Positioning Your Personal Brand for Relaunch: Step Three – How?

This post is the fourth in a five-part series on relaunching your personal brand inspired by a recent post in the Franklin University Back to College Blog. As a review, the first two steps in aligning your personal brand with career change opportunities are:

  1. Recognize reasons a change is desired (Why)
  2. Study your options (What)

The third step in relaunching your personal brand addresses the key question of “How do I get there?” You may have realized that conditions are favorable to make a move (why) and have explored different opportunities for the next chapter in your professional life (what). Now, the challenge is identifying the skills, training, or other requirements needed to compete in your newly chosen category. In some cases, the conclusion drawn at this step in the process is that relaunch is not feasible due to education requirements or cost to acquire needed training. But, if you are able to overcome potential time and money barriers, there are three actions you can take to move closer to being ready for a new beginning in your career:

  1. Become a “fan” of your chosen profession – Just as sports fans passionately follow their favorite teams and players, become a close observer of the industry or profession in which you wish to work. What are the current trends? Who are the thought leaders? Which companies and executives are up and coming stars? Know thy industry!
  2. Learn… and continue to learn – This directive overlaps with becoming a fan of your new industry or field. Learning can occur formally through college degree programs or industry certification programs. Formal learning should be complemented with self-study in the form of reading industry publications and blogs as well as watching webinars on topics related to your new profession.
  3. Network with other professionals – Acquiring knowledge is important, but it is not enough to position you to compete for opportunities in a new profession. You must get to know the people who are working in the industry now. If the concept of networking is intimidating, consider this simple definition: Networking is about helping other people. Do you like helping other people? Networking is a means of helping others by sharing information, exchanging ideas, and supporting one another. Become involved in networking digitally through networks like LinkedIn and Twitter. LinkedIn has groups for just about any industry you can imagine, and if there happens not to be one, no problem- start a group yourself! Similarly, Twitter is an excellent resource for connecting with other people. Use the Twitter hashtag search feature to look for industry-specific conversations taking place. Of course, do not overlook traditional face-to-face networking opportunities. Social networking sites expand our networking capabilities, but they should not be viewed as a replacement for personal interactions.

Step Three is the most difficult part of the career relaunch process, and it is at this point where many relaunches are aborted. Why? It is because the first two steps do not require a high level of commitment and resolve to complete. But, when we get to the step of equipping ourselves for change, the barriers to relaunch identified in the introductory post of this series (comfort, risk, and time investment required) are too great for many people to overcome. If your objectives for change are clear and you have done your homework to explore options that fit your capabilities, the chances of coming out the other end of Step Three prepared to relaunch your personal brand are significantly enhanced.

Positioning Your Personal Brand for Relaunch: Step Two – What?

This post is the third in a series on relaunching your personal brand. The idea for a multi-post discussion on how to position yourself for a career change was inspired by a piece that appeared recently in the Franklin University Back to College Blog. Much emphasis is given to how to prepare for an initial career launch, but what about when you want to make a career change? The ideas shared in the Franklin U. blog post provided a solid overview of steps one should take when pondering a career change. The last post discussed how the process begins by asking the question “why?” Why is a change desired – it is to pursue meaningful change or is it an attempt to escape from an undesirable situation? Is it your desire to change, or is it someone else’s vision that you should be doing something different?

Assuming your outcome of evaluating Step One is that you satisfactorily answer the Why question and intend on pursuing a career change, the next step is to answer the “What” question. Convincing yourself a career change would be beneficial is much easier compared to knowing exactly what you will change to. In Step One, answering the Why question entailed identifying extrinsic and intrinsic motivations for considering a change. Similarly, when answering the What question we must separate potential new careers on the basis of extrinsic and intrinsic motives for pursuing them. Extrinsic or outside forces might guide us to consider a new career option because of the opportunities available, the average income, lifestyle benefits, or observing other people succeeding in that career.

Intrinsic motivations for career change are not influenced by what is transpiring in the world around us; they come from within us. While external occurrences like being overlooked for a promotion or dissatisfaction with salary can serve as triggers to consider career change, those events are nothing more than disappointments unless there is a deeper drive to do something different with our professional lives. Perhaps the best guidance I have ever seen when it comes to answering the What question is given by Kevin Carroll in his book Rules of the Red Rubber Ball. Carroll identifies seven steps we can take to pursue our red rubber ball, a symbol he uses for something that brings us immense joy and satisfaction. The seven rules are:

  1. Commit to it – It takes a strong resolve to follow your passion
  2. Seek out encouragers  – Do not embark on the path to career relaunch alone; identify mentors, teachers, and friends who can help guide you
  3. Work out your creative muscle –  Imagination leads to opportunity
  4. Prepare to shine –  A willingness to invest time to learn and do the “grunt work” is needed
  5. Speak up – Others will impose boundaries on you (“You can’t do that…” or “That won’t work”); do not accept their boundaries
  6. Expect the unexpected – Always be on the lookout for opportunity contained in everyday life situations
  7. Maximize the day – Be intentional in choices you make on how you spend your time.

Notice what the Rules of the Red Rubber Ball are not- they do not directly relate to building specific skill sets, getting certain training, or building credentials (that is the focus of Step 3). The rules are about adopting the proper mindset and developing a discipline of behaviors consistent with fulfilling your desires for a different path.

Positioning Your Personal Brand for Relaunch: Step One – Why?

This post is the first in a four-part series on the process of completing a personal brand makeover and relaunch. I stated in my last post introducing the series that I often receive inquiries from former students and others about how to best position a career change. Given that it is an issue weighing on the minds of many people, I wanted to share some good advice on the topic that appeared recently in the Franklin University Back to College Blog. What prevents many people from taking the plunge and relaunching their personal brand? It is not having a structure or approach in place. This series seeks to remove that obstacle, beginning today with providing a starting point for the relaunch process.

The first step in developing strategy, whether it is for a multi-billion dollar corporation or for your personal brand, is to evaluate the current situation. In the context of personal brand management, conducting a SWOT analysis (an acronym for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats) is an excellent tool for evaluating your capabilities (strengths and weaknesses) and recognizing developments in the world around you (opportunities and threats). Think of a SWOT analysis like taking a snapshot- it captures what is going on at a given point in time. It is crucial to determine where you are right now before you can figure out where you want to go.

In addition to conducting a SWOT analysis to assess the current situation, a person embarking on the personal brand relaunch process should consider why a change is desired. Is the motivation for change

  • Intrinsic – Change may be driven by desire to have a profession with greater perceived impact or benefit to others, or it may be fulfillment of a long-time goal (e.g., earn an advanced degree).
  • Extrinsic – Impetus for career relaunch may be aspirations to achieve a different status level or earn a higher income.
  • Other – Additional reasons may be behind a potential career change such as desire to relocate, get away from a bad boss, or the need to get a fresh start.

Begin by identifying your strengths and weaknesses. This task requires what Jim Collins calls “confronting the brutal facts,” especially when it comes to acknowledging weaknesses. Add to your list of strengths and weaknesses by compiling a list of opportunities and threats. These characteristics may not come to you as easily as strengths and weaknesses; research will likely be needed to get a handle on external factors that could help or hurt your career relaunch. Examples of research that might be needed is determining employment opportunities for a prospective new field, training or skills people in that field typically have, and the impact of technology and economic conditions on industry or occupation growth. 

Change in the form of personal brand relaunch is the end goal. To get there, begin by clarifying why a change is desired, the personal brand assets you have that will support pursuit of your goal, and development needs to help position you to be competitive in your new field. You might be thinking at this point “I don’t even know what I want to do other than I know I want to make a change.” That’s fine, because it brings us to the topic of the next post – Considering your options.

    Positioning your Personal Brand for Relaunch: Introduction to Four-Step Process

    Many former students have contacted me over the years to get my advice on how to position themselves to make a career change. Similarly, I have had conversations with some parents’ of my children’s friends lamenting their current career path, wishing that they could do something different. In both cases, the reason that they do not follow through is that they do not know how to go from Point A to Point B. You may recognize the reasons for not taking the leap to change career paths; they may be part of your reasoning, too:

    • We get comfortable with what we know – Routines have a calming effect
    • The unknown equals risk – Our comfort zone is encroached when risk is present
    • It may require time –  Developing new skills, learning new a new industry, and building new relationships won’t take place overnight

    As you probably have already realized, these reasons are highly correlated. Together they make a compelling case for maintaining status quo and not pursuing a vision for a new career. Unfortunately, they also serve to suppress the potential we have inside of us to broaden our horizons and launch new career ventures. British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli said that “Most people die with their music still locked up inside them.” How can we unlock the music and fulfill our potential to develop the meaning and makeup of our personal brand?

    This post introduces an upcoming four-part series of positioning your personal brand for relaunch. The four steps that can be applied to personal brand relaunch via career path change include:

    1. Recognize reasons for change
    2. Study your options
    3. Identify education and skills needed for relaunch
    4. Prepare for launch in new field or industry

    The inspiration for this four-part series comes from Franklin University Back to College Blog – “How to Successfully Change Career Paths”. The next four posts are for you if you have ever considered retooling the makeup of your personal brand to enter a different career field.

    Build Your Future by Honoring Your Past

    The holiday season is a time for reflection, and as I think back over the events of 2012 a bittersweet feeling is inescapable. On a professional level, it was a great year, highlighted by publication of a sports marketing textbook co-authored with Mike Fetchko and Ken Clow. The concept of being a lifelong learner has been front and center for me as I have explored a wide range of topics and subjects in an effort to make me a more knowledgeable marketer and more complete scholar. On a personal level, the achievements of my children, most notably my oldest son’s graduation from college, served to remind me that I am blessed with a wonderful family.

    The world around us provided stark reminders of our frailties and mortality. Our hearts were broken on December 14th when 26 innocent children were gunned down in Newtown, Connecticut. Celebrity deaths like the passing of Andy Griffith, Richard Dawson, and Larry Hagman felt like a little part of my childhood died. And closer to home, it seemed that too many friends and acquaintances were dealing with the pain of losing loved ones. The most painful of these events for me was the passing of my beloved Aunt Marcelle, who taught me to take time to appreciate beauty whether it be in nature, classical music, or a sunny day.

    Like many people, I use this time of year not only to reflect on what has happened but also prepare a clean slate that is the new year. As I get ready for 2013, my plan is to build my future by honoring my past. It is clear that my past has shaped my life to this point – the influence of people, places, and events is undeniable but not always remembered. There are people in your life that may not be around any longer, but their impact remains. Similarly, there are schools, clubs, and churches to which you have been connected. You may not be an active participant in them today, but your involvement with them played a role in your development.

    My blog posts usually deal with marketing, but the thoughts shared here apply regardless of your profession or situation. The future is always an exciting prospect. In 2013, take on that future by drawing on the wealth of character and knowledge you have built in your past. Best wishes for a joyous holiday season. May 2013 be your best year yet – in honor of your past, of course.

    Creating an Eternal Brand Statement

    I am not much on reading obituaries. While I have respect for the deceased, I worry that a regular perusal of obituaries could become a morbid fascination. So, when I was thumbing through the Minneapolis Star Tribune at my hotel one morning last week I initially turned the page when I realized I was at the obituaries. After all, who in Minneapolis would I know – I had been there a grand total of 36 hours! But, a headline stopped me in my tracks and inspired a second look.

    The obituary for Marvin Borman, a local attorney, led with the headline “He spent decades helping community.” That got my attention, and I had to learn about his story. Mr. Borman passed away at the age of 89 but left a legacy for his family and local community. Among the most salient facts about Mr. Borman were:

    • Attained Eagle Scout at age 13
    • Graduated high school at age 15… and was valedictorian
    • Joined U.S. Marines just after Pearl Harbor was attacked
    • Married to his wife, Betty, for 66 years
    • Served on the United Way Board for 34 years
    • Enjoyed varied interests – spending time with family, fishing, tennis, and his work.

    As I read Mr. Borman’s obituary, I realized that in front of me was his eternal brand statement. Unlike a campaign that launches with a catchy theme and flashy messaging but eventually gives way to the next big idea, an obituary gives an historical account of a personal brand. It is an eternal brand statement. Mr. Borman’s impressive personal brand is a call to reflect on our journey in creating an eternal brand statement.

    How will your eternal brand statement read? Will it reflect personal values that are so clear that people who never met you will feel like they have been touched by reading your story? Our eternal brand statement is not written by a newspaper staffer after we die; it is being crafted daily by our values and actions. I like to say that the work of branding is never finished, but when it comes to our personal brand we can also say that branding never dies.

    Why Good Grammar is Good for Your Personal Brand

    A blog post with a provocative title caught my eye recently. A Harvard Business Review post by Kyle Wiens, CEO of iFixit and founder of Dozuki, was titled “I Won’t Hire People Who Use Poor Grammar Here’s Why.” Wiens uses a grammar test to screen potential employees at his companies. Writing is central to effective performance at both firms – Wiens describes iFixit as “the world’s largest online repair manual” and Dozuki helps clients write product documentation such as user manuals. For Wiens, proper grammar usage is not about achieving perfection as much as it is about demonstrating professionalism.

    Response to Wiens’ post was surprising. Although many people agreed with Wiens’ stance that good grammar is good business, many people critiqued his use of grammar and questioned his audacity to have what he described as a zero tolerance policy against grammar mistakes. Interestingly, some of the more than 2,300 comments devolved into evaluation of grammar usage in other persons’ comments. The Grammar Police had a mighty presence on Wiens’ blog post!

    The article resonated with me as I see firsthand the effects of poor spelling and grammar on the quality of students’ written communications. A correlation exists between grammar skills and perceived credibility of the communicator. For Kyle Wiens’ companies, the quality of his brands hinges on proper presentation of information. He cannot afford to take a laissez-faire approach to his employees’ writing craft. Nor can you or I. Our written and oral communication is a part of our product. Inferior product quality of our personal brand is not an option in a highly competitive market.

    Command of spelling and grammar has three benefits:
    1. It demonstrates a commitment to learning. Kyle Wiens says if a person has not mastered spelling and grammar after 20 years is it indicative of his or her learning curve in general?

    2. It reveals attention to detail. Good grammar usage sends a positive signal about the communicator, just as poor grammar raises questions about the communicator’s message quality and even credibility.

    3. It can be a source of competitive advantage. Commit to sharpening this element of your personal brand. Think about how many job announcements seek a candidate with outstanding communication skills. Make it a point to stand out in this area.

    You do not have to be an English professor to use grammar effectively. You only have to adopt a mindset of continuous improvement, pushing yourself to become more skilled at communication. Make your communications skills a strength that gets you hired or promoted, not allow it to be a liability that holds you back.

    Don’t Look for a Job – Market Your Brand

    The realities of a challenging global economy and after-effects of a recession in our country are unexpected educational experiences for recent college graduates. This year’s graduates have degree in-hand but in many cases have no guarantee of a job or immediate prospects. Young people are moving back home, searching earnestly for positions related to their college majors and in many cases taking jobs with little relevance to their chosen career.
    I can empathize with the struggles young people are facing on two fronts. First, as a college professor one of my responsibilities is to help students launch their careers. I share with them the importance of building a professional network and encourage them to use tools like LinkedIn to engage in networking. Also, I stay engaged with the local business community to stay abreast of job opportunities for marketing majors. Second, in addition to my advisees who study under me, I am currently mentoring my flesh and blood advisee – my oldest son graduated with an Information Systems degree in May and is in the job market with thousands of other recent grads. On both fronts my advice is the same: Don’t look for a job – market your brand.
    Job seekers are abundant; they flood Monster and Career Builder with résumés. The problem is that it is difficult to differentiate yourself as an employee when your mindset is to find a job. In contrast, when you are marketing your personal brand, your thoughts and actions serve to build your brand. Why is personal branding a big deal? Most job seekers do not think like a brand manager. Their focus is on finding a job. Employers are interested in how a candidate can add value to their organizations. Brands focus on creating and articulating value.  
    My advice to job seekers (including my own Chris) is to manage and develop the 3Ms of a personal brand:
    ·         Meaning– Your values and beliefs that guide your priorities
    ·         Makeup – The skills, abilities, and training that are marketable competencies
    ·         Message– Communication of your qualifications and personality; Social media gives us numerous opportunities for spreading our message… if used correctly
    It is a unique but daunting task to oversee the most important brand in the world: You. If you want a job, develop your brand and market it. When you define what you have to “sell” and are able to persuade others about the value you can deliver, the job opportunities will follow.

    Your Story, Your Brand

    I am a strong advocate of personal branding. As a college professor who serves students in their junior and senior years of business school, I introduce personal branding concepts in my classes. Students are encouraged to manage their professional careers using marketing principles learned in the classroom. It is a challenge for many people, especially if you are at the outset of your career, to embrace personal branding. Uncertainties about what to do or say as well as doubts of how one can add value for others are common obstacles to launching a personal brand.

    One approach for simplifying the task of creating a personal brand is to build it around stories. This idea is not a suggestion to create fictional escapades but rather stories about events and people in your life that have shaped your values and purpose. Author Amber Mac gives three tips for how to base your personal brand on stories:

    1. Discover Your Story – What are things that have happened to you that people would find interesting and create common ground?
    2. Re-write Your Story – Craft a collection of “short stories” into your brand story. Stories do not replace credentials like education or skills, but they do add personality to your brand and can increase your brand’s appeal.
    3. Share Your Story – It is communicated via your social networking pages, oral presentations, and personal interactions. Remember that the purpose is not to brag about you but to develop connections with other people.

    Keep this in mind: stories are more interesting than facts, bullet point lists, and résumés. Think about brands you like and admire most- they probably have stories worth telling. The beauty of a storytelling approach to personal branding is that everyone has stories to share. Let your stories shape your brand.

    Fast Company – “Mastering the Uncomfortable Art of Personal Branding”

    Sell Dreams

    As a professor who studies the marketing discipline as a passion and job requirement, I like to think that I am up on its fundamental tenets. However, it is always refreshing when I see marketing principles in action. A conversation with a business owner recently offered one of those moments.

    I met the owner of a travel agency at a business networking meeting at which I made a presentation. As she told me about her business, she said that she owns a travel agency, but what she sells are dreams. Wow! What a powerful statement, but it is a mindset that is often lost on marketers and businesspeople in general.

    We tend to define our business and careers by the industry sector or category in which we participate. I just realized I was guilty of it in my first sentence of this post! But, the value we add to the lives of customers and others does not reside in a sector or category label. Rather, the value comes from the impact we have on those people with whom we interact.

    If any industry deserves sympathy for the rampant change that has taken place in the past 10-15 years, it is travel services. The transition of travel and lodging purchases to a self-service model online, 9/11 and resulting terrorism fears, and the recession have walloped virtually all businesses associated with travel. But, the travel agency owner said her business has succeeded for 20 years because she has never lost sight of what she does- selling dreams. Yes, travelers may be able to score lower prices buying directly (but not always). The agency’s expertise, network of contacts, and personal service bring comfort and assurance to the process of planning travel.

    Define your business and personal brand by the value you deliver. It can be a differentiator between you and competitors stuck on defining themselves by industry and product. Sell dreams!