Early in my career, I worked for a small consulting firm as a software developer. I liked the company and I like the work. I had a very supportive manager. Perhaps because of those factors, and some credit to my small town, mid-western roots, I worked hard on my projects. I put in long hours and ate at a lot of food out of paper bags from carry-out restaurants.
I was there just short of four years before the company went out of business. Another consulting firm came in within days to interview anyone who was interested. I interviewed with them and was hired by them. I learned later that when they talked to my boss about me, he told them “Lew will do whatever it takes to get the project done right and on time.”
I hadn’t realized it, but I had branded myself. When you think of your favorite brand names, the first thing that comes to your mind may be quality, or fun, or dependability. There may be some brands that you no longer use because when you think of them, you immediately think of poor quality or a bad experience. I got sick on Jack Daniels once in college and haven’t touched it since.
When my former boss was asked about me, he told them what he thought of as soon as he heard my name.
If I had branded myself differently, he might have said, “He’s always late for meetings.” or “That guy just drinks too much Jack Daniels.” Fortunately, I branded myself in a way that created a better thought in his mind.
Competition for jobs today is as intense as it has ever been. Whether you’re trying to find a new job in the market or move up the corporate ladder, it’s important to stand out. You need to have a plan and implement it with consistency.
If you think of a major retail brand, everything they do focuses on a consistent image for their brand. Colors are consistent, message is consistent, and their corporate behavior is consistent.
The same should go for us as individuals. The way we dress (our product packaging), the way we behave (product image), and the way we work (product quality), should all reflect our personal brand. The way we do each of those should be consistent.
Your Marketing strategy
What do you want people to think of when they hear your name? The person who will do what it takes to get the job done right? The person who is always up on the latest technologies? The team member that helps out when others get behind?
Once you’ve developed a strategy for how you’d like to be known, begin positioning yourself. When a consumer products company wants to position themselves, they develop an advertising campaign. It needs to be done a little more subtly than that for an individual. You can’t just introduce yourself to someone and say, “Hi, I’m Bill and I get stuff done!”
If the boss comes up to you and tells you she needs something done today, there is nothing wrong for you to say, “I’ll stay as long as it takes to get it done.” It needs to be stated as a commitment and not bragging.
Then, your only responsibility is to live up to your commitment. If you make commitments like that and put your money where your mouth is, it won’t take long until people start seeing you like that. You need to do it multiple times and consistently.
The search for any job in our current economy can be daunting. Hundreds can apply for the same position. It’s important to start developing your personal brand early and maintaining it consistently. Then, when people are asked about you, their answer will be a no-brainer.
For further reading, I highly recommend Tom Peters’ classic Fast Company article, “The Brand Called You.”
As always, I welcome your comments and suggestions.
If you would like to learn more about working in consulting, get Lew’s book Consulting 101: 101 Tips for Success in Consulting at Amazon.com