We’re experiencing massive impacts to job markets as a result of COVID. There was an existing trend where skills could be extrapolated from one career and applied to another. It’s perhaps worth considering this a moment in time to cement, or begin anew, key aspects of your personal brand. It’s also worth focusing a little less on the vacuous side of personal branding (selfies or the candy floss nature of self-proclaimed genius) and put a little more light on practical substance and overall character.
Say yes to projects
Many businesses and roles are project led, so say yes to projects provided you have fundamental competencies required to get the task done plus an open, humble willingness to learn and fill skill gaps. This may include pro-active collaboration with others who have strengths to fit the project puzzle pieces together. Then be sure to acknowledge contributions of others rather than trying to be the rock star: claiming all honours alone. Fake it till you make it will only take you so far and few people like a know it all.
Demonstrate learning over earning
Potential employers love aspirational, motivated individuals keen to carve a career. Yet the value of an employee is what they deliver, not take, in value. Your personal brand demonstrates greater humility when you demonstrate a track record of learning before earning. Demonstrate this willingness by discussing, sharing and highlighting the accumulation of knowledge and skills first. It’s okay to be driven by utility. In this instance let a philosophy ooze from your brand: learning leads to earning, so let wealth be stealth. Talk about and share the practical skills ready for use in your brands healthy armoury.
Avoid a fatal flaw
Whilst on the subject, Napoleon Hill wisely pointed out one of the fatal flaws of leadership being an expectation for being paid for what we know: rather than being paid for what we do with what we know. You may well have capacity to be a walking, talking, applied Encyclopedia Britannica (or Wikipedia) on a subject. Yet if all you do is horde knowledge or skills as a bargaining chip for rapid promotion, hold back or press too hard on remuneration for ability rather than delivery, that fatal flaw puts a permanent chink on your shiny armour.
The biggest dirty little secret in business
That’s how Jack Welch described a principle I’d previously learnt in my own career with Contiki. ‘A lack of candour’ is the biggest dirty little secret in business: the price for negligence in straight talk is steep: trust, ideas, productivity, everything suffers. Candour is a compliment. Candour implies respect. What does it say of our character if we’re willing to have different conversations: the water cooler one being vastly different from the meeting room or one on ones. Being candid may be challenging yet the sooner you demonstrate being candour personified, well, the star of your brand will shine. Respectful candour, with intent of finding solutions after understanding problems, cuts through politics, one upmanship or negativity that otherwise hold business back. It won’t go unnoticed.
It’s often joked we’re in an era where school leavers wish their first role to be CEO and to be regularly promoted thereafter. We even go as far to create funky titles that people have to ask, what does that actually mean? Don’t be in such a rush that you forget a solid fact: you may accelerate career and reputation through a dedicated focus on continual learning and achievement (as flagged before). We can’t shortcut it completely, even if social media tools or a lack of fact checking diligence in the digital age allows it be so. A time inevitably comes where you can no longer hide inadequacies from responsibilities or capabilities required to demonstrate actual competence. At which point any prior personal brand, built on a house of cards through bravado or blagging, will become a fallen star. Keep your resume and career path real. Resist embellishment. Be hungry, yes, yet also be appreciative! Extrapolate every ounce of applied lessons from each project, role or position.
Know your metrics
It’s amazing how many people have an over reliance on either dashboards or managers to tell them their numbers. The technology inform you. Once you know, it’s engrained in your drive. And if you rely on others to hold up a mirror it shows a lack of self-sufficiency. Tangible value (measured through a combination of the four metrics: dollars, percentages, numbers and time) is the value language of business. So know which ones apply to all aspects of roles or projects (past, present and future) then demonstrate being a skilled navigator who can adjust your own sails. If you’re behind, better you’re the one who calls it out.
There’s a commonality with these tips to do with grounded practicality. Be where you are, stay focussed, be mindful of your own productivity. Back in the 90’s, Tom Peters raised personal branding into public psyche and encouraged people to sell their sizzle. Fine, just don’t focus on it so much you forget in order for sizzle there must first of all be steak!