Posted by: Doug Geiger | 2010/02/17

You are a brand.

You are a brand. The first time I heard this concept was in 2001 when I worked as a salesman at Art Van furniture. During our Sunday morning meeting a motivational speaker was brought in to fire us up. I don’t remember most of the rest of his spiel but I remember him telling us to conduct ourselves like we had an “(R)” at the end of our name. That thought is truer now than ever. Thirty-year jobs with cushy pensions are a thing of the past (unless you work for the government). There is a very good chance that most of us will work for someone else within the next thousand days. The clear distinction between how people should market themselves and how companies should market themselves is blurring. Corporations like Starbucks, Meijer and Saddleback Leather, who made my briefcase, have Facebook and Twitter accounts and many professionals, myself included, have websites defining our brand. These companies know that personal contact with consumers build rapport and permission to sell products and services. They have mastered the art of thinking small. However, many individuals have been slow to use the tools of mass-marketing. If you are a professional—and by professional I mean that you are paid to think or create—then it behooves you to take yourself seriously as a brand. You approach your work differently than others and that difference, if communicated clearly, will cause you to excel. There are three things you can do today to begin that process. First, define your brand. Next, build a website. Finally, hone your skills.

In 1964, Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart famously ducked defining hardcore pornography, but added, “I know it when I see it.” A good brand is similarly obvious to observe but difficult to define. The best approach I have found is to take whatever it is you do and think about how you do it. The “how” and “to what extent” often separate the best accountant from the average accountants; the best business analysts from the slackers; the brilliant administrators from the guy that just shows up to do his time and go home. You need to know what your strengths are. Examples include: creativity, speed, clear communications, honesty, dependability, high quality or low cost. Only you know which qualities you possess in sufficient quantity that you can consistently deliver good results. You may be thinking, “Doug, I want to work for a company, not start a company.” This is a buyers market for employees. Only the tallest and prettiest roses will stand out and be chosen. Ignore personal branding at your own peril.

Now that you have an idea of how you will define yourself you need a website to allow your prospective employer or client to spy on you. Minimally, you should have your updated resume on your website. You should also consider adding work samples, white papers, and articles that give glimpses into your personality. You should also create an email address at this website. Mine is doug@douggeiger.com. This looks ten times better on a website that pooky420@yahoo.com. Using a goofy email address on an otherwise professional resume is like wearing white gym socks with a black suit. A domain can be leased for about $10 per year and there are many free services like wordpress.com for the actual website. Your website should be featured in your resume and on your personal business cards.

There are myriad ways you can branch out from this modest beginning but they all exceed the scope of this presentation. Now begins the real work of considering oneself a brand: honing skills. A college degree is one part of that process, as are industry certifications like PMP (project management), CISSP (security), ITIL (Business IT) or MCSE (Microsoft). Another part of honing skills is independent learning and practice. It is a good idea to identify the skills necessary to become more potent and marketable.

The goal with branding, building a website for yourself and skill development is to create a forum for and cultivate the talents you already possess. The recession and the forces of globalization have handed back to each of us the responsibility for our own well-being. It is not your union stewards job to look out for you anymore. Neither is it your boss’ job, or the your college’s job to make sure you succeed and move through the ranks.  A year ago this week I was laid-off from a local IT company due to economic conditions. Within the first two weeks I created my site and have leveraged it to land two contracts. The person that hired me complimented me on my site and told me that she could tell by my writing that I was who she needed and that it was the reason she selected me. With as much time and money as you have spent to get where you are today, please take a few hours to gain the recognition you deserve by properly branding yourself.

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Responses

  1. well said! and i agree about the “know it when i see it” approach to spotting a good brand (though a more cynical way to evaluate would be to just ask the question: how are your results?). i like garr reynolds’ (http://bit.ly/cjcp5u) definition: “a brand is a promise.” but in my talks i also add, a GOOD brand is that promise *in action*. so i really like how you make the case for not only branding yourself and building a website, but developing your skills! you can be the prettiest and tallest rose all you want, but if you wither quickly once you’re chosen, your brand will suffer irreparably.


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