PERSONAL BRANDING IS KEY TO PLANNING YOUR CAREER
by Williesha Morris
Originally published in the November/December 2015 issue of OfficePro
“Sway” means influence to personal branding consultant Sima Dahl, who transitioned from a 20-year corporate marketer to teaching business owners, sales professionals, and career seekers the fundamentals of “how to articulate your story.”
“A personal brand helps you articulate your character, competence, and charisma in a way that it’s easily understood,” Dahl said. “By becoming a person with a high degree of ‘sway,’ or ethical influence, opportunities come to you. You attract opportunities in all areas of your life. You get people who will help you open doors.”
She added “it’s the dot, dot, dot that follows the question, ‘Who do you know…?’” Dahl, who is working on a book called “Sway,” helps clients “reverse engineer” the answer to that ellipsis question. Dahl said we’re moving from the information age to the age of the referral, which is at the heart of the importance of personal branding. Gathering a network of “brand champions” who get you will help amazing things happen.
“(Personal branding) is who you are, what you do, and what makes you special,” Dahl said. “It’s equal parts attributes and aspirations. Personal brands are aspirational.”
More specifically, she posed another question: “If the phone rang and it was the exact opportunity you were looking for, if you were invited to speak, write, lead a team, take a promotion, win an award, what do you want to be known for?”
As she tried to figure out her place in the world as a laid-off marketer, she learned the phrase, “If you can’t name it, you can’t claim it.” You have to be able to say who you are and what you do.
Notice that all of these are qualities anyone would want, not just someone looking to change careers or get a promotion. Dahl said it’s great to develop a brand to become better known within an industry or organization and “want more visibility and access to advancement.”
She said branding is important even in the day-to-day tasks of life. As soon as she gets a request or phone call, she begins looking online for more information. This includes a company’s admin, if that’s the person she made first contact with. As an admin, you reflect the company as well as yourself. The more someone knows about you, the more likely you’ll get a call back or the response you need.
“I want to see that you’re a human being. We buy from people we know, like, and trust,” Dahl said. “We refer them and we hire them, especially in an administrative role. I would expect that trustworthiness, especially in support.”
Dahl said the first step to creating a brand is to have an online presence. For professionals, LinkedIn is the best place to focus on social media. She said even if you’ve never used social media, give it a try. After all, you’re not going to break the internet for giving it a shot.
She recommended going into privacy settings and turning off showing your connections or the public your activity. You may want to change how your title is phrased or make other updates, and others shouldn’t see that until the profile is ready. Dahl said if admins already have a Twitter account or a Facebook profile, they can begin sprucing it up as part of their personal brand. She cautioned not to take on every social media platform there is, just the ones that please you.
The term “personal branding” was coined a decade ago by author Tom Peterson in Fast Company magazine in an article called “A Brand Called You.”
“We are CEOs of our own companies: Me Inc. To be in business today, your most important job is to be head marketer for the brand called You.”
To build your reputation and grow your network, ask yourself these questions (and write down the answers!)
1) What career and personal attributes are you known for?
2) How do you solve problems?
3) What awards and recognitions have you received?
4) What makes you stand out among others?
If you get stuck, ask your family, friends, or coworkers what makes you unique.
Challenge yourself to create a unique sales proposition about yourself in two sentences or less.
Dahl said to keep things honest on a LinkedIn profile. If you’re an EA by day and sell jewelry on Etsy by night, say so. Don’t try to hide or diminish your side gig.
“You don’t have to be clever or pithy,” she said, “You don’t need multiple profiles. You’re one person with many facets to your life. You volunteer. You raise kids. You train for marathons.” Dahl said whatever makes you fascinating is the story you tell. Don’t worry about anything else.
She said a profile is 11 times more likely to be viewed on LinkedIn with a photo than without.
“We do not trust that which we cannot see,” Dahl said.
Once the profile tinkering is complete, it’s time to turn activity broadcasts back on and grow your network. Dahl said you probably have a strong network to connect with on LinkedIn—friends, coworkers, and association or organization peers. “It pays to slowly but surely build that network. That’s the power of the platform.”
If an admin is considering changing jobs, she should highlight strengths and attributes from the previous job, Dahl said.
“I tell people to say flat out, ‘At my last job, I wore a lot of hats, but I was best known as somebody who could…’ or ‘The go-to person for…’ ‘The three things I enjoyed most were…’” Dahl said to be direct, to demonstrate the ability to take a job in any industry in any size.
Having confidence in job skills and a well-packaged professional brand can help admins achieve their goals and dreams.
People trust what they can see. Everyone, no matter the career, should have a professional headshot suitable for use on the web and in print. On LinkedIn, your profile is 11 times more likely to be viewed if you have a picture. Work with a professional photographer for best results.