Five Brand Musts And Busts For Career Pros

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John M. O’Connor (Career Pro Inc.) is a multi-year career coach, outplacement and career services leader based in North Carolina. 

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You cannot get along in this work world without a brand of some kind. You don’t have to be famous, brilliant or creative. You don’t even have to loudly proclaim your brand value proposition from some career mountaintop. But you better be ready for an analysis of your brand’s value. A personal brand can loosely be defined as the focused intention to create and influence the perception of your value to intended or even unintended audiences.

Your brand could be projected on the one person who works with you or to your customers and never leave that limited domain. On the other hand, you can be sure that your personal brand will be lit up by fame. But know this—your brand promise is probably a lot bigger than you think and your reputation deeper than you have noticed. No matter how big your personal brand may be, your influence and larger impact matter. You should care about that fact. 

To build the uniqueness of your brand and its accompanying reputation should matter to you regardless of your professional status or years of experience. It can bring goodwill and referrals and help you become a better career pro. Use this unique expression of experience, expertise, competencies, actions and achievements to more positively impact your community, industry and the marketplace that matters to you.

No Brand Vision—Bust. When you have no accompanying vision for who you are, what the promise of you means to someone who has not met you, then you lack brand vision. Be conscientious and build out the idea of you and make sure those who meet you, hear of you and know you understand what value you want to bring to them. Those who matter to you can be friends, family, co-workers and really any audience. Try to define at least a simple message that those people understand. You must know the long-term impact your brand should have on the people you touch. Without this, you are lost. 

A Realized Reputation—Must. To create a positive reputation, you need to build trust with your connectors, stakeholders and whoever you define as your audience. Building a great reputation takes miles and miles of patience with people. It often requires you to look the other way when slighted and take the high road when criticized and asks you to ignore the tit-for-tat revenge-mindedness that seems so much a part of our popular culture. I recently saw a clickbait article that was a perfect example of this that said something like, “Actors Who Are Terrible To Common Folk.” It featured picture after picture of actors erupting on waiters, treating staff and co-workers poorly and more. Your reputation must be realized by treating others with great respect without fail.

The WIIFM Narcissist—Bust. It seems like the culture of the always-on smartphone, with apps that require you to drench your followers with your “selfies” and your story have bred an age where it’s almost in vogue to be self-centered. Have you met someone at work who only seems to be interested in themselves? Are you familiar with people around you who seem to ask by their actions and attitudes, “What’s in it for me (WIIFM)?” This societal tendency has crept into every generation’s mindset. Those who cultivate this mindset must have your attention, cry out of recognition and are disappointed when someone else succeeds. Fight the always-on selfie mindset and avoid these toxic people. They will want you in their world because that’s all there is!

An Emotional Intelligence Focus—Must. If you have the unique combination of smarts, savvy and dedication to emotional intelligence, you can run your personal brand reputation world. Surrounding yourself with people who have these combinations will assist you, too. Often incredulous people who I have coached in career transition over the years have come to me with this complaint during a job loss: Their “highly intelligent” C-suite leadership should have seen and anticipated people issues that created business problems. They complain about the lack of sensitivity to those issues. Emotional intelligence requires a deeper understanding of your own emotions and others’ so you can handle interpersonal relationships empathetically and effectively. 

No Discernable Brand Evidence—Bust. In today’s working world, you need to have some kind of brand plan that creates evidence or artifacts that show your brand value and promise. In coaching job seekers from college to executives, I have asked them to prove to me their value. Some people have trophies or pictures of themselves in action or have been recognized at work with awards; this makes them feel good, and all those items help. But in today’s market, you need to have a plan to create evidence of your value. That could come in the form of articles, video clips, pictures of you volunteering or titles outside of work as do positive things in your community. I predict that the résumé of tomorrow will require a digital footprint and not just digitally transferred words. What is your brand evidence? Start working on it. 

To advance your career and the message of your value and increase your professional and personal effectiveness, be aware of these brand busts and musts. Other items to bear in mind as you consider these brand busts and musts can and should be about building positive relationships and a reputation with your targeted audience. This can be relationships at work, in the community and with those around you. Are you generally considered a person of your word? Can people around you who may not even help you count on you to follow through if you say you are going to do something? Your words and actions get around a lot further and much louder than you think. It’s hard to build a good brand and easier to wreck it. Build it with positive words and actions. People are watching you all the time.


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John M. O'Connor

John M. O’Connor

John M. O’Connor (Career Pro Inc.) is a multi-year career coach, outplacement and career services leader based in North Carolina. Read John M. O’Connor’s full executive profile here.