There’s a question we all seem to get in networking situations – “What do you do?” Invariably, we answer with “I’m a (occupation) and I work for (company).”
I started thinking about how this defines so very little about why people find our personal brands memorable. We lead with what’s on our business card. But when people talk about you to others, what will they say?
Having just finished the excellent Guy Kawasaki book, “Enchantment,” I’ve realized that likability and trust make for a more compelling position than simply relying on where you work and what you do to bowl people over. Primarily because it shares so little of you as a person.
“He’s a great accountant.”
Not bad, I suppose. But I’ve heard the beginning and end of the whole story.
“The guy oozes talent and niceness from every pore. He made the process of working with him a complete and utter joy.”
Wow. I want to know more. Why was that process so enjoyable? Can I meet him? And by the way, wouldn’t we all want to be described in this way instead?
How does one get to a description like the second option? A good place to start is to de-business card yourself. I don’t mean actually trashing them all but mentally learning to strip away the contents. All of it. The company. The title. The e-mail address. The phone number. Even the occupation itself.
Imagine all that going out the window. What’s left?
If you find yourself grasping for an answer, don’t feel bad. The first time I thought about this, I called myself a “content marketer” or “brand strategist.” But I knew I was so much more than that. So I became excited by the challenge of conveying myself as a brand and who I envisioned myself to be. This led me to consider the best places to express this personal brand:
Some good places to start:
Your LinkedIn Profile
So many people consider just the summary and work history of LinkedIn. But think about the applications you can add that convey other factors, like what you’re reading (Amazon Reading List), what your interests are (don’t just list the professional ones) and Groups (boards, country clubs, etc.). Assuming you’ve had positive connections, those Recommendations will inevitably help people see the side of you that’s a relationship builder – so don’t be afraid to ask colleagues and clients for them!
I can’t say enough about how a blog will help you develop an original voice that’s helpful, humble and eager to share content. Building credibility is important, but the reward isn’t in trying to be an all-knowing authority that never gets a response. The reward is in inspiring conversation that grows beyond a post and takes on a life of its own (all the while, the positive attributes of bringing a “community” together are credited back to you).
People are feeling you out to see if you’re someone worth following. Here lies an opportunity to prove your thought leadership and show your passions on a topic unique to your industry that extends far outside just “what you do” and “who you work for.” One tool I like to use to add depth and context to my tweets is PeerIndex. The broader my PeerIndex “topic fingerprint,” the more it overlaps nearby related topics and the more I tend to garner interest. For example, if you tweet about a new piece of technology, you may expand your authority by conveying how that technology has implications for media or science rather than commenting purely on whether or not you like it.
It takes some practice to get comfortable in front of the camera, but if you do, it can go a long way toward someone visualizing taking a meeting with you. As you do engage in YouTube videos, however, I encourage you not to picture yourself merely as “VP of…” Again, think above and beyond your current status and instead picture yourself as a leader, resource, a helpful ally in a peer’s search to find answers. Think of how transparent you can be on a topic that stirs your passions. Then keep a schedule of when you can consistently record and upload videos.
We’d all like to think we’ll be at an employer that makes us happy for quite some time – and perhaps we will be. But even so, developing your personal brand beyond what your business card says you are enables you to define yourself as something so much more than a title and occupation – a likable, trustworthy personal brand that people can’t get enough of.
Dan Gershenson is a Chicago-based consultant focused on brand strategy and content marketing. Dan has guided a variety of CEOs and Marketing Directors at small to medium-sized companies, providing hundreds of strategic plans to help businesses identify their best niches and areas of opportunity. Dan blogs on Chicago Brander, mentors advertising students and cheers relentlessly for the Chicago Bears. Dan graduated from Drake University with a degree in Advertising.