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  • Personal Branding Interview: Sally Hogshead

    Today, I spoke with Sally Hogshead, who gives sound advice on how to radically engineer your career and why doing things differently than everyone else will help you stand out. She is an author, speaker and media commentator, who brings years of experience to this interview. We talk about her fancy website, some of the research she’s conducted, how she got Careerbuilder to sponsor a book tour for her and reflections on her own personal brand. The main takeaway is that you don’t have to do what everyone else does in life. You don’t need to be afraid of putting your creativity out there for people to see.

    Your website is extremely cool and bold. You even have your own Flash intro with sperm! Why should people invest money in their own websites instead of getting free hosting? Why is this good for personal branding?

    When it comes to making a first impression, your website is every bit as important as your dress and demeanor. For many of us, it’s even more important because the people we want to reach might never actually meet us. That’s not to say your website needs to be complicated or expensive—not at all. It can be simply executed with brilliant content. But no matter what you can afford, it should very accurately communicate the specific qualities of your own personal brand.

    Here is my personal brand promise:

    “Radical ideas and passionate action, keenly executed.”

    That means every idea I develop should be radical in some way, with my passionate involvement, and incisive execution.

    For my website, RadicalCareering.com, that meant untraditional ideas, such as the motion-graphics of sperm swimming, with the headline, “You were born unlike any other.” It’s a concept in my book, Radical Careering, about tapping into your own ultimate competitive advantage.

    My personal brand is also about keen execution, so I chose a high-end Flash design. However, this site launched in 2005, back before Web 2.0. The Flash was new and sexy back then, but I wouldn’t recommend it now, because it limits search engine optimization. Google, as you probably know, can’t search Flash. That means all the content in Flash never shows up in search results. I’m actually re-doing my whole online brand (working with The Next Wave) so it’s more Web 2.0 savvy.

    Why do you say that people have everything they already need to succeed?

    Often times, people blame their career shortcomings on external forces: an unsupportive boss, a failed project, or right now, the economy. But the truth is that in the long run, your success depends on factors within your own control. How intently are you willing to apply yourself? Are you willing to push outside of your comfort zone, and refuse to give up even when you feel discouraged?

    Would you be willing to take a temporary pay cut for a job that offered the opportunity to work with smarter people, and gain valuable experience? Can you support the people around you to their own success, so that you build a community? You already possess everything you need to make these choices. The hard part is actually making them.

    Did you find anything really exciting and unusual in your 1000 radical research project?

    Yes! We asked 1000 professionals age 25 – 45 about their motivations and intentions for their careers. The results demonstrate just how our attitudes have shifted since our parents’ “bring home the bacon” mindset.

    The main findings are posted at radical1000.com. A few highlights:

    Which is most important in determining success:

    • Natural talent: 8.8%
    • Hard work: 91.2%

    Which is more important to get from your employer:

    • Respect: 88.8%
    • Fat paycheck: 11.2%

    Which has had the greatest influence on your success:

    • Luck: 2.3%
    • Skill set: 15.6%
    • Reputation: 15.8%
    • Daily actions: 29.2%
    • Attitude: 37.1%

    Which is your idea of professional hell:

    • Long hours: 3.8%
    • Low pay: 4.7%
    • Being micromanaged: 15.6%
    • Disrespectful boss or coworkers: 75.9%

    You got Careerbuilder.com to sponsor a speaking tour for you. How did you manage to pull that off?

    After the executives at Careerbuilder.com read Radical Careering, they contacted me to submit a proposal. I could have simply responded in an email, as most other applicants did. But to sell them on my personal brand, I had to clearly articulate why I could do this better than anyone else. If my personal brand truly is “radical ideas and passionate action, keely executed,” then I needed to reflect that promise.


    So what I did I do? I created the vision for an entire program, which I called “Radical CareerBuilding.” I showed how my brand could perfectly combine with their brand. I outlined a marketing plan, potential partners, and even a logo design. Within a week, I got the phone call that I’d be going on tour in a few weeks. I’d sold them with my extra thought and effort.

    What are your feelings about personal branding and how have you built your brand in the advertising world?

    A personal brand must be an accurate reflection of who you are – who you authentically are at the core of your heart and soul. You can’t fake something you’re not, or you’ll fail. You can’t pretend to be detail-oriented if you’re really a big-picture creative type, or you’ll be miserable. You can’t base your brand around reliability if you’re not willing to back that up with relentless perfectionism, or you’ll lose the trust of those around you.

    In my career, everything I do and say and create aligns with my personal brand promise to create “radical ideas and passionate action, keenly executed.” That includes not only my resume and website and business card, but also my work itself. When a client hires me to do their advertising and marketing strategy, they get those same qualities. The ideas will not be traditional and safe and boring. I’ll engage with the assignment with passion and intensity. The execution will be the highest caliber. Everything in my brand aligns, so people have greater trust in what they will get from me. That allows me to charge higher fees, have greater job security, and more career freedom.

    Take, for example, my last name. Hogshead. Can you imagine how much it sucked growing up with the last name Hogshead?? (It was worse than you can imagine, trust me.) Even today, maitre d’s in restaurants erase my reservation because they think it’s a joke, and operators hang up on me, thinking it’s a prank call. People say, disbelievingly, “No, seriously, what’s your last name?” Um, it really is Hogshead.

    I could have hidden from that, downplayed it, or even changed my name. Instead, I pushed it. My business card reads, “A Hogshead is a barrel that holds 62 Gallons. So what’s your name, smartass?”

    Sally Hogshead
    is a speaker, author of Radical Careering: 100 Truths to Jumpstart Your Job, Your Career, and Your Life, and branding expert on radical innovation. Sally’s insights have been profiled by The New York Times, NBC, ABC, CBS and MSNBC. She leads keynotes for companies such as Starbucks and Microsoft, as well as innovation workshops around the world. Today, as writer and creative director, Sally helps companies develop branded content, new media applications, and multi-platform advertising. She helps companies uncover smarter, faster, more creative solutions. Recent launches include products for Nike and Cole Haan, Godiva, and Motorola.

    Dan Schawbel is the Managing Partner of Millennial Branding, a Gen Y research and consulting firm. He is the New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestselling author of Promote Yourself: The New Rules For Career Success (St. Martin’s Press) and the #1 international bestselling book, Me 2.0: 4 Steps to Building Your Future (Kaplan Publishing), which combined have been translated into 15 languages.

    Posted in Book Reviews, Career Development, Interview, People, Personal Branding, Success Strategies
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