to be unique and help you stand out from the crowd.

Nacie Carson of Fast Company points out that we tend to use the same few terms to describe certain situations. When thinking of Apple, for example, many of us would use terms like "innovative," "cool" and "expensive."

"These terms you are responding with are essentially brand descriptors: the two or three terms or phrases that are affixed to just about everything we encounter, from major corporations to little old ladies," Carson writes. "We usually conclude them quickly, and once we've tagged a person, place, or thing with these terms it is a herculean feat to change them."

If you already have an good idea of what you want your personal brand to be, then you have already gotten over one hurdle. The second is to ask yourself a series of questions to figure out the best way to describe yourself. What are the descriptors you use to introduce or pitch yourself to prospective clients or employers? What terms do you use in your elevator pitch? Then, assess your answers. Are the terms you used cliched and generic? Think about your industry and profession, and how often you see these terms being used.

The next step is to ask yourself 'why.' You are a great public speaker. Why? You work well in a team setting. Why? You have excellent writing skills. Why? Asking 'why' about each of your characteristics will help you come up with more specific descriptors that will set you apart from the generic traits. This exercise can also help you reevaluate your business. What makes what you do different from everyone else in your industry?

The final step is where things really get tricky. Once you have come up with a list of descriptors for your brand, you have to make sure you are upholding your end of the deal to clients. These are the terms that clients will associate with your brand, and they will expect your services to reflect that.

While you might be walking the cliched line now, it won't be long before you create a brand that is completely unique against your competition.

More From PayScale

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(Photo credit: ryan_rancatore/Flickr)

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