You are probably very intelligent, very driven.
You’ve been in the Technology, Sales or Marketing industry since you left college, and you’ve done well for yourself. Now, you want to branch out on your own, hang out your shingle and do your own thing, free from the constraints of a boss. You know the business, you have the skills, so you get out there, you put up your website, you start a blog and you throw open your doors Day 1 expecting a flood of customers and……..*Crickets*
“WTF?”, you say to yourself. You had great qualified leads; you avoided walls-of-text in your content marketing, and focused on solutions, but no takers? None? What went wrong? Often, and much more so than you might have imagined, your personal brand (or lack of one) has done you in. I say this all the time, but I’ll say it until I am blue in the face, that nobody, NOBODY buys anything of real value from a stranger, except for Gasoline and Gummi Bears.
The Danger of having no Personal Brand.
I know of thousands of very smart, very capable people. Throughout my work day, I maintain a presence on Google+, which has become a sort of Online home to some of the brightest and most capable minds from many, many vocations.
I like to hire contractors to augment my staff on occasion, and the members of Google+ are a literal gold-mine of skills and ability. In every case, not just some, my hiring decision depends on what I know about an individual personally, rather than just the skills and experience they possess. The problem for many among the highly skilled is that their vocation becomes their personality, and it is all they share about themselves.
There is a guy TODAY, on Google+ that I probably would hire to contract with my business immediately, if I knew the slightest thing about him, other than his skill set. Beyond his considerable and proven abilities, I know practically nothing about the guy. I don’t want to hire him to discover down the road that he’s a prima donna, or someone who can’t work well with others.
He has no Personal Brand to show me a personality or history of getting along with others. He does not get into debates on controversial subjects to show me the agility of his mind and how he thinks. The dude is probably super-good at what he does, but there are lots of folks who are good at what they do, and I want to work with the ones who can handle himself with patience and grace in any situation.
For decades, businesses have used Golf outings to answer these questions. Does the candidate live up to his statements about his handicap? Does he ask for a lot of Mulligans, or does he take responsibility for his lousy putting, and pledge to practice more? Does he encourage others? Offer good advice? Is he patient while you toss grass for wind direction? I assure you , thousands of people over the years have either earned work, or lost work due to how they handled themselves on a Golf course.
On Social Media or other forums like Google+, it is a more difficult exercise in sizing someone up if they have not developed a Personal Brand. The persons who do it right on Social Media, are those who pop into your head about subjects far removed from their profession.
You might be watching television, see a commercial, and think of the man or woman who made an insightful comment on that very subject months beforehand. That person has taken up space in your mind. This is someone you will remember when you need their advice, or their professional skills. Too often, businesses forget that word-of-mouth is the single most popular way of finding leads or new business. If you don’t give others a reason to think of you that causes a memory to form, you won’t rise above the crowd.
You all know the person with the strong Personal Brand, you are thinking of them right now as you read this article. That person, you would hire in a moment if you needed their skills. There may be others just as qualified but you want that person because you feel comfortable with him/her and you know they will do the job well. Are people comfortable with you? Do they know anything about you besides what you do for a living? If not, why not? It is the difference between getting all the business you want, and scraping and clawing for every opportunity.
So, you Do have a Personal Brand, but is it Positive?
Allow me to go back to Google+ for a moment to provide an example:
About a year ago, my business was contracted to do some web-development, and we sought to find a developer who we could sub-contract it out to. There are many developers in my Google+ stream, and we considered three of them, who all happened to be women. One of the women was a known genius coder, with a ton of experience. However, I knew from her interactions that she often got into nasty arguments with her fellow Plussers.
Another woman we considered had all of the skills that we were looking for, but two things disqualified her from consideration. She had a habit of starting her days with a negative comment about herself or her life. That, combined with her habit of using the “C” word from time to time, she caused us to look elsewhere.
The third woman was the least qualified from a skills perspective, but she was one of the most interesting and funny persons I had ever met in my life. She was well-read on many subjects, and we figured it would be a blast to work with her, and even train her where needed, simply because we liked her so much. Today, she is one of our Go-To people because she’s demonstrated being capable of doing anything she puts her mind to, and we love her to death.
In the age of Social Media, it is the rare employer who relies just on a CV and a round of interviews. Businesses and Clients want to know lot more about you than a brief period where you put your best foot forward. I am not suggesting that Social Media can give a hiring manager or potential customer a complete picture of your personality or work ethic, but it can be VERY effective in weeding out business persons or candidates with undesirable aspect to their character.
Typically, you cannot go back and scrub your Online content. When it’s there, it’s there, and it’s usually quite Google-able. The development of a Positive Personal Brand can take years, if it has to battle against a former negative reputation. A true professional is very aware of the various messages they might be sending with posts , comments, or even a LACK of comments to relevant Online discussions.
I have a circle of people that I have come to trust on just about any subject. Why? Because through interacting with them, I have found them to be conscientious, insightful and honest in their dealings with others, both online and off. All that adds up to INFLUENCE. If one of these persons says to me: “J.C., you should hire that person “ – the odds are very likely that I will.
These people, my friends, have Positive Authentic Brands that tell me I can trust them without question. It happened overnight for none of them, but there is no time like the present, to get started developing that kind of reputation. I don’t have to tell you who they are. If you follow me on Social Media, you already know them.
An Authentically Positive Personal Brand
Read it again.
It cannot be faked. It cannot be an affectation. If your brand is less than positive, you are probably having a hard time finding work. Fix it. If you are known for negativity, it’s probably fine around your circles, because they are likely negative too. Cut them off, and surround yourself with positive people. That goes for family members too.
Do others consider you helpful? Why not? If you know stuff, share it. Become a resource for your knowledge. Are you interesting? Not if your profession is the only thing you are known for. I love to code, but I sure don’t want to talk about code all day. I would much rather talk about food, Starcraft, Business, or food, sorry. Oh, I forgot food.
Hey, a word to those of you who fret irrationally about keeping your work and personal selves completely separate – being authentic does not mean sharing every single thing about yourself. Being authentic means recognizing that we are a blend of many dimensions and to allow our social media engagement to reflect that true comprehensive self.
Politics and Religion
These subjects are so dangerous to your brand that most people advise that you simply not talk about them. I do not agree. I think it is important to one: be accurate in your comments, and two, respect the right of others to have an opinion opposite your own, and avoid name-calling at all costs. Many, including myself, have had to learn that lesson.
Never, ever assume that you can please everyone with your stances or positions on anything. Your job, is to earn a reputation as a straight shooting, competent and skilled practitioner of whatever it is you do, while also managing to be a person that others (even those who don’t agree with you on things) want to be around because you are helpful and pleasant. That’s it. Do that and you are on your way to developing an authentic and positive personal brand. When you have one, and others know about it, jobs, work, and life itself, become your oyster, and you can work for anyone, anywhere, anytime, or if you work for yourself, attract more business than you can manage.