TrademarkIt isn’t just for corporations anymore. Everyone has a talent or a gift to offer up to the world. (Yes, even you.) A CEO I know has a talent for risk taking. He took a risk – laying his money down and believing in his skills – creating a thriving company and 50 jobs for Oregonians. A woman in Corvallis loves to cook. In her kitchen, she created tasty sea salt seasonings – now she markets them on Her gift to her business is the belief in her creations. Risk taking and belief are their trademarks.

Why does a trademark matter?

Identifying your own personal trademark and being able to communicate it is the key to your career pursuits. People are often able to say things about themselves in resumes, cover letters, and interviews like “strong organizational skills”, “I’m good with people,” and the like. But, just about every job seeker will say some variation of those things. You want to stand out from the crowd! If you really want prospective employers, potential investors or future customers to take notice of you, it’s important for you to convey your unique competitive advantage. Identifying and marketing your trademark will help you do just that.

Trademark Identification Process

What is the one thing you contribute to the world, no matter where you are or in what job you work? For clues about your unique contribution, ask yourself and others the following questions:

  1. In conversations with people who are familiar with your work, ask a question like, “What do you perceive to be my biggest contribution on the job”?
  2. Think back over your history as an employee or volunteer. What kinds of problems did you notice and solve? What was the outcome or impact of your efforts? Sometimes your impact is measurable, such as increased revenue, reduced overhead costs or production time saved. Sometimes the difference you made wasn’t as measurable but it had an impact on others anyway, such as improved employee morale, increased customer satisfaction and/or repeat business.
  3. Look through past written performance evaluations or recommendation letters. If certain positive comments reoccur throughout, note the recurring theme. What did you do to earn their positive regard? (If you have difficulty answering that question, ask someone who might know that answer.)
  4. Look at things you do well and enjoy doing, both at work and during leisure time. Sometimes particular abilities, such as resolving a conflict between two people or estimating the time and resources it will take to complete a project are your forte.

If you can’t answer some of these questions right away, don’t panic. Moving forward, resolve that you will keep track of your accomplishments and contributions. When someone compliments you, write it down. If you have trouble identifying what is noteworthy, writing it down anyway. You can always decide later whether or not to use it.

The important thing to remember is that you identify your personal trademark – unique contribution(s) – and figure out how to communicate it to the world, whether it be for an employer or fuel to begin your own business or creation.

Doug Anders