The topic of Personal branding is quite common now a days, yet many professionals are often puzzled when asked to define their brand. When conducting an Executive Search, I will often ask candidates to define or state what is their professional brand. Some have a clear understanding of what that means and can succinctly articulate it, others draw a blank.

Your personal brand is alive and it is how others in your profession, company or your industry perceive you. It is how you would be described by another person or colleague. So the question to think about is are you managing your professional brand?

A way to begin managing it, is by first understanding what is your brand. If you are employed, you could do your own perception survey by inquiring with other colleagues what is their perception of your brand. Three powerful questions you can use are:

  • What could Mr. X do more of so be more successful?
  • What could Mr. X do less of to be more successful?
  • What words would you use to describe Mr. X?

These three questions can provide insight to what you need to continue doing; start or stop doing; and how you are perceived in the world.

Once you have conducted your personal brand audit, you can determine if it meets your desired brand or if you need to rebrand yourself.

If rebranding is needed, here are some tips:

  • Seek feedback/Collect Data

Seeking feedback on what areas you need to improve upon often is the first step to rebranding as it allows you the opportunity to see how others see you. Ask people. Ask what do you do well? Often others see our talents better than we do as we are more self-critical. Ask what can you improve upon.

  • Define your desired Brand

You could think about it like so. If you were being introduced as a speaker to an audience that does not know you, what would you want to be said about you?

Now that you have a clear picture of what your desired brand is, check yourself and see if you living in accordance to it. Consider your actions and how they help support your brand. Are there any other steps or actions you could take to support your personal brand or vision of yourself?

In addition, in today’s world of social media you need to be aware of how your Linkedin, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchats feeds contribute positively or negatively to your brand. This is critical as you are searchable and what you put out into the social media should be consistent with the brand you want to portray.

Now, don’t be alarmed into total paralysis. I have seen candidates so afraid of social media and saying the wrong thing that they are virtually non -existent. This is an error. Virtual presence,  is  similar to having a credit history; you want to exist but positively. If unsure about social media, stick to linkedin as this is the current vehicle used by recruiters to find candidates.

In summary, identify what is your brand, determine if you need to rebrand or continue and then be consistent in your words and actions to support your brand.

Manage your brand and you will manage your career.

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On Networking When Out of the Job Market

Looking for a job after you have been out of the job market is a daunting effort. What do I do? Where do I go? And how do I network?

So you have decided–or it’s been decided that you are going to find a job. Once you have a professional interest in mind and are market ready (resume and Linkedin Profile updated), its time to let the world know that you’re out there (aka: networking).

Networking makes even some working professionals break into a cold sweat. I remember that while I was in corporate HR, I would rather go to a teeth cleaning than participate in a networking event. Funny, as I had a big title then and the business cards to go with it, but I kept thinking, “what the hell am I going to talk about?” Now that I am on my own, I still don’t love it but I have found ways to make networking work for me and feel less daunting.

I recently participated as a panelist on a professional development workshop so I had some time to ponder about this topic.

I don’t think networking is one size fits all. I know people employed and unemployed who have a talent for sparking conversation with anyone. They have no apparent fear of rejection. This is a wonderful skill to posses, unfortunately I am not one these people.  While I can speak publicly and host large training sessions, small talk is not something I am comfortable with.

Frankly, the happy hour events in my profession feel like a speed dating session. Or that is what I imagine speed dating must be like; talk to as many people as possible in the shortest amount of time and try to get a meaningful connection out of it. Perhaps it works for some, but I am not one of them.

Here is what has worked for me:

  1. Pick two or three organizations that you are interested in and get involved. Since the topic at hand is networking professionally, at least one should be related to a professional interest. Then follow your interests and passions. Pick something you are passionate about even if it has nothing to do with your intended profession or career. This could be volunteering at the local dog shelter, your community church, a community garden or your children’s school. Do what you are naturally good at as you will likely look forward to the activity and excel at it.  Connecting with others related to topics you are passionate creates meaningful relationships.  And meaningful connections are who help you land a job lead. If no job lead materializes at least you spent your time doing something you love.
  1. The second is getting out of the house and make one meaningful in-person connection each week. A wise friend told me “you can’t traffic control your career from behind a computer screen”.  This is very true.  So get out there and start meeting people in person.

A way to do your meaningful meeting is get together for coffee. Here is what I mean: when you are starting something new, you are likely to have many questions. You may even know people in your circle that have knowledge in the area you are wondering about but you don’t want to bother them. Or at least, this is how I felt. A less threatening approach to a meeting is having coffee with someone.

When I started consulting, I had many questions, as frankly this ‘opportunity’ happened very suddenly. Once I would identify someone that had knowledge in subject I was interested, I would invite him or her for coffee or request a 30 min phone call.

I even wrote a woman that started her own consulting firm in another state and is very successful.  Much to my surprise she graciously agreed to our phone call to shared her insights on the matter.

I received great advice this way and pointers on items I had not even considered. My goal each time was to come prepared with a few questions and more importantly with my mind open to what I might learn.

However, for this to work, you have to be respectful of other people’s time and have boundaries. So show up on time, and end the meeting on time. This is not a meeting where you are going to pitch the person a product you are selling or ask them to hire you. That is a huge turnoff. Have no expectation but that of obtaining knowledge and you will always walk out feeling accomplished. You never know where that initial coffee meeting might lead. I met someone for coffee to learn more about an organization that I am interested in and ended up being invited to be on the Board of the organization.

Finally, remain open to the possibilities.  I tend to be very much of a control freak so this item is a work in progress for me.  Up until now, I knew three steps ahead what my career or job would look like.  While I was very successful at obtaining my goals, it did not leave me much room for other possibilities.  Now, I am open to new and unexpected positive things coming.  By doing so, I am participating in things I had not considered before.  I believe this is due to shifting my disposition.

So in essence, the focus is making meaning connections on a value based common thread, and stay open to new possibilities.  You never know what might come of a simple coffee meeting.