As a rare Reach Masters’ Branding Strategist, JCTC Career Coach and Leadership advocate, I define Executive Career Branding as a journey of Discovering your Value and Increasing Your Worth. Most of us work with the intention of building a satisfying, fulfilling and rewarding career or business. In different phases of our work lives, the motivations and goals of our work are different. For some, it could be the monetary rewards that drive them while for others; it could be the significance, recognition or fulfillment factor that keeps them working actively and passionately.
Think of a strong executive career brand as that of a strong corporate brand. Fundamentally strong, customer centric and well-loved companies are driven by their respective missions, visions and purposes to create significant values of their products or services for their customers. The greater the value, the stronger the bond, the higher is the acceptance of the brand.
Similarly, when you create greater value for your organization, the stronger will be your brand. So then, what is value?
The online Accurate and Reliable Dictionary defined value as
The key words to take note of, are aggregate properties or as taught in management theories, we say, THE SUM OF ITS PARTS
In the same context, the value of your personal brand is
These are the ten steps to building a Strong Executive Career Brand which will position you as the Right Candidate for the Organisation.
1. Uncover Your Brand Attributes.
Find out what are people saying about you and discover the positive attributes that attract people to you and the negative ones that caused frustration in others. Your brand is in the hearts and minds of those people around you. It is their opinions of you that are important. You want to be able to communicate a “who you are” message which is clear, consistent and constantly visible so that there is no confusion but confirmation. People tend to “box” others in the way that they can easily remember about the person. Your job is to help them see the best of who you are and what you do through your communications, behaviours and actions.
Reach is the world’s first and leading confidential, web-based personal branding assessment that collects anonymous 360-degree feedback in real time from family, friends, peers, managers, staff, employees, clients, and mentors.
2. Identify Your Core Values.
Our identities are often shaped by our values and these values influence the way we think and how we live our lives.
Values determine our lifestyle priorities and in many ways they also define our goals. Values also explain a lot about who we are as individuals; the choices we make, the decisions we take and the future we create. People’s values also influence their choices of jobs and careers. One way to determine if something is a value is to see how you feel if you violate it.
A friend who has a value of healthy living feels miserable when she eats junk food or does not exercise because she is being inconsistent with one of her most important values.
However, when she takes a vacation to the mountains or hiking and jogs every day, she is filled with energy and optimism.
How about the core value of significance? One of the reasons I left the corporate world to be a career and executive coach is to help middle and senior level executives achieve personal and professional success in their lives. Too often, I have seen executives who are in their prime years of mid 30s to 40s getting burnt out, losing their career compass or whose personal and family lives have been neglected. I had also wanted to spend time with my wife and three children. I wanted to be present to support, coach and play with my children as they grow in their foundational years of childhood and teenage lives All of us have values even if they are not well defined, at the forefront of our minds. You want to ensure that your critical values are not violated when selecting your job and building your career.
3. Live Out The Purpose Of Your Life
Next, it is also important to discover the purpose of your life as demonstrated in the work you do every day. The purpose of your work reinforces the importance of your values in what you do as an individual. It provides you with an opportunity to demonstrate your self-beliefs and live out your authentic self. Job titles, appointments, positions and status have no bearings in who you are or what you do. I suspect the reason why many executives, who lost their jobs (titles, status, etc.) also lost their self-identities and succumb to depression was the lack of purpose in their lives. Unfortunately, they defined themselves by their achievements, accomplishments and appointments. When you live on purpose, your job or career is just an opportunity for you to share your thought leadership, serve the people who would benefit from your expertise and support others in improving their lives.
Ask yourself this question, how would you want to be known by the people (clients, bosses, colleagues, peers) whom you have the opportunity to work with? What would your reputation be? What kind of legacy would you be leaving behind?
Have you observed the way that a dedicated doctor reassures his patients, a government official who patiently and painstakingly explains government’s policies to his constituents, a minister preaches a sermon that inspires his congregation, a youth worker who reaches out to troubled teenagers or a CEO who writes notes of encouragement to his employees during times of restructuring, retrenching or resizing?
All these people are purposeful about the work that they do and their purpose is apparent in the way that they do their jobs. When you are purposeful about your work, the joy lights up your face and it shows in everything that you do.
You are enthusiastic and energetic and people that come into contact with you can feel the positive and intense emotions that you feel. Think of Martin Luther King when he delivered that famous and inspirational speech, “I have a dream”. His purpose of ending racial segregation and racial discrimination with the vision of a colour blind society inspired the advancement of human rights in the world today.
4. Be Energised By Your Passions
Passions are activities, interests or conversational topics that fascinate or excite you and make you feel energized. Passions reflect deep, intense emotions about something that you care very much about. You are willing to commit your time, energy and resources into doing them. Like any emotional state, passion waxes and wanes. Sometimes you’re highly motivated. Sometimes you aren’t. Passion has its peaks and valleys but there are some passionate activities which stay the course with you, all through the years. These are the ones where you are most passionate about. In a demanding job environment where peak performance is expected from an executive, you want to ensure that there is an available source of energy which releases the creativity, innovation and productivity into your work.
“Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.”
Warren Buffet, Steve Jobs, Walt Disney, Richard Branson, Jeff Bozz amongst others are the ones who have built their successes based on what they love doing.
He displayed an amazing aptitude for both money and business at a very early age. Acquaintances recount his uncanny ability to calculate columns of numbers off the top of his head – a feat Warren still amazes business colleagues with today. At only six years old, Buffett purchased 6-packs of Coca Cola from his grandfather’s grocery store for twenty five cents and resold each of the bottles for a nickel, pocketing a five cent profit. At 11 years old, Buffett took his step into the world of high finance.
As a child, Steve Jobs preferred doing things by himself. He showed an early interest in electronics and gadgetry. He spent a lot of time working in the garage workshop of his neighbour, who worked as an engineer in Hewlett Packard, an electronics manufacturer.
Jobs also enrolled at HP explorers club. There he saw engineers demonstrate new products and he saw his first computer at the age of 12. He was very impressed and knew right away that he wanted to work with computers.
Walt had a very early interest in drawing, and art. When he was seven years old, he sold small sketches, and drawings to nearby neighbours. Instead of doing his school work Walt doodled pictures of animals, and nature. His knack for creating enduring art forms took shape when he talked his sister, Ruth, into helping him paint the side of the family’s house with tar.
Besides his other interests, Walt attended McKinley High School in Chicago. There, Disney divided his attention between drawing and photography, and contributing to the school paper. At night he attended the Academy of Fine Arts, to better his drawing abilities.
Besides drawing, Walt had picked up a knack for acting and performing. At school he began to entertain his friends by imitating his silent screen hero, Charlie Chaplin. At his teachers’ invitation, Walt would tell his classmates stories, while illustrating on the chalk board.
YOUR BRAND RESIDES IN THE HEARTS AND MINDS OF THOSE AROUND YOU
The hard and soft skills are important to your career success and through personal branding, you want to uncover, build and develop those personal soft skills to bond with people, build successful teams and organisations and attract more clients and customers.
Employers want to recruit executives who are an overall fit with their organisations. You, too want to join an organisation which is a good fit for you, given that a successful career requires patience, commitment and importantly, a vision to build.
What if like most of us, you did not have the opportunity to build your career from your passions?
One practical way is to find opportunities in and out of the organisation to live out those passions to be fulfilled and to enable you to be energised and visible.
A client, who loves to cook, decided to host her colleagues, bosses, networking friends and business associates at her home for sumptuous meals to deepen her friendships with them.
That same client, who enjoys being communicative and engaging with others, also “resurrected” toastmasters chapters in her company to provide opportunities for young executives and engineers to improve on their speaking and communications skills.
Ask yourself, how could you involve your passions in the work you do?
This would enable you to stand out and be differentiated as people would remember you as someone who is passionate about what you believe in and is willing to go the extra mile for it.
5. Leverage On Your Core Strengths and Motivated Skills To Succeed.
Too many people are using the path of most resistance to achieve career success, thinking that anything can be achieved in life if you adopt the right attitude. Problem with this thinking is in most situations, the costs outweigh the benefits. On the other hand, when strengths and motivated skills are used in most of the work you do, you are able to build on them and develop expertise and thought leadership around these strengths. Your thought leadership would differentiate you as the individual with the unique value proposition and this would enhance your credibility and strengthen your authenticity.
Examples of strengths are identifying problems, seeing the details, leading, delegating, performing analysis, fact finding, crunching numbers, anticipating risk, motivating, mentoring, innovating, managing conflict, writing, listening, communicating.
6. Write Your Top Goals For Next Year, 2 Years and5 years.
Your goals are the road maps that guide you and show you what is possible for your life – Les Brown.
A desired job can be attained in a day but a satisfying, fulfilling and rewarding career is developed through your life long journey of increasing thought leadership, strengthening of your personal brand and your compelling vision and purpose. Start by setting relevant, attainable and targeted goals continuously through the years to achieve maximum results.
7. Identify Your Target Audience
One of the success factors of strong corporate brands is the ability to market to their respective target audiences and one of the biggest headaches for organisations is to have an executive who is a wrong fit with the company.
You cannot be everything to everyone.
You need to know the people and organisations who are important to your career success and work on building those important professional relationships to be heard, known and seen by them. The greater the shared values, missions and purposes, the closer the fit. During job search, spend time gathering information about your impending boss’s leadership qualities, conduct background checks on the organisation’s health and culture and inquire of its future strategies and business prospects. You want to join a passenger cruiser, streaming upstream and not a sunken boat, waiting to be swallowed by the currents.
Next, when you are on brand, there is the confidence and assuredness to articulate your authentic self to people who need to know you. These are the people who appreciate, endorse and will even pay a premium for your services. Your true value is in the hands of these people and your job is to find these “brand ambassadors” and communicate to them your brand value.
What you say, how you say and to whom you say to, impact the value of your brand.
Identify Your Competitors And Know Your Differentiations
Truth is there will always be someone who is more qualified and more capable.
Know who you are up against in your job search or job promotion and focus on developing your attributes to be differentiated. Too often, executives spent unnecessary time and wasted energy on curbing the opponents’ influence and powers. What is more effective is to project one’s Unique Promise of Value to attract positive responses from employers.
In a world where collaboration and connection are critical to your career success, it is imperative to build a wider network of friends than foes.
9. Nurture And Expand Your Professional Network
Human beings do not like to be taken advantage of and through professional networks, one’s sincerity and authenticity is revealed by how you participate. It is important to remember that people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. In networking, learn to share, give and help others achieve their goals before you ask for favours. The biblical adage;
“Bless others and you will be blessed” accurately reflects the spirit of networking. Be ready to serve and as others see the servitude and positive attributes of you, people will be motivated to help you achieve your goals.
10. Develop Your Online Presence
With social media engineering the way we work, communicate and collaborate with others, any executive who is serious about building a strong executive brand presence needs to leverage on the use of these communication tools. Your email signature, professional headshot, LinkedIn profile, personal blog of your thought leadership, tweets, facebook and other forms of social connectivity are excellent and affordable platforms to build, increase and enhance your personal executive brand. In fact, your reputation can be tarnished or enhanced by the strokes of your pen and it is advisable to err on the side of caution when publishing your comments and thoughts.
However, when your focus is on providing value to benefit others, social media can be hugely useful in increasing your visibility and enhancing your credibility.
Executive communications is about engaging your audience with provoking, positive and possible perspectives for the purpose of learning, sharing and exchanging of views.