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CHAPTER TWO - (STEP 1) DEFINING WHO YOU ARE
Everyone has a personal brand. So what is yours saying about you?
Personal brands are as unique and individual as people are themselves. The key to having a career that provides you with meaning and purpose starts with understanding your own unique personal brand and what it is communicating to others.
All of your words and all of your actions are sending messages to your manager, senior managers, clients, and colleagues. Do you know what your messages are saying to others? Do you know what their perception is of you? It may be a difficult question to ask, but it's an important one.
Shaping and Managing the Perceptions of Others
The strength of your personal brand is fueled by how others perceive you. And those perceptions are formed by the messages you are sending out through your interactions with others, the way you present yourself, and the value that you provide to a project, team, or employer.
The way you can shape and manage the perceptions of others is to first, fully understand who you are and second, realize what messages you are communicating to others.
Perceptions are largely formed through your interactions with people-how you treat others including large clients, small clients, potential clients, senior managers, subordinates, peers, and business associates. Are you viewed as an expert in a particular area? Are you a leader or a follower? Are you respectful of others? Do others perceive you as a leader and want to be on your team? Are you organized and calm much of the time, or disorganized and frazzled? How well do you handle stress?
Your brand also includes yourpersonal style and the way you present yourself to others. It includes the way you speak, your dialect, and your language. It's the way you dress, your jewelry, hairstyle and shoes.
I learned a lesson about personal branding early in my career when I had just graduated college and interviewed for a copywriter position at a large Phoenix advertising agency. From 100 applicants I made it down to the final two. The other finalist had four years of ad agency experience as a copywriter. My only experience was a six-month college internship at Ping Golf Clubs. But I had a portfolio full of creative ideas, a confident attitude, and a new black suit that screamed, "I'm a professional with style!"
Although I wasn't surprised they chose to hire the other candidate, I was surprised to learn the reason. The partner who interviewed me said that it was a close call between the other candidate and me, but he shared with me how unimpressed he was by my rather "cheap" portfolio case. Even though it was filled with fresh and creative ideas, my new, plastic, $14.99 portfolio case broadcasted to the world that I placed little value on my work.
That was a big lesson I learned and one that I've never forgotten. The way you present yourself and act around others shapes your personal brand and the way others perceive you. Your personal brand is also shaped by your core values, passions, personal characteristics, talents and accomplishments.
To build a strong brand requires a clear understanding of your true authentic self. This means holding up a mirror and defining who you really are. What are your values and priorities? Are you consistent in what you say and do? What are your passions and areas of expertise? Why should an employer or client hire you? What is the value that you provide?
The Five Ingredients of Who You Are
Think about who you are. What do you believe in? What do you stand for? What are your core values? These values, personal traits, and core characteristics make you truly unique, and they can also make you invaluable to the right employer or client. By identifying the five ingredients of who you are, you can develop a powerful personal brand which can lead to more career opportunities and a more meaningful and purposeful life.
Let's start with a simple exercise. Take out a piece of paper and make five columns with these headings:
3. Personal Traits
4. Signature Talents
What are your core values? In other words, what are the principles or standards that guide you? Examples of core values include: family, religion, integrity, generosity, trustworthiness, compassion, giving back to the community, etc.
You may find it helpful to define your core values by completing one of the following sentences:
"I believe in . . . "
"I value . . . "
"I commit to . . . "
Next, identify your passions. These are the areas of interest that excite you and rev up your personal engine. You are intellectually, emotionally, and physically drawn to these activities. You enjoy reading about them, learning about them, and discussing them with others. Examples include: finance, real estate, stock market, technology, marketing, travel, healthcare, politics, business development, the arts, sports, and the list goes on.
You should list 2-4 interest areas that drive your passion. Identify your areas and write them down. Your passions are essential ingredients in your personal brand, because when you understand your passions it's easier to define the kind of work you love and the work you are meant to be doing.
Now, let's look at your personal traits, or the mix of characteristics that shape who you are. These are attributes that help define who you really are. Examples include: strategic, inspirational, logical, creative, personable, forward thinking, customer-driven, results-driven, nurturing, sympathetic, organized, etc. These are some ideas to get you started. Your unique set of personal characteristics helps distinguish you from others.
Think about positive comments you've received from past or current co-workers, bosses, friends, and family members. What kinds of initiatives have they said you did well? Which personal qualities have they admired in you?
Give considerable thought to this exercise. You receive billions of messages throughout your life, yet remember only a few. Why do you remember those few? Because there is truth to them, so they resonate with you. Which positive messages about yourself do you recall?
You should ask others for input, including your current manager, clients, and peers. If you are currently employed at a company for longer than six months, perceptions have already been formed about you. Talk to your manager and peers to understand what they think are your significant personal traits. Is there a mentor or advisor within the company who can provide you with honest feedback? This is not an evaluation on how you want others to perceive you. It's an assessment of how they do perceive you.