As an entrepreneur, you have to prioritize your time and money because you have precious little of both. Many entrepreneurs place developing their product and getting funded as their top priorities. They don’t realize that branding will help them reach these goals faster. Entrepreneurs who don’t actively brand themselves and their companies face lower company valuations and delays in market adoption. I won’t name names, but look at the huge disparity between valuations of companies that essentially do the same thing. The difference is brand perceptions. One company is hot, and the other is not.
You need to create your story and build your reputation—key elements in branding—before you approach investors, even before seed funding. Funders are investing in you, first, and the product, second.
Last week, I was a speaker, along with start-up brander Mari-Mineta Clapp, on corporate and personal branding at the Red Herring Conference in Monterey. We spoke to a standing-room-only audience. Entrepreneurs are hungry to know when and how they should brand themselves.
Branding is a requirement
Branding for entrepreneurs has gone from a “nice to have” to a “got to do.” Entrepreneurs are competing for funding, talent, partnerships and the opportunity to tell their story in a noisy and crowded market. If you don’t take an active role in branding yourself, your competitors will brand you. If detractors have created misconceptions about you and your company, your starting point for branding may be repairing a negative image.
But, don’t just jump into social media to brand yourself if you don’t have a strategy. Pumping up the volume on a diffused message will only create more confusion about your brand and slow adoption.
Start with a goal of leadership in a certain niche, then build your strategy and tactics around that goal.
If your first instinct is to advertise your company and yourself—stop. Well before you even consider advertising, you need to work the ecosystem—that is, educate and develop relationships with the influencers so they want to endorse you and your vision. Powerful branding is about engagement in a way that positions you and provides value to your ecosystem—and ultimately, the world.
What is social media’s role?
Social media is a great way to reach out to influencers and build a reputation and a following around your vision. Before you do anything else, however, make sure you have a compelling LinkedIn profile and photo. You’ll be talking to a lot of people who may not have met you, and you can be sure they will search you online. Your LinkedIn profile may be the first impression that they have of you. Make it a good one.
A founder and CTO who had a personal blog, multiple websites and different social media handles asked me why he was not better recognized in his domain. His problem was not that search engines couldn’t find him; his problem was that he had conflicting messages. You didn’t know who he was or why you should care. He needed to consolidate his online image around his name and his unique value. He neglected his job of curating his content and image. Don’t leave it up for others to figure out your positioning and value. You need to serve it up in a clear and consistent way.
When should you invest in the corporate brand versus the personal brand?
As an entrepreneur, you have to promote yourself first. Investors want to know who you are and whether you are worthy of their trust. They will look at your level of passion and perseverance, your domain knowledge and skills, your intelligence (both IQ and emotional intelligence), your leadership style, your adaptability, your personality, your ability to attract and manage talent, and, of course, your ideas. When they do their due diligence, will the right people corroborate what you say about yourself and your company? You can guide the outcome through smart personal branding and ecosystem engagement.
Even when your corporate brand takes root, continue investing in your personal brand. Brand around something you can be known for throughout your career. For instance, your ideas on technology, business models, future trends, leadership, or giving back. You may be associated with a number of companies in your lifetime. Your personal brand needs to transcend your image as the founder of one company.
I saw my dental hygienist this week.
Not an earth-shattering event but significant because it made me think about reinventing one’s brand. Not hers, mine.
As she peered in my mouth, she told me that she is amazed at how successfully I have rebranded myself (in addition to keeping my pearly whites healthy!). She remembered how in 2005 I was known as an Italian vacation specialist with the company tagline, “Savor the Real Italy.” Today, I am a book author and recognized branding expert.
My book, BrandingPays, has been featured in national media like Businessweek, WSJ Radio, Fast Company and Forbes.com. A major business school is using BrandingPays as a textbook for career management. In October, I will be a keynote speaker at the 2013 World Brand Congress in Mumbai, India. I have, indeed, come a long way from selling vacations in Italy.
How to Rebrand Yourself
Am I an overnight success? Hardly.
I had a 20+ year consulting career in advertising, public relations and marketing strategy before my diversion into Italian vacations. Six of those years were as a principal and partner with Regis McKenna Inc., the marketing consulting firm that did the brand positioning for Apple, Genentech and Intel. So it wasn’t that I learned branding overnight.
But, reestablishing myself in consulting after a two-year Italian hiatus wasn’t easy. I had done a great job branding myself as the Italian vacation expert that booked unforgettable stays in farmhouses and villas (see my book for how a Korean American became a credible Italy expert). I had built an Italian vacation ecosystem with suppliers, partners, key customers and allies. The thought of rebranding myself and rebuilding my ecosystem for brand consulting was daunting.
Luckily, I had a methodology for helping companies position or reposition their brands. I became my own patient and took my own medicine.
My goal, at that time, was to be known as Silicon Valley’s brand strategist.
I built out my branding methodology and tested it doing pro bono brand strategy and messaging projects for a non-profit organization and, separately, for a commercial company. By doing a great job, I won two important endorsements as a brand strategist and got a number of referrals.
With a service product defined, I went to work on building my personal brand and thought leadership by creating a website, starting a blog, and later creating my profiles in social media with regular postings on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. I also started speaking to professional groups and business schools, and building ecosystem relationships for service delivery, influencer endorsements and marketing.
Thought Leadership: Writing a Book
Clients and organizations I spoke to begged me to write a book on branding (see my blog post on how I overcame my fear). The interest in personal branding was high and I had just started an executive branding program at a large company, so I decided to write BrandingPays: The Five-Step System to Reinvent Your Personal Brand. In actuality, the BrandingPays methodology works equally well for organizations.
The lesson that I learned from becoming a published author is that if you truly want to be a thought leader, you have to write a book. I was well known in Silicon Valley, but once my book was published I got speaking and media requests nationally and internationally.
Don’t Just Say It, Do It
Because I am a branding expert, I wanted the book to align with my brand in its carefully crafted content, professional artwork, two-color printing and even the foil stamping on the book cover. I demonstrated best practices for book promotion by hiring a great book publicist, PR by the Book, to handle media relations. An influencer campaign ensured that key bloggers got interviews with me and wrote reviews.
I have found my passion: to educate and enable others to brand themselves and their companies.
I get great satisfaction from sharing my expertise, and in turn, other people share my content with their communities. How can you make sure that your brand stands for something? Don’t just turn up the volume; ensure that you have quality programming. Personal branding happens when others find value in what you say and do.
A Continuing Journey
Branding is a journey. I still have brand improvements that I will be making in the next months and years ahead. But, I have rebranded from Italian vacation specialist to branding expert in a short amount of time. Stay tuned for my next chapter.
What is the moral to this story? Like me, you can change your career and rebrand for new business opportunities. But, as my hygienist says, you have to work at it if you want a healthy smile. Keep working on your brand. I see a healthy smile ahead.
I often talk about branding from the inside out—that is, from your core values to how you represent your brand. But, it never quite hit home until I was in Kona, Hawaiʻi, running enterprise branding workshops with 22 social entrepreneurs. Despite overcast skies, our Sheraton Kona hotel was resplendent with flowers, the sounds of Hawaiian chanting and the tastes of the Sam Choy Annual Poke contest.
The enterprises in the workshops ran the gamut from non-profits protecting Hawaii’s fragile ecosystem to for-profit restaurant and food service organizations. All had this in common: a love for Hawaiian culture and a deep desire to help its people and promote island sustainability.
The workshops were organized by Hawai‘i Investment Ready (HIR) in sponsorship with the Kamehameha Schools, the largest landowner in the Hawaiian islands. Lisa Kleissner, HIR co-founder and a dropout from the Silicon Valley rat race, is herself a great example of someone who lives her brand values by helping social enterprises increase their social impact.
I was drawn to this project in part because I have roots in Hawaiʻi. One set of grandparents were born here and another set immigrated from southern Korea to work the sugar cane and pineapple fields in Kauai. My parents were both born in Honolulu.
Love What You Do, the Brand Will Follow
What created the greatest impact for me in Kona was hearing the young entrepreneurs talk about why they were in the business of helping Hawai‘i and its people. Over and over, I heard how the motivation was not money, but love.
Kapaliku “Matt” Schirman and Rick Kapanowaiwaiola Barboza of Hui Kū Maoli Ola are trying to save Hawaii’s fast-dwindling native plants that are key to restoring the island’s groundwater supply. Na’alehu Anthony and Keoni Lee are bringing on-demand programming that promotes Hawaiian culture, history and language to Hawaiians and island-lovers everywhere from their ‘Oiwi television network. Others like Johanna Ventura and Stacy Sproat-Beck of Waipā Foundation are building a community kitchen and poi mill to help economically challenged cottage industries thrive in eastern Kauai. They are not only branding their social enterprises, they are branding themselves in the best way possible—with authenticity.
When we first started our branding workshops, a number of the participants were skeptical. They didn’t feel it was the Hawaiian way to promote themselves and didn’t like the competitive context of market positioning. But when it became apparent that what I meant by branding was not one-way promotion but two-way value exchange, education and engagement, they got on board.
Be Visible to Have Impact
To make the greatest impact as a social entrepreneur, you need to have visibility and to be recognized for your value. Without brand awareness and recognition, you will not have the influence that you need to make a difference. If you can’t do it for yourself, I said, do it for your mission and the greater good.
We worked together on the BrandingPays™ five steps:
1) Positioning. Articulate a compelling and differentiated value proposition for their target audience.
2) Messages. We developed vision and value messages that resonated with key targets. We found a way to tell their story that connected emotionally.
3) Brand Strategy. Here we put together their brand’s rational value and emotional value—what I call “cake” and “icing.” We looked at core values, what they loved doing, strengths, personality, image and brand promise to define a brand strategy that can be represented in a 360-degree way.
4) Ecosystem. The concept of an ecosystem with partners and influencers who can help advocate for you and accelerate your brand leadership comes naturally to Hawaiians where everyone is, or acts like, they are related.
5) Action Plan. For many of the social entrepreneurs, developing and executing their action plans was daunting. They realize that they need to be found on the Internet to maximize their reach and opportunities. A few of them have already invited me to join them on LinkedIn, the largest online professional network, and some have been inspired to start their Twitter and Facebook accounts. Now that they have a strategy, their tactical execution will go much smoother and actually add up to something in the end.
The progress in just two days of seminars was amazing. Each entrepreneur became much more focused and articulate about what they were about and the value that they delivered. Their confidence in themselves and their ability to attract investors rose significantly. They radiated when they spoke of their enterprises. And why not? They were doing what came naturally—branding from the inside out.
I’d love for everyone to watch this short and compelling video from Geoffrey Moore, author of Crossing the Chasm and most recently, Escape Velocity:
He talks about why changing business models make strategic personal branding essential for career success. We have moved from a “command and control hierarchy” to a collaborative management model where we are all “free agents” interplaying across an ecosystem. In the New Economy, it is our job as an agent or “company of one,” to market ourselves.
Moore, who wrote the foreword to my book, BrandingPays™: The Five-Step System to Reinvent Your Personal Brand, makes an elegant argument for why branding yourself is not an “act of vanity” but a requirement that makes the new world order work. Take two minutes now to watch this video and heed its message.
For more than 20 years, I have been a positioning and branding expert. Six of those years were spent as a principal and partner with Regis McKenna’s legendary marketing consulting firm that put many iconic Silicon Valley brands on the map, including Apple, Intel and Genentech. One can reasonably say that I had the experience and credentials to write a book. So why did it take me so long?
I had a truckload of excuses.
I don’t have time.
Writing a book is too daunting.
I can’t talk about my client work because it’s confidential.
But, the biggest hurdle for me was fear of failure. If you put yourself out there and commit your ideas to paper, people can tear them down. And wouldn’t you look silly?
Thankfully my desire to share a methodology that I knew could change lives was greater than my fear of failure. I owed it to the world to repurpose and extend the Regis McKenna methodology for product positioning to personal branding. As Geoffrey Moore wrote in my book foreword:
“Your job is to embrace the challenge of personal branding and to leverage the models and methods this book lays out to position yourself to provide maximum value to others. That, in turn, will create maximum value for you, both in terms of personal fulfillment and financial success.”
What helped me to get past my fear was to shift my focus away from me and to refocus it on providing “maximum value to others.” I knew I could empower people struggling with how to define their unique value and position in the world. I’d done this successfully with 150 companies and thousands of individuals.
What about my other excuses?
I don’t have time. The hurdle was me. I control my calendar, no own else. Last November, I decided to make the time. I booked a writing vacation by myself in Santa Cruz, California. Alone. For three days, I wrote in cafes and my rented bedroom, taking walks along the ocean to clear my head when I had writer’s block. I came home with an outline and a 10,000-word start to my book manuscript. But, my productivity as a writer died when I got back to the office and my pressing client deadlines. When I failed to make progress writing on weekends only, I committed to spending two months writing nearly full time to finish my draft. And, I did. Lesson learned: You have to make your goal a priority or it won’t happen.
Writing a book is too daunting. Well, looking back, it does seem that way. But, I made it easier by getting a book coach and consultant who knew the ropes and knew how to keep me on track. I used poster paper on my wall to map out my book visually with colored sticky notes to represent key points, illustrations and examples. I revised my book outline so I could break up the methodology with stories and examples, making it more fun for me as a writer (and, I hope, the reader). Lesson learned: Hire or find good people to help, and break a big task into manageable chunks.
I can’t talk about my client work because it’s confidential. I was probably just being lazy. It takes time to reach out to people to ask permission to use their stories and examples. I found, to my surprise, that instead of this being a tiresome process, it gave me renewed confidence. People like to share their success stories and want to help you spread the word. For some, I used real names, but for many others, I used pseudonyms. Lesson learned: Work arounds exist for almost any problem if you’re willing to think creatively and put the work in to make it happen.
This is the beginning of a new year. Do you have a goal that you want to achieve? If fear is holding you back, quit thinking of yourself and think about how you can help the world, your industry, or your company. Carve out time to work on your plan, find support from others and overcome hurdles with creativity and perseverance. Today’s blog is about writing my book, but it could well have been about your facing fears about personal branding. Funny thing, I know a book that just might help you.
Note: Visit www.brandingpays.com to order the book or learn more.
The world is dynamic. Your brand needs to keep up with the times. If the world is talking about social marketing and you only do broadcast advertising, your reputation as a current marketer will suffer. You need to position yourself with the new skills and mindset required for the modern world.
Whether you are looking for a job or currently employed, there are a number of changes that may trigger a need for you to refresh your personal brand. My top six are:
1. New job search or career change. If your job or career goal is different from the job you currently hold or had in the past, you need to rethink how to package your skills, experience and leadership to fit the new objective—in other words, you need to rebrand. Don’t let negative memes about personal branding being for the birds thwart you from getting your message out there. You need to think and act like a free agent. You are your own brand manager.
2. Change in company ownership or leadership. Instead of waiting for the company to reorganize the leadership team, you can be proactive in aligning your strengths and point of view with the new owners or leaders. I worked on both department and personal branding for an HR group at a large company that had just been acquired. We aligned the group’s mission, vision and brand messages in a way that spoke to the business value delivered. We highlighted innovative programs that got data-driven results in talent development, talent retention and employee satisfaction. All of the key managers aligned their personal brands with the department brand and became effective spokespeople for the group. The result? When a huge reduction in workforce was announced, not one of the members of the group was laid off. This was an astounding feat since HR is usually seen as overhead. In fact, top leadership praised the group leader and his managers for their strategic contribution.
3. Change in cultural values. Many companies are searching for a competitive edge in company culture. If your company is undergoing a shift in corporate culture, this represents an excellent opportunity to tune your personal brand to the culture change. For instance, if your company is changing from a sales-driven to a customer-service culture, you need to position yourself as a customer champion in everything you think, do and say. Volunteering to become part of the culture change management team is a way to show your enthusiasm and alignment with the new company direction.
4. Shift in desired leadership traits. Likewise, if your company is putting an emphasis on collaboration and cross-functional cooperation, perhaps you need to shed your lone-wolf image and behavior. For women, the trend to boost the EQ, or emotional intelligence, in 21st century companies is to your advantage since women have an innate capacity for EQ. Package your ability to connect, collaborate, mentor and communicate in a way that maps to corporate objectives.
5. Shift in technology or business strategy. These shifts can represent a great opportunity to be recognized and valued for your expertise or skill set. Even if you do not have the desired technology from the get go, you can become a quick study, volunteer for industry groups that promote that particular technology and become known as someone who moves in these technology circles. The same can be done to demonstrate business understanding and strategic thinking.
6. Reduction in workforce. As mentioned in point #2, don’t be a victim. Be proactive about positioning yourself for the new world order. Understand the competitive pressures your company is undergoing, and position yourself as part of the solution—whether it is the ability to cut costs or the ability to innovate for future growth.
Don’t be afraid of change. Every time your world shifts, it represents an opportunity to be seen in a new light. Take advantage of these triggers for refreshing, or reinventing, your personal brand.
Four Memes That Can Keep You From Branding Yourself
Is personal branding for the birds? (No Twitter pun intended.)
I may be living in a bubble in Silicon Valley, but I am amazed by how many people think personal branding is not something they have to do. Memes, or cultural ideas and beliefs that we transmit to one another over time, might have something to do with it. There are four powerful memes that may be thwarting you from branding yourself.
1. “My work speaks for itself”
Do you believe that you don’t have to brand yourself because your work speaks for itself? Doing good work is an honorable objective, but a good work product does not necessarily guarantee that you’ll get the promotion, the job or the funding that you deserve.
2. “Personal branding is narcissistic”
This was essentially Drew Olanoff’s opinion in a 10/14/12 post on TechCrunch “Here’s to the Death of ‘Personal Branding’ on the Internet”:
“Personal branding is all about the person, as in it’s an extremely self-centered thing that doesn’t help anyone but yourself.” In other words, it’s selfish and narcissistic.
Drew is misguided. Here’s how I replied to his post:
“Those who think personal branding is all about them have got it all wrong. It’s about being of unique value to the world and communicating it in thought, word, deed and image. Instead of ‘self-promoting,’ try ‘educating’ the world and building authentic relationships.”
If you change your mindset from “me” to “we,” you will look for opportunities to share, engage, partner and add to the greater community. It is a win/win for both your personal brand and for the community that benefits from your unique viewpoint and talents. Think of it as brand education, not promotion.
3. “I don’t have the personality for branding myself”
Personal branding does not require that you have an extroverted personality. A big part of personal branding is creating the messages and image that help others to understand and value what you are all about. Message creation is not an extroverted versus introverted activity. It’s strategic.
On the other hand, communication and engagement may be more difficult for shy people. The Internet, however, is a great equalizer. A self-described geek recently told a crowd at MarketingCamp Silicon Valley that geeks used to be at a disadvantage for being socially awkward, but are now the cool heroes of the web. They understand the technology and rules of social media. Approaching others on the web is as easy as commenting on their blog, liking their Facebook post, or sharing their content.
4. “Social media is a waste of time”
If you believe this, you need to wake up and look around you. Social media is changing everything: how we communicate, engage, market, get the news, influence and, yes, brand. Social media has had a huge effect on how companies recruit for talent.
According to an 8/18/12 Mashable post, at least 90 percent of recruiters use social media to find, source and connect with candidates. If you can’t be found on the web, and don’t have a compelling image and reputation—hence, personal brand—you will lose out on job and business opportunities. I used LinkedIn almost exclusively in my last hire, demonstrating the importance of personal branding on LinkedIn.
So it’s your choice. You can take false comfort in memes that convince you not to brand yourself. Or you can embrace the new reality of social branding. Remember, communicating your personal brand is not just for your benefit, but also for the benefit of the world that can profit from your unique value.
Quick, think of three entrepreneur brands. What are they?
For me, the first three who came to mind were Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg and Oprah Winfrey. Although Steve left us a year ago, he remains one of the strongest entrepreneur brands on the planet having risen Apple from the dead to become the largest company in market capitalization. Mark is the programming wunderkind who built Facebook, the largest social networking platform in the world. And, Oprah, even with her recent stumbles in cable TV, is a beloved rags-to-riches story: a talk-show host come philanthropist who built a media empire helping us feel better about ourselves.
What are the common threads with these three entrepreneur branding examples?
- Have a vision. Each of these iconic entrepreneur brands had/has a vision. For Steve, it was all about changing the world with technology embodied in awesome products. For Mark, it has evolved from connecting friends online to creating the identity platform for the world’s individuals. For Oprah, it has been about empowering people through uplifting advice, stories and lifestyle.
As an entrepreneur, you need a well-articulated vision that connects with your target audience.
- Show evidence. All three have success evidence, whether it is sales, number of users or influence. My former boss, the Silicon Valley marketing guru Regis McKenna reminded me in a recent email that Steve Jobs had little credibility as late as 1998 until he started turning Apple around with the introduction of the iMac. As Regis put it: “Profitability and growth are the two best marketing programs a company or its leader can use to gain leadership.”
- Tell a personal story. Steve, Mark and Oprah all have compelling personal narratives that they have shared with the world. Think about the attributes that investors and customers desire in a company founder, and weave your story in a way that delivers on some key attributes.
- Brand yourself, or be branded by others. The film The Social Network branded Mark Zuckerberg as a brilliant programmer and social misfit who often seemed a jerk. Soon after the movie opened, Mark made a $100 million charitable donation to Newark public schools. He later pledged to give away half his wealth spurred by Bill Gates and Warren Buffet, and has used Facebook to promote social causes. He didn’t just let others brand him, he took action to change the narrative.
Sometimes you need to reinvent your brand from, say, a:
- Business manager to a market visionary
- Bean counter to a financial whiz
- Hacker to a technology strategist
- Product manager to an innovation specialist
Make sure the world can find you online. At the very least, build a great LinkedIn profile with a title and summary that concisely informs people what you are all about. Maybe your title should say “Software Entrepreneur | Big Data Analysis | Social Data Visualization” instead of “CEO, LittleCompany Inc.”
In the world of personal branding, you can’t be impersonal—especially for an entrepreneur. Be a personality who demonstrates your values in how you interact with others. Consistency is important—both what you say and how you look. Whether we are an investor or a customer, we want to identify with you.
I just hired a paid marketing and communications intern for my corporate and personal branding company, BrandingPays LLC. (Congratulations, Pinky—her real name!) Within two weeks of posting my job opening on LinkedIn, I had more than 200 resumes from across the United States and some from other countries. Early on, I carefully looked over each resume. But after the first 25 resumes, I narrowed the time for a first-pass evaluation to about 10 seconds. Based on my experience, I’m sharing six easy tips for personal branding on LinkedIn that can dramatically increase your chances of being hired:
- Expand job titles on LinkedIn profile. Before I reviewed the resume or cover letter, I looked at the email from LinkedIn which summarizes your current position, past positions and education. For instance, if you put “Summer Intern” for your job, it doesn’t say much. But, if you change it to “Intern, Marketing Coordination, Blogger and Special Events,” you now have my attention. Also, LinkedIn lets employers do filtered searches on the job candidates. Since this is keyword based, you need to have the right personal branding words appear in your LinkedIn profile.
- Write a good cover letter. I decided that those who could not take the time to write a thoughtful cover letter were not that interested in the job. It’s amazing that less than 10 percent of candidates bothered to include one with their application. What I looked for is an understanding of my business, the ability to match the job requirements with the candidate’s skills and aptitude, and some clues to their personality—like being upbeat and confident.
- Customize your resume. A strong resume in my mind is not just one that demonstrates good experience, but one that markets the candidate well—crucial to personal branding. I appreciated seeing my position as the job objective at the top and a summary of qualifications that matched the job requirements. Summarizing your strengths up front is key! Don’t make recruiters or hiring managers work to figure out why you are a good candidate. If the job has certain technical requirements, you need to list all that apply. I went through the resumes quickly checking off the requirements I wanted.
- Know the company. Your personal brand is on display from the first moment of contact. When I introduced myself in a phone call to one candidate, she asked, “What is BrandingPays?” She obviously hadn’t researched my company, which ended her chance of getting the job. On the other hand, Pinky, who got the job, had studied my LinkedIn profile, my website and spoke knowledgably about blog posts I had written.
- Show your passion. If it is true, tell the hiring company that this is your dream job and why. Show your interest by following up with emails, offering to send samples of your work, and saying that you will rearrange your schedule to accommodate an interview. Hiring executives like myself want to see evidence of a candidate’s interest in both words and actions.
- Find a connection. You may not always have a recommendation from someone the hiring manager knows. But, it certainly helps. I got a LinkedIn message from a professional acquaintance recommending Pinky. When you have two candidates with equally qualified backgrounds, the one with the recommendation and personal connection will almost always get the job. It’s a matter of trust. However, you can forge a connection with your interviewers by studying their online profiles and finding commonality such as places they have lived, schools attended, sports, films, and hobbies or interests. People are human. We like it when someone shows a personal interest. It makes us feel special and connected—a key to branding, in general, and personal branding, in particular.
These are just my take-aways from my recent experience in hiring through LinkedIn. What advice do you have on how personal branding can enhance the ability to be hired for a job?
I am going out on a limb by saying that certain “truisms” in personal branding and career coaching can actually hinder your personal brand. In general, these truisms provide reasonable advice, but I’m afraid that they can be used as an excuse for maintaining the status quo.
Let’s look at a couple of them:
Hindering Truism #1: Focus on Your Strengths, and Forget the Rest.
It’s important to know your strengths and what you are good at doing. But, I think the advice to focus only on what your current strengths are versus what you could and should develop as strengths is dangerous.
Personal branding assessments can be helpful in understanding your current brand. But, then you need to look at your career goal in the context of today’s market environment and identify the aspirational brand that will get you there faster. Your desired brand goal should build upon your strengths, but should not be limited to your current competencies.
Somewhat related is the next potentially dangerous tip.
Hindering Truism #2: Be Yourself (You Can’t Be Someone Else)
Before I get a lot of hate mail, hear me out. It may be comforting to think that your best brand is just being who you are today. But, would if, being who you are is holding you back?
At the beginning of my career, I was terrified of client presentations and public speaking because I felt so awkward. I could have just said, “Being an inspiring speaker is just not me. I don’t want to pretend to be someone I’m not.” Instead, I faced my fears and decided that even if I didn’t feel comfortable speaking in public, I wanted to train to get better. Had I been satisfied with the status quo, I wouldn’t have the opportunities (speaking and otherwise) that I have today.
“I’m not a warm-and-fuzzy guy, that’s just not me.” No one is asking him to do a 180-degree transformation, but working on people skills and showing some empathy would probably help his career.
“I’m shy and quiet. Being more dynamic socially just isn’t me.” There is nothing wrong with having a quiet personality, but being so shy that you can’t introduce yourself to others could be career limiting.
Don’t hide behind “truisms” about personal branding to avoid improving yourself. Embrace your aspirations and learn ways to improve your brand. Being yourself may soon mean being the new you!