Ritz Carlton hotels say “Let us Stay with You” and the Four Seasons boasts, “Fifty Hotels. Twenty-Two Countries. One Philosophy.” These brand names and their respective branding statements conjure luxury and high-end customer service. What does your brand say about you?
Do such marketing terms as reliable, efficient come to mind? What about, consistency, integrity, professionalism? Of course our personal branding statements will differ from the corporate space. It would be very odd to have your personal brand identity be “just do it.”
Now ask yourself this, how you would go about attaching a branding label when it comes to marketing yourself for a career search?
Here is a quick exercise. You are now a CMO and you are tasked with creating a marketing slogan for the following: Any given Hall of Famer, Olympic Gold medalist or league MVP.
It is an interesting assignment that is ripe with debate but the fact remains, all of us as individuals are brands and how we create, manage and protect our brand is a huge part of our success or failure regardless of who we are and what line of business we are in.
In business a lot of personal branding advice is centered around putting yourself out there so that others will see you as an expert on a subject. But what do you do when you’re just starting out in your field and don’t feel that you have a lot of expertise or unique information to share? What if you’re not a Stanford professor on behavioral economics, or a CEO of a wildly flourishing business, or a successful athlete who has someone else overseeing their brand for them? What if you’re just a perfectly ordinary person who happens to be interested in breaking into the sports industry and want to get a leg-up on others who are competing for the same job?
The Beginning of Personal Branding
How do you brand yourself when you’re not sure you have something to say? Or what if you just don’t know how to get started? How do you find your voice?
Simple – spend your time learning about what is going on in your field. Read books and blogs, subscribe to scholarly journals (or go read them at the library), listen to webinars, and go to learning events, especially conferences. Do everything you can to stay up to date, and find relevant information. Then, use that to start branding yourself. Here’s how:
Any time you’ve read, heard, or seen something important, take an hour or so afterwards to write down your take on it. A blog will allow you to share the lessons you are incorporating into your life. A business expert I know got her start in this way. She knew a lot about her field but was completely flustered and had no idea how to start her own blog. She began by combing the Internet for work by other experts and then responding to it. Doing that for the first couple of months helped her find her voice and gave her the boost she needed to get up and running. Now she is a respected business speaker with a popular book and a booming business. This works for newcomers in any field. (Even if you don’t have expertise to share, you’ll be sharing that you are a passionate learner). Don’t forget to add your own personal touches such as specific ways you’ve had success in applying what you’ve learned.
Then, Use What You Find as a Connection Tool.
When you’re spending a lot of time learning about what is going on in your field, you’re probably finding some interesting information. So use that to advance your personal brand. Keep a database of interesting resources AND a database of people whom you want to impress with your personal brand. Make sure you keep track of what they’re interested in – and what their concerns and needs are. Then, when you see something in your research that you know they’ll find interesting, email them a link to it with a short note. This works especially well after you just met someone at a networking event, especially if you can find something relevant to the conversation you had with him or her.
For example, if you were talking to someone about sports media, you might send him or her a link to a recent video post on how social media has altered the way sports are covered. Or to a recent article about how sports journalism has changed in the past 3 years as a whole. First, if it’s an interesting article that is relevant to the person you want to connect with, they’ll probably be glad to receive it. Judging by how busy most people are in today’s workplace – it’s highly likely that they haven’t had the time to spend time browsing through current articles about their field. So, not only are you demonstrating that you are someone who is paying a lot of attention to that field, you’re helping them by sending them articles they probably wouldn’t have seen otherwise. Finally, it’s a great way to signal to that person that you’re someone who is bringing something to the relationship (instead of just being concerned about “what’s in it for me?”)
If you’re just starting out, people don’t expect you to have the expertise of someone who has spent decades excelling in their field. But what they want to see is someone who has a lot of passion for that field, and who is doing whatever they can to learn as much as possible.
Employers want to hire people who are passionate about their work and who are eager to learn. So brand yourself as someone who is enthusiastic about the subject you’re interested in and work on gaining the knowledge that will make you an expert (in the future). In the meantime, use the knowledge you’re gaining to cement relationships with the people who can help you get where you want to be.
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