Who Is the CEO of Your Career?
According to a recent study by Randstad U.S., The Workplace 2025, found that as early as 2019 as much as 50 percent of the workforce will be made up of agile workers (i.e. contractors, freelancers, consultants or temporary workers).
This means we’re moving into a gig economy. You no longer will have a “job.” Instead, you’ll go into the business of one and be proactively managing your career. And, if you neglect your personal brand, you’re going to be left behind.
I know it’s the classic case of the shoemaker’s children who don’t have new shoes. Marketers know it’s important to be present in social media, have your own website and proactively sell yourself. However, it’s always a low priority because you don’t have time, find it too difficult or convince yourself you’re not actively searching for work so there is no need.
Stop Drifting Through Your Career
Time and time again, I run into experienced professionals who suddenly find themselves in transition. They are scared, slightly panicked, and usually say something like:
- “I worked for the same company for 10-plus years and didn’t see this coming. My self-confidence really took a hit.”
- “I had always been recruited for roles and never had to really look for a job before. Now, I’m not sure where to start.”
- “This layoff could be a blessing in disguise because I really hadn’t been happy in my job for years. I want to change industries or pursue another role, but I don’t want to start from zero. How do I make the shift and show my value?”
In order to get past these thoughts, or better yet, never have to have them, you need to get the right mindset and start taking control of your career.
A study done by University of Phoenix and EdAssist on perceptions of employers and employees about career development had some interesting findings. The average worker only spends 1.5 hours a year on career planning. That seems grossly out of proportion considering you spend 2000+ hours a year at work.
The other point shown in the study is there is a discrepancy between managers’ and employees’ beliefs on who is responsible for career development. Most employees believe it’s their employers’ responsibility to teach career development where most managers believe it should be the employees’.
Frankly, arguments could be made for either position, but I am not here to debate that. The one thing you always have control of in your career is your actions. You can choose to pursue a side business, write a blog, enhance your skills and keep up with your network. Or you can choose to keep you head down, just do the work and collect your paycheck. The latter may be easier but it’s not what will keep you gainfully employed.
Whether you’re an employee or freelancer, you’re paid to provide a service for your company. How well you perform that service and make an impact to the business becomes what you’re known for. Unfortunately, not everyone is going to be aware of your contributions, even your direct manager, unless you start talking about it.
And, no, this doesn’t mean I think you should be bragging about your results to anyone within earshot. It means sending out status updates on the projects you’re working on, sharing results of successful campaigns, speaking up in meetings or volunteering to take on special projects.
“If you don’t give the market the story to talk about, they’ll define your brand’s story for you.” – David Brier
If this doesn’t come natural to you, or you’re not sure how to do this without being a braggart, it’s okay to ask for help. Sometimes we can’t even recognize what it is that people associate with our personal brand. This is when it pays to invest in yourself and do some self-discovery.
The Ultimate Job Security — Differentiation
Differentiation is what can truly make you become in demand. No two humans are alike. Your experience, personality, knowledge, culture, etc. all play into your personal brand, and help formulate your personal selling proposition.
You need to know your competition. And by competition, it could be your co-workers or the general population of people qualified to do your job. Because when you identify what is common to your competition, you will be able to speak to how you’re different.
“If you are your authentic self, you have no competition.”
– Scott Stratten
When you have an established personal brand, it’s hugely beneficial to you. You will be able to:
- Boost your level of recognition and stand out from your competition
- Attract the right opportunities
- Command higher compensation
- Deliver authentic, clearer and more memorable interviews
- Convey value, trust and confidence
So what are you known for in your world? What makes you different? A very simple and quick way to discover some things about your brand is to survey your friends, family, and colleagues. Ask them to pick 3 adjectives to describe you. You’ll want to reach out to at least 10 people so you can start to see some patterns. While you’re waiting for replies write down the top 3-5 adjectives you think describe you best.
Once you have your feedback, you can see if this aligns with how you think of yourself. If it does, then you’re on your way to embracing your brand. If there are adjectives people are suggesting that you are surprised to see, then you may want to rethink how you’re portraying yourself in the workplace vs. with friends. It is entirely possible friends see a different side of you from co-workers.
You can also start thinking about common occurrences in your career. What types of challenges do you find yourself facing time and time again? What types of problems do you easily solve?
Let me give you an example to make this more concrete. I go through an intense discovery call with all of my clients. In that call I search for the common thread of my client’s career.
Recently, I had a client, let’s call him John, who was a director of marketing for a hospital. Every organization he touched had significant increases to their lead generation and in turn revenue – positive ROI.
So, we wove that into his branding statement on his resume “Infusing strategy and orchestrating marketing tactics to achieve positive ROI – every time.”
We also tweaked it for his LinkedIn profile with a leading statement in the summary of “Keen eye for opportunities leads to positive ROI – every time.”
Then when he was on an interview he was asked what he does best by the CEO. His answer, “I orchestrate, author, and execute integrated marketing plans that deliver ROI every time.” The CEO replied, “You are the first person I’ve talked with that I want to invite for an in-person meeting.” This is the power of a strong personal brand that is communicated across multiple platforms.
Another way to discover your brand is to use assessments. Three assessments I have done myself, and I use with clients are:
- 360Reach by personal branding guru William Arruda. It’s a deep dive into your personal brand. Often times, the higher you move up in an organization, the more you hear what others think you want to hear. This anonymous survey gives you true feedback you can use to set yourself apart in the marketplace
- Fascination Advantage from Sally Hogshead. In her book, How the World Sees You, she talks about the 7 advantages – Innovation, Passion, Power, Prestige, Trust, Mystique and Alert. Her assessment tells you your top two advantages and provides rich language that describes how you’re different.
- StrengthsFinder 2.0 from Gallup. This assessment provides insight to your top 5 innate strengths, what you are naturally good at. Knowing this will help you figure out what benefits you bring to an employer or client.
Knowing your brand can really be the guiding light for your career. You’ll be able to make better decisions because you’ll be able to answer “is this on brand or not?”
Twenty years ago Tom Peters coined the phrase “personal brand,” and it has never been more important to make sure you are taking charge of your brand and in turn your career. Market yourself well, and you’ll be gainfully employed in the future gig economy and beyond.
The toughest marketing challenge of all is marketing you, and the purpose of this blog is to help marketing superstars, like you, conquer that challenge and excel in your career.
Passionate about direct marketing and helping people find jobs, Michelle Robin has translated her extensive B-to-B marketing background into a career focused on her true love: creating powerful career marketing documents that lead to interviews at her clients’ target organizations. As Chief Career Brand Officer at Brand Your Career, she works with executive-level sales and marketing professionals across the U.S., and helps them discover their personal brand and fast track their job search.
An award-winning and dual-certified resume writer (NCRW and PARW), Michelle’s work has been published in the book, Modernize Your Resume: Get Noticed...Get Hired.
Need help discovering your personal brand? Download Michelle’s free Personal Branding Workbook. Just launching your job search? Get 26 action-packed tips to accelerate your marketing job search. You can also connect with Michelle on Twitter, LinkedIn, or email.