ME.Brand – Step 1:Defining What Makes You Special

What’s that? You’re intelligent? Trustworthy? Honest? Hard Working? Dependable? Customer Focused? Strong Drive For Results?

Are any of these key descriptors in your resume? Words you might use to describe yourself? Hate to be the one to break this to you, and I don’t mean to sound callous but who cares.  Dependable, Honest and Customer Focused IT professionals are a dime a dozen.  No one is going to remember you from the pack if you lead your pitch emphasizing the same qualities the last 10 folks just led with.  Want to be memorable? You would be better off saying your an Unreliable, Dishonest and Customer resenting IT professional. Now THAT would be memorable.  But no one would ever say that of course.  And having interviewed IT professionals for over two decades, I can tell you from first hand experience that if a candidate is spending the short time they have my attention stressing that they are honest and dependable, I have to wonder if there is anything else they have to offer.  Some things are better not said – used often in six sigma circles, you can think of these items as Qualifiers.  You might also have heard the term table stakes – qualities, features or capabilities that a customer may value but expects all the time – it’s commonplace.  On the other hand, Differentiators are delighters. These are things people value – and would pay for, gravitate towards, and remember.  This is where the value is – and defining what makes you special is all about emphasizing that value.
As promised in yesterday’s post, we continue to look at techniques around personal branding in this BRAND.ME series of articles. When it comes to defining your personal Brand, it is critical that you take the time to think about what it is that you do best.  If your closest friends and colleagues were to be asked what your top 3 strengths were, what would they say?
Starbucks doesn’t serve hot, average tasting coffee – they provide unique interactions and experiences to their customers with each drink or service they provide.
The Marriott doesn’t count on their price point or promises of a clean (bed-bug free) room and relaxing stay to differentiate from the competition.  Instead, staying at the Mariott is an experience in service excellence that provides you with things you need, even if you didn’t know you needed them in the first place.  Just look at how they recently launched news of their Refreshing Business Lobby – John Legend and Marriott took over Grand Central’s Vanderbilt Hall where a replica of the new lobby was on display.  These new Business Lobby’s at the Mariott will offer free WiFi, lots of seating and a plethora of electrical outlets. Lots of outlets? Now there’s a delighter!
So are you sold yet? Are you ready to take a critical look at your personal brand and put some time into making sure it’s what you need it to be? Good.
First, take a look at your schedule.  You’ll want to block off about 40 minutes to work through the following exercise – it is important that you can spend this time uninterrupted and in a quiet spot.  I strongly recommend you do this using pen and paper.  This isn’t about tech, it’s about some introspective time and it needs to be free from the distractions of technology.  Running notepad full screen just isn’t the same, trust me.
Now when you complete these exercises it is important not to over think your responses – the result of this exercise will be a key input into building your brand statement but no one needs to see this other than yourself.  Also in working through the exercises, in case it isn’t obvious, replace “Joe Fresh IT” with your own name.  Unless of course you really are Joe Fresh.
BRAND.ME-The Who, What & Where Introspective
Section 1: Who Is Joe Fresh, IT Professional Date: _____________________
1. If you were to describe yourself in 3 words, what would they be?
2. How would your last or current manager describe you?
3  How would your colleagues or teammates describe you?
4. What is your top strength?
5. What is your biggest weakness or improvement area?
Section 2: What can Joe Fresh, IT Professional do?
1. What do you do better than most people you know?
2. What accomplishment in your career are you most proud of?
3. Do you consider yourself a leader? If so, can you provide an example of where you demonstrated strong leadership and what the outcome was?
4. Why would someone hire you?
5. What are you most passionate about? What gets Joe Fresh out of bed in the morning? (hint: not the alarm clock or your spouse)
Section 3: Where is Joe Fresh, IT Professional going?
1. Describe your ideal working environment and role.  What would it look like? What would you be doing? How would it be different than your current or last role/workplace?
2. What do you see as your next role or opportunity? How long before you plan to be in that role? Are there any gaps (e.g. skills, competencies) you need to work on before this is feasible?
3. Suppose to reach this next role or opportunity in the time frame you specify.  Assuming success in this new role, would any of your answers to Section 1 change after that experience? If so, make note of the differences.
There, that’s it.  You may find some questions more challenging than others to answer – that’s normal.  Unless you’ve been on the job market recently or interviewed recently, you probably haven’t given these areas much thought.  The one critical thing to keep in mind is that working your brand is not an event, but a continuous process. Most people wait until they find themselves in a position of having to find new work to give time or attention to their personal brand.  The problem with that approach is that brands are not just created, they are built – it’s one thing to say “This is my brand”, and another thing altogether to be recognized by those around you as representing “that brand”.
It takes both talking the walk and walking the talk to build a strong credible brand.  For those serious about developing a strong personal brand (and I am sure that is all of you), a very useful baseline exercise is to take the questions in Section 1 and ask someone close to you – whether a colleague, peer or subordinate – to complete.  For the question asking for a manager or leader perspective, best to ask someone you have or currently report to.  Some of you may have already received some of this feedback already, perhaps in a performance review.  If very recent (i.e. last 6 months), feel free to use it – otherwise, I suggest getting a fresh snapshot.  If asked, simply state you are working on your professional development and would value their perspective of your work and abilities and ask for their complete honesty.  You may also find it useful to discuss the results/outputs in person with them – and depending on the nature of the relationship, even share your own answers and solicit feedback from them in areas where there might not be complete alignment.
In tomorrow’s post, we’ll talk about managing your Buzz.  Do you know what your Buzz is? How do you manage your Buzz? Why the things you decide not to say can be more critical than what you do say when it comes to ensuring others perception of you align with the reality of who you are and your BRAND.ME.  Join me tomorrow and follow me on twitter now.  Your IT career will benefit from the experience, I guarantee it!  Next In The Series: Step 2: Talking The Walk on Making IT Work!

Related Download
CanadianCIO Census 2016 Mapping Out the Innovation Agenda Sponsor: Cogeco Peer 1
CanadianCIO Census 2016 Mapping Out the Innovation Agenda
The CanadianCIO 2016 census will help you answer those questions and more. Based on detailed survey results from more than 100 senior technology leaders, the new report offers insights on issues ranging from stature and spend to challenges and the opportunities ahead.
Register Now