Guest Post: Written By Brittany G. Greer, Team Leader at Workwell Partners
I always say that if I could have any job in the world it would be “professional student.” As nerdy as it sounds, I’ve always loved learning. Throughout my college years, a great philosophy lecture or a passionate debate on ethics would send an electrifying jolt of creativity through me – I warned you I was nerdy! That being said, I didn’t mind spending last Sunday at Haworth’s pre NeoCon Dealer Day learning about a topic that I find not only compelling, but extremely relevant: branding.
William Arruda’s talk on branding reinforced a principle that I’ve been living by, well before my professional career began: never underestimate the power of your brand. Arruda’s book “Ditch Dare Do,” focuses specifically on personal branding for executives. Since, I’m not an executive (yet), I thought I’d put my own spin on some of his key points from the perspective of a young professional in her 20s.
Know your brand.
Before you can grow your brand, you need to understand who you are first. If you really want to be ahead of the curve, this process should start during or even before college. With the job market as competitive as it is, you should have a plan before you turn your tassel to the right so you’re ready to hit the ground running when you graduate. The first step in planning involves making decisions about the career path you want to take. Most people can’t get past this step because they are unable to make a decision about what they want to do. Newsflash: Life is all about making decisions, so you might as well start now.
If you’re stuck, the best way to start is simple. Close your eyes and picture yourself as the person you want to be. Your vision doesn’t need to be job specific – just paint a picture of your ideal self in ten to fifteen years. At one point, I thought I wanted to be a doctor but every time I closed my eyes, I never saw myself in scrubs or in a hospital. Instead I was always wearing a sharp suit and a pair of patent leather pumps. I always saw myself as someone who looked like they were ready to get things done. Again – not at all career specific, just a vision of the person I wanted to be.
Build your plan.
Obviously, you should take a significant amount of time understanding yourself and who you want to be, as well as evaluating your personal strengths. When you finally arrive at your perfectly curated self, it’s time to start planning. Based on your snapshot, start to think about what types of jobs fit your vision instead of trying to squeeze into a career that doesn’t quite fit. This is another benefit to building your brand early – you can try on different suits before you pick the one you want to wear. By the time I graduated from college I had experience in real estate, fashion, public relations, and sales, which ultimately helped me bring my snapshot into focus. I kept my overall vision – sharp suit, patent leather pumps – and added details to it. Through my experience, I knew that I wanted work on a team and eventually run my own. I also saw myself in a sales environment, but knew that it had to be with a service or product that I was genuinely passionate about. Finally, I wanted to work for a company that offered a strong support system, but also allowed me to the freedom to explore my entrepreneurial spirit.
Execute your vision.
Now that you have your vision and plan, you better be ready to pound the pavement. In understanding who you are and who you want to be, it should be easy to recognize opportunities that are the right fit. But don’t expect these opportunities to just fall in your lap. You have to be willing to put forth the effort to seek out the right opportunity. The best way to find opportunities is to build your network. Most people think that building your network means just going to networking events. While events are a great way to meet people, don’t underestimate the power of networking in non-networking settings.
Towards the end of college I played on a rec volleyball team with a bunch of ladies who were all at varying stages of their professional lives. After one of our games we went to out for celebratory cocktails and I causally started talking about my upcoming graduation. After explaining that I studied communication and media, one of my teammates offered to put me in touch with her sister who worked for a huge media company. Within a few months of that conversation, I landed a job on their sales team. This opportunity was the direct result of “non-networking” networking.
“Ditch Dare Do,” teaches us that a lot detail goes into building your personal brand, especially at an executive level. Although young professionals don’t become CEOs overnight, it is imperative to begin building your brand as early as possible. Remember to never underestimate the power of your brand. The professional reputation that you build could mean the difference between getting that job offer you know you deserve or never getting past the first interview.