What's Your Personal Brand?

What's Your Personal Brand?

It used to be that branding was intended for businesses. You probably remember the logos, print ads and commercials of household brands you grew up with. In the workplace employees would pledge their allegiance and support their workplace’s brand. Well, times have changed and those days are in the past. In the digital age with online access, there has been a shift towards individuals and personal branding. Now it’s up to each of us as individuals to create and promote our own brands. You may be wondering, though, why do I need a personal brand?

Time to embrace personal branding 

As Caroline Castrillion states in “Why Personal Branding is More Important Than Ever, “ (Forbes), “Whether you know it or not, you have a personal brand.” Google yourself. “With the proliferation of social media and the gig economy, it has become essential for everyone to embrace personal branding.” Your personal brand illustrates who you are, what you value and allows people to get to know you. It gives you credibility and may help you land opportunities. 

Jeff Bezos has said “your brand is what people say about you when you’re not in the room. Effective personal branding will differentiate you from the competition and allow you to build trust with prospective clients and employers.”

Why is that important? According to a 2018 CareerBuilder Survey, 70% of employers use social media to screen candidates during the hiring process, and 43% of employers use social media to check on current employees. So, as you can see, cultivating your personal brand helps you make a great first impression, come across with authenticity and protect your reputation and your career.  

Nearly 25 years ago Tom Peters wrote a classic article for Fast Company, “The Brand Called You,” saying “it’s a brand world.” I would add, even more so in 2021. As Peters stated: 

“It’s time for me – and you – to take a lesson from the big brands, a lesson that’s true for anyone who’s interested in what it takes to stand out and prosper in the new world of work.

 “It’s this simple: You are a brand. You are in charge of your brand. There is no single path to success. And there is no one right way to create the brand called You. Except this: Start today. Or else.”

Be an Ambassador for Yourself

As Michael Brenner relates on the Marketing Insider Group’s blog in “Personal Branding – Why Now is the Time to Build Your Personal Brand,” Steve Olenski, Content Strategist at Resonsys said it well: “Whether we work for a company or as an individual we all market ourselves via our actions and our words. I am always aware that when I am “out there” I am in fact representing and serving as a de facto ambassador of sorts for both my personal brand as well as my company’s brand.”

There are right ways – and wrong ways – to present yourself. On social media let your true self shine (be authentic); stay consistent (branding isn’t one and done – comment regularly and be seen); and add value to your audience (write about what you’re interested in and you’ll find people with similar interests following you). Visually you should select a photo of yourself and other images in keeping with the personal brand you are portraying. Wrong ways to present yourself are being inauthentic (mimicking others instead of using your own voice), inconsistent (posting sporadically on social media) and not adding value (merely repeating what someone else said). Realize that you are marketing yourself all of the time and you need to differentiate yourself and show what makes you unique. Why should an employer choose you for the position over another candidate? Are you a good candidate for promotion?

How to Develop Your Personal Brand 

Here are some simple steps to develop your personal brand from Brenner’s post. 

Define your audience and area of expertise.

Why are you doing what you do? What’s your unique knowledge base and point of view?

Define what your brand means.

You have a unique set of experiences and passions. Who are you talking to? What’s in it for them and you?

Build it every day like a habit.

Scan, filter, read, connect, write, respond on social media every day. For just minutes per day, you can share what you personally find interesting – and stay connected.

Build real relationships.

Share other people’s content, adding perspective. Build meaningful relationships with those you can help and those who can help you. Follow someone new every day. If you can’t find anyone, follow the social networks’ recommendations.

Create content on a regular basis.

Share, comment, like on the posts of others and create your own content (one LinkedIn or blog post per week). Write about trends in your industry. Answer your customers or commenters’ questions. Use storytelling to make it interesting. Don’t worry you’re giving away your “secret sauce.” No one is paying you for the level of insights you’re giving away in a short article, they’re paying you for the deep attention and results you can produce in their business.

Case Study: One Company, 10 Consultants and Millions in Sales

Brenner tells how he “worked with one company on building the personal brands of 10 consultants. We identified their areas of expertise, we cleaned up their LinkedIn profiles and added examples of their work (videos, articles, recommendations from clients they had worked with).

Most importantly, we built a daily, weekly and monthly plan for them that took no more than 2 hours per month: we asked them to share one article relevant to their industry or expertise every day. They spent a few minutes every week connecting with other experts in their industry. And they wrote and published one article every month.

The result at the end of 12 months was astonishing: millions of dollars of sales had closed directly from their social network (in this case it was on LinkedIn.) By the second year, the sales deals they were getting via this approach became the largest source of new business for the firm.

But this didn’t happen overnight. These people carefully built and developed their personal brand. They became known as experts. They shared the expertise of others. They built the size (and quality!) of their network. And they shared their own expertise. This combination, applied consistently, is what delivered the results.”

What Can Personal Branding Do for You?

  • Benefits you, your business and your career
  • Makes you memorable and gets you noticed
  • Positions you to become a thought leader in your industry over time
  • Provides more exposure – ranks you higher for keywords in your industry if you are using the keywords people search for in your content
  • Assists you to land new opportunities and provide value to your company
Ready to make your personal brand shine?

How to Make Stress Work for You

How to Make Stress Work for You

More Stress Today

We are all feeling stressed to some degree lately, whether it’s due to loss of a job, COVID health fears, becoming teachers to our children, caring for parents, social unrest or general concerns about the future. 

Recent reporting in Healthline from a 2020 study in the journal American Psychologist shows: 

“Americans between 45 and 65 years old are experiencing more stress today than people their age did in the 1990s. Experts believe changes in technology, family and relationship dynamics, and economic hardship are some reasons for this.” 

For mid-career professionals, there are unique challenges that may be affecting stress levels. From the Healthline article, these may include:

  • More demands and pressures placed on you
  • Entering/continuing management roles
  • “Sandwich generation:” Caring for parents and nurturing teens/young adults; grandchildren too sometimes 
  • American culture deemphasizing the importance of the older generation
  • Technology connecting people all of the time
  • Work from home = always connected
  • Divorce/separation later in life affects economics for women who need to catch up in the workforce

Current coping mechanisms are not working

If you have been feeling that life is more stressful, you are correct and you are not alone. Add to the list above our current stressors in 2020 and it’s difficult to see how to bring peace and calm to our lives. Our current coping mechanisms do not seem to be working. Go on social media, read the latest articles and you’ll see everyone is talking about this, but we’re not finding relief. It’s like running in a hamster wheel, but not getting anywhere.

What can we do to deal with feeling overwhelmed and stressed out? Is it possible to make stress work for you, not against you, in these turbulent times?

Change your mindset about stress

What if instead of reacting to the stress around us, we could be proactive and use it to our advantage just by changing the way we think about it? Instead of trying to dodge stressful thoughts and situations, it is possible to learn how to harness stress and come out stronger. 

On NPR and the TED Radio Hour, Kelly McGonigal, research psychologist at Stanford University and the author of The Upside of Stress, touched on this in her talk “Can We Reframe the Way We Think About Stress?” Dr. McGonigal says that adjusting the way you think about stress can actually change the way your body responds to it. “Normally, we interpret these physical changes (breathing faster, breaking out into a sweat) as anxiety or signs that we aren't coping very well with the pressure. But what if you view them instead as signs that your body was energized, was preparing you to meet this challenge? That pounding heart is preparing you for action. If you're breathing faster, it's no problem. It's getting more oxygen to your brain.”

Imagine having this perspective when you get the call for an interview: with your senses heightened and brain pumping on all cylinders, you are able to think through the interview prep strategically and go into the interview energized and ready to perform well. In this posture, Dr. McGonigal would say you are using stress energy to take actions towards what matters most to you. 

Some more interesting findings about stress from Dr. McGonigal’s studies:

  • If you appreciate that going through stress makes you better at it, it gets easier to face each new challenge.
  • The expectation of growth sends a signal to your brain and body: get ready to learn something, because you can handle this.

Stop fighting stress – make yourself immune

Did you know that even “observing someone who is stressed – especially a coworker or family member – can have an immediate effect upon our own nervous systems?” In “Make Yourself Immune to Secondhand Stress” (Harvard Business Review) Shawn Achor and Michelle Gielan emphasize how hyper-exposed we are in our highly connected world. Especially now that we are staying at home more in the time of Covid, our levels of togetherness can make even the best relationships challenging. How can we find ways to improve our emotional immune systems and avoid the negative effects of secondhand stress? 

Achor and Gielan offer these tips:

Change your response - Instead of fighting and being frustrated at negative people around you, take it as an opportunity to feel compassion or a challenge to help that person become more positive.

Create positive antibodies - We need behaviors that can neutralize the negative effects of a stressed person. The first comment in a conversation often predicts the outcome. Try to start your phone calls not with “I’m swamped” or “I’m so busy.” Instead, start with a breath and calmly say: “It’s great to talk to you.”

Build natural immunity - One of the greatest buffers against picking up others’ stress is stable and strong self-esteem. Remind yourself of the positive things in your life and use self-talk to remember you can handle whatever transpires. Exercise is one of the best ways to build self-esteem. 

Inoculate yourself - Start your day with these 5 positive psychology habits from Achor’s TED talk: 1) writing a 2-minute email praising someone you know; 2) writing down three things for which you’re grateful; 3) journaling about a positive experience for two minutes; 4) doing cardio exercise for 30 minutes; or 5) meditating for just two minutes.

Feel a stressful situation coming on? Try using these tips and see if you can improve your own mindset and those around you.   

Rethinking Your Purpose

Rethinking Your Purpose

What does the word purpose bring to mind? A reason for being, feeling fulfilled, making a difference? Why should getting older make this seem more unattainable? What has changed? As a mid-career professional, do you find yourself asking who you are, where you fit or how to make the most of your life? If so, you’re not alone.

When you first started your career, you probably had a planned trajectory with a purpose in mind. Somewhere along the way, however, your circumstances (or your motivations) may have changed. What you valued twenty-five years ago may be vastly different from your current considerations. How you deal with change (or transformation) can affect all aspects of your life and how you find purpose.

Need a reboot?

If your sense of purpose needs a refresh and you need to be inspired, how do you begin? Is there a manual for this?

First, some inspiration: Since we are in the season of graduations, it seems fitting to explore a few of the overarching lessons learned from the award-winning address of Professor Clayton Christensen to the 2010 Harvard business school graduating class, “How Will You Measure Your Life?” Many have found his insights valuable not only for recent grads but useful to revisit for those further along in their careers. He passed away in January 2020, making his words even more poignant.

“Create a strategy for your life. …keep the purpose of your life front and center as you decide how to spend your time, talents, and energy.”

 “Are you allocating your resources to the things you would have once said mattered most?”

“Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap, but by the seeds you plant.” 

 “Doing deals doesn’t yield the deep rewards that come from building up people.”

Clay Christensen

Find Your Purpose

Now let’s talk specifics. In her article “Five Steps to Finding Your Life Purpose” 

in Psychology Today Dr. Tchiki Davis offers key steps to exploring your purpose by asking yourself the following questions.

  • Is there anything that touches you so deeply that it drives you?
  • What energizes you? 
  • What are you willing to sacrifice for? 
  • Who do you want to help?
  • What do you love to do? And how do you apply this passion to your purpose?

Dr. Davis stresses that “finding your life purpose is a lifelong journey. “It's OK to take it one step at a time. It's normal to pause and reevaluate regularly. And it's OK to feel overwhelmed. Nothing worth doing is easy, and this will not always be easy.” There will be ups and downs as you go through the process, but it’s worth the effort.

What Motivates You?

What motivates you is behind your drive or purpose. As Daniel Pink, author of the New York Times bestseller “Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us” says “The secret to high performance and satisfaction—at work, at school, and at home—is the deeply human need to direct our own lives, to learn and create new things, and to do better by ourselves and our world.”

Doing Good

Mid-career is often the time when people begin to question their purpose on the planet and what more they can do to make the world a better place. My former coworker Mark took the leap from the corporate world to join the management team of a non-profit organization supporting those going through treatment for cancer. He had felt a pull to work in the nonprofit world after volunteering, which then led to fundraising and managing roles. Others look to businesses that are doing good, such as Certified B Corporations (B Corps), which are adding value to their employees, the local community and the environment. Over 3,000 companies in 150 industries across 71 countries have joined this movement of business as a force for good. They include Ben & Jerry’s, allbirds, Danone, Eileen Fisher, Hootsuite, and many more. B Corps are well worth checking out. 

We are living in a period of incredible change. A bright spot to remember is that in chaos and uncertainty, change and positive innovation can emerge. Knowing your purpose can point the way to bigger and better things.