HR leaders spend a lot of time thinking about how to support and enrich other people's careers. But it's also important to turn the lens on ourselves, making sure we're fully present and fulfilled at work. To wit, we asked William Tincup, principal analyst at Key Interval Research, for his advice on polishing up your personal brand:
Would you hire yourself? Don't answer just yet.
Just for a moment, think of yourself as a product. What are your features, benefits and attributes? What is your brand strategy? In order to create your true and unique brand, you need to ask yourself some hard questions. This won't be easy, but I promise it will be worth your time.
To get started, here are 7 suggested exercises to follow as you define your personal brand.
1. What is your vision?
What is the vision behind what you do, who you are, how you behave?
Try to visualize what your life and career looks like now, 6 months from now, 3 years from now. What are some of the paths that enable these visions? Even if your vision of your future self is blurry, it's okay. You just need to have an idea—an inkling—of said vision. No one else is going to manage your career, it's up to you.
2. What are your values?
What do you really stand for? What line cannot be crossed?
Your brain should hurt when you conduct this exercise. At the edges of these thoughts are: What would you be willing to die for? There are no easy answers, but you must be in touch with your values. Period. Those that don't understand their own values, generally speaking, end up having their values trampled.
3. Where do you flourish? Where do you fail?
You need to have an understanding of where you shine, what support structures you need and what types of people inspire you. These qualities will define the "Feng Shui" of your employment and help you predict success.
Being able to predict your own failure and—hopefully—avoiding it is another story. You must be able to explain that to your bosses and potential employers, and step away from opportunities that you know will be toxic. Read: "The only times I've ever failed in life is where I tried to be someone else. If you want me to be someone else, let's part ways now."
4. Admit that when you've sucked, you've sucked in a big way.
Most candidates try to present themselves as perfect. All recruiters know know they're lying. Get comfortable with your warts—all of them. If you cuss, own it. If you're a social drinker, own it. When you've let others down, own it. Tell the truth. And, more to the point, if your potential employer wants someone that's perfect, you were just going to get fired anyway. Save everyone the time and sorrow. Own up to your flaws.
5. Why are you so awesome?
Own up to your strengths, too. Inventory all of the amazing things you've accomplished. Turns out, you're probably pretty awesome—don't be afraid to share it. Modesty is attractive, but too much humility will make you appear either weak, not compelling or both. It's hard to know when to beat your chest, but take your inventory of success and be brave enough to spread the word about your awesomeness.
6. When are you rational? When you are emotional?
Personality experts would have you believe that personality is everything—who you marry, who you befriend, how you act at the Christmas party, etc.
I'm not sure I buy the depth of that, but I do believe personality is critical to matching employers happily with employees. So, as an employee, how well do you really know your own personality? No perfect answer. Just inventory yourself and ask some really difficult questions: When am I at my rational best? When do I become emotional, and why?
In this exercise, you're just trying to become aware, that's it. So you can tell a compelling story about your personality. Like fingerprints, it will be only yours.
7. How do you make other people better?
I'd use a sports reference here, but that's really boring and lazy. Truth is, we've all been in situations (groups, classes, parties, etc.) where we've seen it with our own eyes: a person making everyone around them better. We've also seen the opposite—a person who destroys the things and people around them. People be damned. Success be dammed. Scorched Earth.
You should be able to articulate, specifically, how you can and will make everyone you interact with better. This is where you align your brand with your company's brand.
So, there are seven (simple?) exercises. You'll think of more “brand called me" exercises as you think about yourself as a can of soup or box of cereal. You'll come up with more inventories. The game is simple and yet oddly complex: know thy self.
And by “thyself" I mean your "true and unique" brand. If the exercises above were easy for you, then start to inventory your passions and your competencies, and look for the sweet spot where you align those with your brand. Oh, and by the way, 99 percent of Americans haven't created this said alignment.
That stat was completely made up, but you get the idea.
Photo: Creative Commons