“Can I just relax now?” you’re asking. “I’ve been working hard all year building my career, my brand, and my job. I’m going home for the holidays and I need a break.” Okay. You can have one for a little while, but your Holiday Branding Elf (me) asks that you don’t waste golden opportunities in the meantime.
How do you continue to build your brand, or not, when you’re “off duty”?
Don’t push it with the family
Okay, here’s where you can take your break. Your family doesn’t really want to hear how you are the thought leader for the free world about the latest financial derivatives product. Holidays ≠ Selling.
The irony is that family and friends often know the least about our work life. You’ll see this playing out all of the time with your family or golf buddies not thinking about giving you the referral that they ran across because your brand wasn’t embedded in their subconscious.
The objective over the holidays, therefore, is to catch up with them, drop in a couple of “teases,” and to plant code words that help embed your brand in their memories for future access.
Teasing, a family tradition
The type of response you want from teasing your siblings has changed. Instead of evoking retaliation or humiliation, your conversations will now tease listeners to ask more questions. When you evolve your teasing into “implied successes stories with a modest twist,” you subtly implant your brand for post-holiday results.
“Yeah, I’m dead. Thanks for asking. The article I wrote in the fall about the ‘next big thing’ in derivatives generated a lot of interest from the government and media. That’s the good news. The bad news is that keeping on top of my day-job is eliminating any sleeping. I’ll probably taper off of the hyperactive drugs in a month or two.” Humor gets bonus points.
You planted multiple teases in that story. If they don’t ask questions, they’re beyond hope. Change the topic to football.
Planting code words
Your family and friends are primarily interested in you on a personal level, thank heavens. Isn’t it nice that someone loves us? If you’d like to implant some “delayed release” branding, however, now that you have a face-to-face chance, you may feel the love after the holidays for your professional side as well.
Planting “code words” that will trigger your brand when you’re not around is the secret. “May I give out your name to the next company I hear talking about outplacement?” a friend of mine asked, knowing of my work and that word-of-mouth is the best referral going. “Thanks,” was my response. “I’d appreciate it.”
“To avoid a ‘Heard on the Street’ type situation, however, when it’s too late to buy a company’s stock because it’s success is now public knowledge, could I get you to listen for some early-warning-sign words as well? ‘I may need to terminate someone’ or ‘Results haven’t been great so we may need to reduce costs’ are leading indicators of layoffs and outplacement. If it’s comfortable to do an e-intro for me with that person, I can take it from there. Thanks!”
I just embedded code words of “terminate,” “layoff” and “reduce costs” that will trigger our conversation later on. Avoid going for words like, “job openings,” however, but rather for the conditions that might create them. After you’ve done your branding work, switch to talking about their kids.
Dancing the two-step
Which brings me to my final point: you’re dancing constantly during the holidays, not just when the music starts. This dancing is about switching which partner is leading and in charge. Talking about what you’re doing and interested in is fine…it would be a hollow holiday if everyone stayed at a superficial level all of the time.
Turning the lead over frequently to your conversational partner, however, asking your relatives and friends about their lives, then listening lets both sides gain and learn from the conversation. I’ve seen job seekers try to drag leads out of friends that the friends didn’t have, so the job seekers were avoided after that. Those job seekers are going to dance alone.
You’re not. You’re good at the two-step, so will have on-going partners. You can honestly surmount your own pressures to focus on others, laugh, and embed teases and code words while dancing during your conversations. You’re creating your brand for the long term and having fun in the process. Happy holidays from your Holiday Branding Elf.
Pam Lassiter is author of the award winning The New Job Security and Principal of Lassiter Consulting, a career coaching firm doing outplacement or internal growth programs for companies or individuals.