As an executive coach, I am often tasked with assisting clients wind their way through the ups and downs of their careers and lives. By the time I meet with these high-performing people, they are usually unsure of where they are headed and what their next and next, next steps should be. Up to that point, they had it all figured out, but something, either externally or internally, triggers the existential questions of “what am I doing and where am I going?” To help guide my clients, I ask them to define their personal brands.
Start off by asking yourself “Who am I?” and let it flow. Just putting down words to describe what he or she stands for, delivers, and values is a wonderful starting point from which to kick off the process of determining what to do next.
The next step is to reach out to around eight people from your network you trust. Consider them your virtual board of advisors. Show each person your list of words and phrases you think provide a full picture of who you are and your brand. Have a conversation with each person individually and ask what they think should be added, removed, and refined. You want to know what they think of what you wrote.
You will wind up with a page that has a bunch of words on it and then it is up to you to pick those that resonate strongest with you. Reshape these phrases and thoughts into succinct sentences that paint the right picture of who you are and what you are about. Do not write anything too extensive because we want these ideas to be digestible. I caution clients to write just enough to fit on a regular post-it note. It can also provide input into the very important couple of lines under your name in your LinkedIn profile. That small piece of very valuable real estate should depict who you are, not where you are at the moment. ‘Who you are’ is not a job title and company name!
One of the beautiful outcomes of figuring out your brand is this can work as a filter toward informing the direction toward which you would like to take your career and life. I can use my personal example where I’m helping others succeed. I’ve always enjoyed helping people with their career journey and while it might have been more obvious for me to take another corporate role, the fact is my personal brand led me to a position as a career coach. The other part of that was that as I figured out my personal brand I realized that I wanted to also be a business owner.
At first blush, I would never have thought that was what I wanted, but the more I refined my branding the more I revealed to myself that is exactly what I wanted to do. Today, in addition to being an equity partner at Shields Meneley Partners, I am a proud owner of The Sierra Institute, an invitation-only community of senior human resources leaders committed to the advancement of our profession. I could not be happier and more fulfilled in my career and personally doing both.
Figuring out your brand is not complicated at all; it just takes a bit of time. The key is to allow yourself the space to fully form your ideas. You will be glad you did when it is said and done.