Although you may balk at being compared to a commodity like dish soap, each of us has a personal brand. Whether you’re a stay-at-home mom, corporate employee or small business owner, you have a reputation and image. Once you understand that when you define your brand, you design your life – you’re on your way to creating the personal and professional life you really want to live.
I coached a woman named Karen who was a finance executive at a large global gas and oil company. By most people’s standards, she had a great job and a great life. The only problem was that Karen was miserable. Convinced she’d picked the wrong career, she was completely clueless about what she could do to salvage the situation.
We began by assessing Karen’s personal brand. This had nothing to do with Karen’s job and everything to do with her emotionally authentic self. That is, her values, passions and goals. By looking inside, as well as factoring in feedback she’d received from trusted friends and family members over the years, Karen was able to identify what was most important to her and what she was best at doing for others.
Not surprisingly, working in isolation with Excel spread sheets, as she did in her current career, didn’t score very high on her list. Karen loved teamwork, strategic problem solution and working in a high-energy environment. She was also a self-professed “closet creative,” that is, she loved pop culture including fashion, movies and the media. Not exactly the blueprint for an accountant at an oil company.
After doing her internal homework, Karen was able to change her perspective and begin to see herself in a broader context. Next, came the external homework as we evaluated Karen’s skill-set and assessed information from others about her strengths. When she synthesized the data, Karen determined that she was a solid numbers person, but truly excelled at strategic thinking and team leadership.
Now that Karen had shifted her thinking from being “just an accountant” to seeing herself in a strategic management position guiding the leadership on key financial decisions, her horizons began to expand.
She crystallized her brand message and began to use powerful new language to describe the type of work she was seeking as she networked with colleagues.
Just a few months after re-defining her personal brand, a friend introduced her to the CEO of a technology start-up in the fashion industry. With newfound confidence about how to position her skills and background, Karen boldly asked the CEO if he had any finance openings. He did and she landed a job as right-hand to the Chief Financial Officer. Today, Karen couldn’t be happier.
Here are five strategies to help you define your personal brand:
- Understand that you are your brand, so it must be consistent with your authentic values, gifts and goals.
- Stand out from the crowd by identifying what makes you unique and memorable.
- Craft an “elevator speech,” that is, an introduction brief enough to deliver on a short elevator ride that answers the question, “So what do you do?”
- Broadcast your brand by taking the risk to speak up at social events, community function and networking meetings.
Expand your brand by continuing to set goals for personal excellence and continuous improvement.