Sunday, July 15, 2012

Your Personal Brand: Part 2 – Putting Yourself Out There...Thoughtfully

There are many reasons to invest time in your personal brand: to obtain/change a work role in a similar or different field, start or grow a business, or simply because you want to put some conscious effort into how you are “putting yourself out there” as a person and a professional.

In Part 1 of this discussion on personal branding, I focused on helping you answer foundational questions about your core self – how you see yourself, what’s important to you, and how you want to be seen.  In Part 2, I provide a few recommendations that may help to consider as you define your approach and methods for expressing your personal brand. 

Ultimately, you want to communicate who you are in such a way that it is authentic and creates a foundation of trust.  You want to be true to you, while you are establishing credibility, reliability, and intimacy (pieces of “The Trust Equation”).  What you create on- and off-line are a representation of who you are (and say you are) and impact how you are perceived.  Therefore, you will want to be thoughtful (and often strategic) in what you say, do, and what your “artifacts” say and do for you.

“Artifacts” are the various external pieces you create that serve as your expression and how people come to know you.  Examples range from work products, to “marketing pieces” (website, resume, social networking profiles, collateral materials), to your social media and thought leadership (blogs, Tweets, and posts), to your contributions on discussion boards.  This even extends to conversations people have about you in the press, testimonials, or through “word of mouth.” 

While the way you physically present yourself through your appearance, actions and interactions all impact others’ perceptions, your artifacts are an additional (and important) method for helping others to understand who/what you are about.  In this “online world,” artifacts show up when people do a web search on you – so you want to be smart about what’s associated with your name and business.

When “putting yourself out there,” consider these best practices:

Be strategic.  It is important to be clear and intentional about why you are doing what you’re doing.  What are you known for – or want to be known for on a deeper level?  What are you attempting to create or achieve?  These questions (and the foundational work you did in Part 1) will help you zero in on your specific intentions and will continually act as your guide in determining which methods and story will serve you best.

Be consistent.  Take the time to consider your communication plan: messaging, method, and frequency.  Identify your point of view, foundational beliefs/tenets, and key messages so you are clear and focused in what you put out there.  Don’t try to be everything to everyone – keep your focus tight.  You may center around a niche, area of expertise, or content you believe will help establish you as an expert or “go to person” on specific topics.  Consider the best methods and avenues for delivering those messages, and create a schedule for when/how often you will get in front of people (regular intervals like monthly near the 1st, every Monday, 3 times a week, etc.).

Be impeccable.  Do your research, and ensure quality and accuracy in your output (including spelling!).  If you intend to craft multiple artifacts, don’t overextend or dilute by trying to do too much too soon – especially if you don’t have adequate time and energy to give it the attention.  Choose consciously, intentionally, and wisely.  It’s better to do a couple of things really well than to be mediocre at a variety of things.  

Be yourself.  
Be sure to show your personality, passion, unique point of view.  Yes, you need to be strategic and tactical...and it is equally important to be you.  Help people get a sense of who you are and what you care about. You are more likely to create connection and trust if what you put out there resonates and feels authentic.  

Be courageous (fear + action).  Don’t be afraid to try things out so that you can tweak, iterate, and evolve to better hone your approach and thought capital.  This post is not meant to scare you into not pulling the trigger or taking a risk.  Rather it is meant to encourage you to invest time and thought before diving in. 

So, go ahead and start that blog, but carefully plan your messaging and frequency of posting.  Create your website, resume, and social/professional networking profiles, but consider the story you want to convey and what you are hoping to achieve.  When you Tweet, post, or comment on discussion boards, remember that people will be reading them and forming opinions about who you are… so you’ll want to be conscientious about what your “shares” are doing for (or against) you. 

Your personal brand is a huge component of your relationship with others – in other words, it is your means for interacting, creating impressions, and having intended and unintended impacts on those around you.  We have always heard from parents and the like that it’s what’s on the inside that really matters.  This is absolutely true.  However, it is equally important to consider the perceptions others have of you. 

Your brand is already out in the world, and it is up to you to consider whether it is meshing up with your inner reality such that it serves as the most authentic representation of you as possible.  Therefore, it’s crucial to be conscious of BOTH who you are and how you’re being seen – for success in both the personal and professional spheres.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Job and Career -- Same or Different?

Last week, I was on an NPR radio program called The Afternoon Shift with Steve Edwards, where we focused on career changes (to listen, click on “Career Shift”).  In the discussion, I made a distinction I have made many times before – the difference between job and career – and thought it was worthwhile to elaborate here.

A job is something that provides you with the resources to live your life (hopefully well), while a career may or may not pay at all – but is what you be/do to live your purpose and passion.  This is important to note, as many feel that there is something wrong if job and career aren’t the same thing.  Let’s talk more about the differences.

A job is a role that funds your housing, your lifestyle, your kids’ education… giving you an income, health benefits, and the resources to finance your personal wants and needs.  You may love it, you may like it, or you may willingly tolerate it because of what it provides you.  Of course, you may hate it, but that’s another issue I won’t cover in this discussion.

Career is what you do in life that brings you pleasure, fulfillment, that sense of losing yourself in the flow of the experience, is founded in your values… and you LOVE it (on a deep level).  It may be your craft, your art, your expression, or even expertise you have honed over the years.  But you don’t have to be making money doing it for it to be your career. 

Your job may bring you all of these things, but I argue it’s completely okay if it doesn’t.  The most important thing is you feel satisfied in all areas – career and job.  Sometimes it’s more important to have the job and security while having the freedom to play elsewhere.

With clients, I have them work through an exercise called the Wheel of Life, where they rate their levels of satisfaction along various dimensions like Health, Love, Career, and Money.  I usually end up asking whether their work roles would fit better in their Career sector or in their Money sector.  Some are very clear about their Career sector, while others are taken aback when they realize their work is a job, not a career – and it fits better in their Money sector. 

When separated out, it is possible to have a much richer (and more accurate) conversation.  You may be a doctor, a writer, or a barista – and each could be looked at as a job or career, or both.  It depends on your perspective and how you experience each of them. 

More than one client has come to me saying that they are dissatisfied with their careers when they are really referring to their jobs.  In these cases, we will often focus on both career and job as two separate things.  Let me share an example that illustrates this distinction very well.

The Situation: A client began coaching with the complaint that she was unhappy at work and wanted a change so she could focus on her art. 

The Evaluation: We started by taking a look at sources of her dissatisfaction.  We evaluated how she was approaching her role, the actual work she was doing, and the nature of his interactions and relationships in the office.  Because she had a tendency to avoid conflict, she was not standing up for herself and claiming what she needed to be effective and fulfilled – both in and out of the office.  At work, disagreements and issues with her manager were not being addressed.  In her off-hours, she was not investing in her creative life by carving out time and space for her writing and painting.

The Approach: We worked on her emotional intelligence, communication and organization skills, and she talked with her manager to explore her career development path and possibilities.  In parallel, we found ways for her to engage in creative activities (her art and other things) outside of work.

The Realization: As we dug in, she started realizing that the dissatisfaction was coming less from the role, and more from her.  This desire to leave her work role to do something more creative was only part of the picture.  As she consciously worked on resolving the issues in the office, she actually started enjoying what she was doing more and had improved interactions with coworkers.  The more time she put aside in her off-hours to focus on her art, the more she felt she was getting the creative expression she needed.

The Big Take-Away: She recognized that she wanted both a job and a career, as separate things.  Her work role, which paid for her paints and travel and ability to live, was her job – and she liked it.  But her career was her art, and she realized that she would be miserable and would end up resenting her art if she had to rely on it as her source of income

One last story:  There are three bricklayers and each are asked why they do the work they do.  The first says, “I do it for the money.”  The second says, “I do it for my family.”  And the third says, “I am building a cathedral.”  The first two are probably jobs (resources) to these bricklayers, while the third is a career (fulfillment).  I would argue that none is inherently better than the other, as they each serve a different purpose, and each could lead to satisfaction and fulfillment if framed appropriately.  Is your job your career, and does it have to be for you to be happy?

Monday, February 27, 2012

Your Personal Brand: Part 1 – Evaluating and Defining

On Friday, I sat on an alumni panel sponsored by Northwestern University’s MSLOC program as part of a “Brand Yourself” series.  The discussion centered on the panelists' stories and experiences in developing and marketing a personal brand to help achieve our career goals.  To view a recording of the virtual panel, go HERE.  I provided a 30 minute talk, but thought it would be helpful to share some of my insights in a post.

My career story has seen some twists and turns, and has not been without challenge.  Most of the past twenty years have been spent working closely with CEOs and leadership teams (1994-2008), while I concurrently completed three academic degrees and multiple professional certifications (1997-2009), and grew a consulting practice (2000-present).  This was all with the intention of broadening and deepening my expertise and experience in the individual, team, and organizational spheres.

As I focused intensely on my own personal and professional development, I was learning a great deal about how to present and position myself to best navigate through my career.  Both unconsciously and consciously, I was creating what has become my personal brand.

When thinking about personal brand, what comes to mind?  Is it your resume, or your online presence?  Is it how you portray yourself to colleagues at work or at networking events?  Is it how your friends and family see you?  Is it how you express your values on a daily basis?  The answer is YES to all of these questions, and more.

The thing to remember is: your personal brand is already out there, whether you like it or not.  Google yourself and see what comes up.  Those are the things that hiring professionals will view when they inevitably investigate your online presence when considering you for a job.  Your Facebook posts and LinkedIn copy all say something about you, and it’s the reader who decides who you are to them (perceptions are their realities).  So, it’s important to do an audit to see what’s currently out there, and consider whether it aligns with how you want to be perceived.

I’ve extensively discussed the importance of starting with your core for everything you want to be/do/have.  Developing your personal brand requires the same process, but has both strong internal and external considerations.  It’s about who you are, and what you’re about, as well as who your audience(s) is and how you want to be seen.  Let’s look at some key questions to ask yourself:


       Who am I and what’s important to me?  Consider:
      Purpose (What/Why)
      Passions (What/Why)
      Values (Why)
      Strengths (What/How) – innate and able to be developed
      WIIFM – What’s in it for you?
       What impact do I want to have?  For whom?  This is both short- and long-term.
       What do I want to be known for?  By whom?  This may be about developing expertise or leaving a legacy.
       Where am I blocked?  This may be about fear that stops you or derailers that get in your way.


       Who is my audience / target market?  Consider both personal and professional, depending on your business.
      WIIFT – What’s in it for them?  What can they gain?
      What do they want? 
      What is needed “out there”?  Is there a gap I can fill?
       How can I best represent myself?
      How do I see myself?
      How do others see me?
      Where is the disconnect?
      How do I want them to see me?
       What is my story?
      What story am I currently telling?
      What do I want to tell?
      How might I reframe or alter the story?

The last part focuses on your story.  When I refer to that, I’m not suggesting it’s about a tale you spin.  Rather it’s your authentic truth and how your life, work, and life’s work have unfolded – and how you give a narrative of that journey.  It’s about putting into words and actions your core self, manifesting something in the world.  This is what will show up as your personal brand. 

As Michael Port says, your brand will look, sound and feel like you, and will be easily recognizable as your essence.  You will want it to be clear, authentic, meaningful, and consistent.  This will help make it feel real and memorable for others, prompting them to say, “Oh yeah, [name] is the person you want to reach out to for help with [expertise].”  Or, “[Name] is my go-to person if I want deeper insights and guidance about [topic].”  Or, “If you need really good [product/service], you will want to check out [name].”

To get there, you will need to do the upfront introspection, conduct an audit of what currently exists, determine your intentions, and set a strategy and plan for how to be intentional about designing your personal brand.  You have to consider what you are about, what your offer is, and how you will talk about you/it.  Determine:

  • Who you are at your core, what you stand for, and why you do what you do
  • The specific, topics, issues, or problems you focus on (and solve?)
  • Who your various audiences are and who you impact (or intend to)
  • The results you achieve – both tangible and intangible
  • Why people should work with you or buy what you’re selling (literally and figuratively)
Put some time into working through these questions and areas to consider, and evaluate what you define your personal brand to be (or want it to be).  Remember: It’s already out there. It’s up to you to determine whether it is an accurate, authentic representation of who you are and how you want to be seen...and what you want to do about it. 

In Part 2, I will discuss some tactics and specific approaches to personal branding I have found to be effective.