In today’s competitive, roller coaster world, you’re either a distinct and competitive brand or an extinct generic. In order to survive, prosper and achieve great success you must become a distinct and competitive personal brand (yes, you need to become a personal brand). It is when you develop this brand that you will be able to deliver the experience that people are willing to subscribe to and or pay for.

Your personal brand is that solid and consistent impression that comes to mind when people think of you. Think about it this way; it is the mental picture that is invoked when your name is mentioned.

The first step in creating a personal brand is identifying your target audience/market. Is it your company who can award you with a job with six figure potential, is it a future employer who will appoint you to your dream role? Whatever the case, figure out who you are targeting.

Now find out what this person or organization needs and wants are and then quickly realize if you can meet the needs or wants that they have.After which, you will need to create reasons why people should believe you will deliver the results that your brand promises.

In short figure out the pain (needs/wants) that exist with the person or organization show how your brand can solve their pain via the brand that you possess. For example, let’s say a potential employer wants an employee who has a track record of delivering results.You have a track record of delivering results and its part of your brand. Ha Ha! You know the pain your employer of choice is feeling and you have the solution… you will probably get hired!

Now here is the competitive part- figure out what makes you different from your competitors. When you create this personal brand identity you will be sought after as the person who can meet the particular needs of a company. YOU HAVE TO STAND OUT.

The alternative, dying a generic death as a result of failing to put the necessary work into building and broadcasting your brand, is simply not an option any success-oriented person would entertain for even a moment.

If you think of your personal brand as a product that is fighting for space on a crowded supermarket shelf, “dying a generic death” means your brand is not strong enough to create the buzz among consumers that is needed to guarantee you prime shelf space. People expect to and do pay less for generic!

I would like to share with you the story of my difficult time as a Frontline Multi-Unit Manager of Frontline Employees at a Fortune 500 company I will refer to as Majestic Suites, a period I like to call my “Frontline Prisoner” days. I think this story is a great example of both why personal branding is so important and how it can make the difference between having a dead-end career and having a career that maximizes your professional and personal potential.

As I will explain in detail, the Majestic Suites unit at the Little Rock International Airport had fallen into disarray and was not representative of what you would expect when you enter a business that is a perennial member of the Fortune 500.

After about a week on the job, the other managers and assistant managers started to tell me about how things really worked at the airport, after I signed an oath in blood that I wouldn’t tell the unit’s General Manager, a man I will refer to as Mr. Wallace Wright. A small sampling of the problems I heard about included a 400 percent turnover rate, ethical issues, several quarters of missed sales targets, expenses that were 30 percent over budget, and customer satisfaction scores that were in the toilet. We were using a temporary agency on a permanent basis to staff the stores and concessions.

Wallace (all these years later I still cringe at referring to him on a first-name basis, as if we were buddies) wanted us to increase sales, customer satisfaction scores, and most importantly, slow the bleeding with employee turnover, including the temporary employees who were leaving at an alarming rate. I was certainly up for the challenge and believed that I could help turn things around.

After about a month on the job, employees started regularly coming to me and saying things like, “Michael, you are much too smart to be working here, why are you here… you can do so much better some place else… ” I was determined to make a difference, despite Wallace’s authoritarian, heavy-handed style. He came to me one day and stated that I had the highest sales and the employees liked working with me. Despite this positive comment, I was still determined to get myself out of this situation. These were some of the darkest days of my life.

Wallace said in a staff meeting that the employees complained that they couldn’t get assistance from any manager except Michael, but he didn’t ask what I was doing to assist them. He stated that my sales were 40 percent higher, but did not ask how I got them that way. Instead, he said the employees didn’t upsell, didn’t take care of the customers in a timely manner, and were not happy when I wasn’t at work. He went on to say that I should be training employees to perform at all times, even when they were working for other managers, and that I was a poor leader.

I realized early on that if I wanted to deliver the financial and human results that would make me personally proud and get me noticed by the outside world, I needed to do this through and with the Frontline Employees. I also realized that I needed to train them, set the expectations, provide them with tools, empower them, motivate them, inspire them and genuinely care about them while at the same time hold them accountable to delivering a World-Class customer Experience. I further realized that Wallace was only concerned about the bottom line number and cared very little about the Frontline Employees or customers.

So I went on and operated within the box while Wallace was around, but did the “extra” stuff that motivated, empowered and excited the frontline, which in turn delivered a World-Class customer service experience and bottom line numbers that Wallace couldn’t deny were good, while Wallace wasn’t around. This experience proved to be a tremendous building block for my personal brand. I marched to Wallace’s orders while building my arsenal, skills, competencies and brand equity in preparation for other opportunities that might exist internally and externally. I gained the trust and respect of thoroughly discouraged and demoralized Frontline Employees, no small feat. More importantly, despite the best efforts of Mr. Wallace Wright to obscure my accomplishments, I was able to build up some brand equity that would pay handsome dividends both personally and professionally on the open market. I was able to eloquently and boldly speak of this brand equity that I had built up during an interview for a Field Manager role with a Fortune 5 company.

During the interview, I was able to draw upon the experiences at my previous role with Majestic Suites and speak about my leadership style that gets results through and with people and how this translates to a more productive and excited work force, increased customer satisfaction and a double-digit increase to the bottom line.

I was then able to tell the interview panel how I could take this experience and provide them even greater returns. They realized that an investment in me would yield a great return on their investment. Out of sixteen candidates, I was offered the role. Thank you, Mr. Wallace, for taking me through hell in preparation for a heavenly assignment!

As you can see, by maintaining a fresh approach to my job as a Frontline Manager and retaining my passion for my brand even in the face of overwhelming negativity and hostility from Wallace Wright, I was able to escape a situation that could have killed my career before it even really started and doomed me to the generic death I would have suffered as a result of having my brand development squelched and becoming known as another guy who went into a difficult situation, tried his best, and failed.

This illustrates another important lesson about building your brand – you must build it, even if others are trying to tear it down, or you will die generic. Don’t sit back and assume your hard work will be recognized, make sure it is visible for miles around!

Developing and maintaining a fresh, competitive brand can be the key to escaping a generic job that pays a generic wage in a time where fewer and fewer of life’s necessities sell at generic cost!

To put it another way, find the fertile ground and sow your brand upon it and reap the harvest. Branded seeds germinate personal and professional success at a faster and more bountiful harvest than generic seeds. A competitive brand that is kept fresh and connected to your personal and professional passion is unbeatable.