Your personal brand is a summary of what you are known for, what people seek you out for, and what makes you distinctive. Some people say a personal brand is also your platform, which is what publishers need when you write a book. Your platform validates your expertise and it’s more about establishing credentials than about who you are.
Your platform documents the way others recognize you. For instance, my platform as an author includes educational credentials, such as a Ph.D., media appearances and invitations to speak. In contrast, my personal brand would be related to my ability to help people solve knotty career problems quickly and easily. I’ve had this brand ever since I can remember; colleagues, students and friends saw me as the go-to person for career help, long before I set up my online career consultancy.
“Personal branding” has become today’s buzzword for career strategy. Here are 3 strategies to carry out your own personal branding — and maybe find a new career without changing jobs.
Strategy #1: Recognize that personal branding (or rebranding) give you an advantage whether you remain in your current job or change careers.
As a corporate executive or business owner, your brand influences the likelihood that you’ll be sought out for opportunities. For instance, let’s look at James, a mid-40s executive who was known as a strong contributor, yet was consistently denied promotions. He had a sense that he needed to be more extroverted, yet he wanted to maintain the strengths he brought to the company.
James had been known as a capable performer but not as a leader. Therefore, he wasn’t the go-to person for leadership opportunities and high-visibility presentations. When he took steps to change the way he was viewed, he was invited to chair committees and make presentations to larger groups.
Tip: You gain maximum benefit from a career branding process when you’re at mid-career and when you have a sense of where you’d like to go next. You not only stand to gain within your company; you become more visible and therefore more attractive to executive recruiters.
Strategy #2: Discover what’s missing from your current brand (so you know exactly what you need to do).
First, identify your career objective. If you plan to remain in your company or industry, your brand will need to reflect the values and norms of these environments.
Once you’ve recognized your objective, you will be able to identify your audience – i.e., your target market. Your audience might consist of prospective clients, senior managers in a company, meeting planners who book you for a speaking engagement, or industry leaders in your field.
Now you can seek out 10 to 20 audience members and ask one of the following questions (more than one will probably seem burdensome):
- Describe yourself in three words.
- List your top 5 strengths.
- Give 3 scenarios where they’ll refer someone to you for help
Keep a record of the results. You may want to discuss them with a trusted friend, consultant or coach. Now you’ll know what’s working and what’s missing. Even if all the comments are complimentary, are they supporting the image you need to project to your audience?
Strategy #3: Stay alert to these 3 signals that you need a new job or a whole new career, outside your current company.
Remember that you’re branding to position yourself for a particular audience. When you encounter resistance, from yourself or your environment, you might be getting a warning that it’s time to find a whole new audience.
Signal #1: You ask for help to fill gaps in your brand and you can’t get honest, helpful support. Maybe your boss or colleagues even try to sabotage your efforts.
Daphne had a doctoral degree in organizational psychology. When she asked for support to get promoted, her boss advised more training in marketing and accounting. She took all the courses. Then they said, “How about courses in finance?”
Daphne realized she wasn’t getting support. She was getting stalled. She geared up her resume to move to a company where she could promote her brand as a skilled manager with solid leadership experience.
Signal #2: You know what you need to rebrand yourself for your next promotion, but you dread taking those steps.
For example, you need to learn to love cold calls, but in your heart, you know you’d rather be boiled in oil. Or you’re expected to travel extensively and you hate dealing with hotels and airplanes. There’s a limit to how malleable you need to be.
Signal #3: You recognize your values conflict with your rebranding efforts. You’ll need to rebrand in a whole new way.
Values can be related to your deepest personal sense. But you might also have strong values related to work. For instance, you may value autonomy and the ability to arrange your day.
“Edward” struggled with his career. He was bored in a large company with a “serve your time” culture; his reviews all read “meets minimum standards.” In another job he clashed with a boss who fired him abruptly on trumped-up charges (he hired a lawyer to clear his record and collect his retirement pay). He was considered arrogant and unmanageable.
Finally Edward landed with an entrepreneurial company that knew how to use him. They sent him on the road as a consultant to their high-end technical clients. The clients loved him. They didn’t think he was arrogant: they wanted a confident consultant. He loved being away from the office and he was never bored.
If Edward had attempted a makeover to be more conformist, he would have probably ended up on six medications for stress and a series of unsatisfactory performance reviews.
Next steps … If you’d like to develop your own branding strategy for success, let’s talk! My Career Strategy Session was designed to help you develop a game plan that will bring you a career you’ll find rewarding and meaningful, and to deal with opportunities and setbacks along the way. Click here to learn more.