Regardless of age, regardless of position, regardless of the business we happen to be in, all of us need to understand the importance of branding.
We are CEOs of our own companies: Me Inc. To be in business today, our most important job is to be head marketer for the brand called You. —TOM PETERS
You have alternatives, you’re just not creating them for yourself.
You have to start taking ownership of managing your career. You have to start making an effort to change your brand from anonymous cog to slightly famous difference maker.
"...I went out of my way to take on projects no one wanted and initiated projects no one had thought of doing. I e-mailed my boss, and sometimes my boss’s boss, ideas. And I did it almost every day. What was the worst thing that could happen? I’d get fired from a job I didn’t like anyway. Alternatively, I’d make the effort to create the job—regardless of where it was—that I thought would make me happy.”
Every job I’ve ever had, I’ve made an effort to brand myself as an innovator, a thinker, a salesman, and someone who could get stuff done. When I was just a management trainee at ICI, my first job out of college, I sent a set of recommendations to the CEO. So he never responded. But I never stopped sending those e-mails. It’s just silly to think you can’t impact people’s personal and professional expectations of who you are. By making the effort, you can break the glass ceiling by expanding people’s view of your capability.
To become a brand, you’ve got to become relentlessly focused on what you do that adds value.
And I promise you can add value to whatever job you’re doing now. Can you do what you do faster and more efficiently? If so, why not document what it would take to do so and offer it to your boss as something all employees might do? Do you initiate new projects on your own and in your spare time? Do you search out ways to save or make your company more money? You can’t do all that if you’re solely concerned with minimizing risk, respecting the chain of command, and following your job description to the letter. There’s no room for yes-men in this pursuit. Those with the gumption to make their work special will be the ones to establish a thriving brand.
You can’t do meaningful work that makes a difference unless you’re devoted to learning, growing, and stretching your skills. If you want others to redefine what you do and who you are within organizational boundaries, then you have to be able to redefine yourself. That means going above and beyond what’s called for. It means seeing your résumé as a dynamic, changing document every year. It means using your contacts inside and outside your network to deliver each project you’re assigned with inspired performance. Peters calls this the pursuit of WOW in everything you do.
Develop a Personal Branding Message (PBM) A brand is nothing less than everything everyone thinks of when they see or hear your name. The best brands, like the most interesting people, have a distinct message. Your PBM comes from your content/unique value proposition, as we discussed in the last chapter, and a process of self-evaluation. It involves finding out what’s really in a name—your name. It calls for you to identify your uniqueness and how you can put that uniqueness to work. It’s not a specific task so much as the cultivation of a mind-set. What do you want people to think when they hear or read your name? What product or service can you best provide? Take your skills, combine them with your passions, and find out where in the market, or within your own company, they can best be applied.
Package the Brand Most people’s judgments and impressions are based on visuals—everything other than the words you speak that communicates to others what you’re about. For everyone in every field—let’s be real—looks count, so you’d better look polished and professional. There is one general, overarching caveat in this step: Stand out! Style matters. Whether you like it or not, clothing, letterheads, hairstyles, business cards, office space, and conversational style are noticed—big time. The design of your brand is critical. Buy some new clothes. Take an honest look at how you present yourself. Ask others how they see you. How do you wish to be seen? The bottom line is you have to craft an appearance to the outside world that will enhance the impression you want to make. “Everyone sees what you appear to be,” observed Machiavelli, “few really know what you are.”
Broadcast Your Brand
You’ve got to become your own PR firm, as I’ll talk about in the next chapter. Take on the projects no one wants at work. Never ask for more pay until after you’ve been doing the job successfully and become invaluable. Get on convention panels. Write articles for trade journals and company newsletters. Send e-mails filled with creative ideas to your CEO. Design your own Me, Inc. brochure.
Never Eat Alone: And Other Secrets to Success, One Relationship at a Time by Keith Ferrazzi, Tahl Raz
“We all are learning, modifying, or destroying ideas all the time. Rapid destruction of your ideas when the time is right is one of the most valuable qualities you can acquire. You must force yourself to consider arguments on the other side.
— Charles T. Munger”
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