Friday, February 13, 2009

The You Brand

Brands are not just for soft drinks and cars, you are also a brand. You may not think of yourself as a marketable product, and it may very well be that most people would never think of you as a brand, but that doesn't mean that they don't identify you with certain values, attributes or activities, in short: a brand. The key is to make sure that the "You Brand" is a valuable one and that it fits your career and personal goals. This is another post in my series about finding a job and protecting your job in a tough market (you can find even more articles on the subject here).

If asked to name a couple of top performers in my previous company, the names Paul and Ed would immediately jump to mind, even though I left this company almost a year ago. What is it about those folks that makes me remember their names in the context of top performance? The answer is somewhat different in each case, but both seemed to go out of their way to be nice, deliver results and help out, even beyond the scope of their duties. These are folks that will likely quickly find a new position if they ever find themselves out of a job, because people have been conditioned to connect these individuals with top performance. Here is how you can take control of your own brand:

You Have a Brand - you have to understand that whether you are actively building your brand or not, you do have one. The only question you have to ask is whether you are building and nurturing it to suit your purpose, or whether you are letting others define you.  

Defining the "You Brand" - before building your brand, you have to first define what you want that brand to be. In my case, I would like people to think of me as: extremely competent; skilled in multiple areas (i.e. the opposite of a narrow specialist); a people's person; someone who can help.

Understanding the Gaps - now that you understand what you would like your brand to stand for, try to be honest and identify any gaps between where you want to be and where you are currently. Understanding the gaps comes prior to taking any action.

Developing the Brand - just as Red Bull wants its brand associated with extreme sports, and consequently sponsors many of them, you need to connect yourself as tightly as possible with the values you want your brand to stand for. If I want my brand to stand for "someone who can help" - it is important that I live this value on a daily basis. For this reason, if someone in the company asks me to help edit a document or to comment on their work, I will do so, even if it's not my job. Since I want my brand to stand for extreme competence, I will never do a half-assed job. There is no such thing as too small of a project to be done well. The brand message must be consistent. Always.

Getting the Word Out - It's not enough for you take action to build your brand, others must get the message. As always, bragging is a really bad idea, and in any case, actions speak louder than words. You need to get a buzz going, and the best way to do so is to make sure that people are aware of your work. Finding high visibility projects, doing more than is asked, and finding other opportunities to shine, is key. Keep your eyes open and pounce when the right opportunities present themselves. 

Patience - building great brands is all about patience and consistency. Don't expect miracles over night. In fact, don't expect miracles at all. However, if you understand what you want people to think of you, build your plan and consistently deliver the right message, in actions rather than through words, you will be well on your way to building a positive brand that folks will remember. Next stop, career security.

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