Don’t make yourself a slave to the career ladder, reinvent on a regular basis, and model yourself on selected people in your circle, writes Jay Kumar Hariharan.
As a Deep Sea Diver, when I head out on a diving vacation –I like asking the Diving Instructor about his journey. What has led him to where he is and what does he make of it?
One of my favorite Diving Instructors has been Giehl who in an earlier part of his life served in the Polish army and has now been diving for the last 17 years. Giehl was always full of life and his interest in people and diving, almost in that order, was inspiring and made him an interesting person. I asked him about his high levels of motivation and engagement –What he had to say helped me understand the importance of stories.
Every Diving Instructor had to go through 4 months of non-diving related training, the first month they were taught the art of storytelling--in conveying interesting messages to people of different countries and backgrounds, they also learnt to memorize people’s names in under two minutes. The second month they were trained to deal with Diver panic attacks. In the remaining two months, the Instructors had to do their own research-talk to the boat hands, the captain (A person named Chai Son (Means Mischievous boy in Thai) who could anchor at the exact same spot 20 nautical miles into the sea at Night without a compass). Families of other divers, equipment suppliers etc. Why? So that instead of repeating the same sound bytes, the diving instructors could come up with their own stories –“that is the reason I am so motivated”: the stories were his own.
What makes YOU interesting? This is the foundation question to build your personal brand!
For anyone who is passionate about branding, Marlboro Friday (April 2, 1993) is a key testament to the power of Branding. For some, that day is marked as the death of the brand as this was the day Philip Morris declared that they were cutting the price of Marlboro cigarettes by 20% in order to compete with bargain cigarettes. In response to the announcement, Wall Street stocks nose-dived for a large number of branded companies: Heinz, Coca Cola, Quaker Oats, PepsiCo, Tide and Lysol. Many thought the event signaled the beginning of a trend towards "brand blindness"
That mantra has not held true. Proper branding can result in higher sales of not only one product, but of other products associated with that brand. Everyone loves a good story and Brands are known by their stories, big and small. A story we tell to give voice to the emotions that drive us, our hopes and fears, dreams and desires. Stories are cognitive shortcuts adopted by the brain to help us understand ourselves better and others to understand us. According to this apocryphal quote by a Harley Davidson Marketing Exec – “What we sell is the ability for a 43 year old Accountant to dress in Black Leather, ride through small towns and have people be afraid of him”.
Any Story is only as good as its lead character, so at the heart of Brand Archetyping is the search to find out who you are. Analysis suggests that there are twelve character types and seven plots that consistently recur in stories; the basis for discussing and defining Brand Character. The 12 character types as defined in the Archetype map by Jung are Ruler, Creator, Innocent, Guide, Caregiver, Lover, Jester, Everyman, Outlaw, Magician, Champion and Explorer.
So, what’s your story?
Since we have rendered inanimate products with a series of images, sounds and smells to say stories, what about people where it all began. Aren’t we brands? Big companies understand the importance of brands. Here’s what we will learn to become the head of marketing for the most important brand –“You”
Why is creating a personal brand necessary?
Today’s world is an extremely fast paced world, financial uncertainty, the rise and growth of terrorism, political uncertainty, advancing technology and seismic shifts in global economic power…hell, we are even walking faster; an analysis of pedestrians in 34 cities around the world showed that the average pedestrian clips along at a pace of 3.5 mph roughly 10% faster than a decade ago.
In this VUCA environment, sameness is the enemy! Replicability ensures a limited shelf life for a successful career or even life. A powerful personal brand is helpful when you need to convince and influence people with limited data/information which is increasingly becoming the norm and help them decide. This also helps when you have to question status quo to start afresh and inject a new way of doing things or when defying crowds and established norms.
Who are you?
People adopt a series of tags based on the way they see themselves, given below are some examples:
I am VP –Sales –Identity by Designation
I handle supply chain management for the group –Identity by Role
I am a BMW owner –Identity by possession
I am a Liberal- Identity by belief
I am a Dad –Identity by relationship
All of this can be right, wrong, limiting, fulfilling depending upon where you would want to get to. If you could write down on the back of a visiting card how you are unique and what sets you apart. That’s your brand (as seen by you) and what people say about you when you are not in the room is what your consumers (as experienced by them) feel.
What is your target audience?
The stakeholder matrix is a simple 2x2 framework that enables you to concentrate on the most important quadrant to reach your goals. The two factors are Interest and power. Interest on the y axis and power on the x axis in your career, if your better half or parent is the most interested and you communicate the max to them, strategically, it might not be the best investment of your time, because they don’t come with the requisite power to do anything for you. The stakeholders in your organisation who are interested in your career and are able to influence it are people you would most need to influence and hence most of your branding needs to address that quadrant.
What makes YOU unique?
Start by identifying the qualities or characteristics that make you distinctive from your competitors -- or your colleagues. What are your needs, values and beliefs that make you stand out? What would your colleagues or your customers say is your greatest and clearest strength? Do you deliver your work on time, every time? Your internal or external customer gets dependable, reliable service that meets its strategic needs. Do you anticipate and solve problems before they become crises? Your client saves money and headaches just by having you on the team. Do you always complete your projects within the allotted budget?
What do YOU want to be known for? What are your attributes, style, behavior that you would want to be known for? What would a good experience count as for any stakeholder? –Ex –Expertise, warmth, helpful, executive presence etc.
How do YOU market yourself?
There's literally no limit to the ways you can go about enhancing your profile. Try moonlighting! Sign up for an extra project inside your organization. One of my coachees went about this in a classic way. He was fed up with the recruitment team failing to get him well trained talent who could hit the ground running, he decided to be a part of the solution and offered to train existing pool of talent who were some levels below. In 6 months, he had partially solved the talent problem, more importantly –Executive Leadership team at his organization were very impressed with his approach and tapped him later for an important assignment. Similarly, if you can carve out the time, take on a freelance project that gets you in touch with a totally novel group of people. If you can get them singing your praises, they'll help spread the word about what a remarkable contributor you are.
If you're a better writer than you are a teacher, try contributing a column or an opinion piece to your local newspaper. Once you get started, you've got a track record -- and clips that you can use to snatch more chances.
Industry reach out -Try to get yourself on a panel discussion at a conference or sign up to make a presentation at a workshop. Visibility has a funny way of multiplying; the hardest part is getting started. But a couple of good panel presentations can earn you a chance to give a "little" solo speech -- and from there it's just a few jumps to a major address at your industry's annual conference.
The second important thing to remember about your personal visibility campaign is: it all matters. When you're promoting brand YOU, everything you do -- and everything you choose not to do -- communicates the value and character of the brand. Everything from the way you handle phone conversations to the email messages you send to the way you conduct business in a meeting is part of the larger message you're sending about your brand.
What's the future of YOU?
Don’t make yourself a slave to the career ladder, reinvent on a regular basis, and Model yourself on selected people in your circle. What is your mission statement as CEO of Me Inc.? What turns you on? Learning something new? Gaining recognition for your skills as a technical wizard? What's your personal definition of success? Money? Power? Fame? Or doing what you love
No matter what, there are some elements you need to measure yourself against when you work as a part of a team –First, you have to play team and be a supportive colleague. Second, you've got to be an expert at something that has real value. Third, you've got to be a broad-gauged visionary. Fourth, you've got to be a businessperson – you have to have pragmatic outcomes.
Here’s to a new “YOU”!