WORK/LIFE

(BE YOUR OWN BRAND) You are no longer a worker drone in an HR ledger – you’re a ca­reer-minded in­di­vid­ual who knows that be­ing able to sell your­self con­vinc­ingly is the best way to suc­ceed. But what if your ‘per­sonal brand’ lacks sparkle? We asked three e

Friday - - Editor’s Letter -

Want to move up the cor­po­rate lad­der? You need to know how to sell Brand You.

Jen­nifer Hol­loway is a straight-talk­ing Brit who has the abil­ity to weigh some­one up within about half a sec­ond of meet­ing them – as, in fact, we all do. The clues come from an abun­dance of places, in­clud­ing your fa­cial ex­pres­sion and pos­ture, clothes and ac­ces­sories, ac­cent and hand­shake – and Jen­nifer gives her clients an hon­est ap­praisal of how she’s per­ceiv­ing them and, with that, an idea of how oth­ers may be per­ceiv­ing them too.

She’s not be­ing unkind, it’s her job. Jen­nifer is a per­sonal brand­ing spe­cial­ist, and she firmly be­lieves that those who do well in life have mas­tered the art of putting for­ward the “best ver­sion” of them­selves, in or­der to make them the kind of per­son that oth­ers want to as­so­ciate with.

‘Peo­ple buy peo­ple,’ she says, ‘and what they are ac­tu­ally buy­ing is your per­sonal brand. It might sound a slightly odd con­cept, but just like com­pa­nies and prod­ucts have dif­fer­ent brands to ap­peal to dif­fer­ent au­di­ences – Louis Vuit­ton’s brand is a far cry from Wal­Mart’s – the aim is to quickly give peo­ple clues about who you are and what you’re all about, in a pro­fes­sional way, in one tidy pack­age.’ Who knew? While this might sound like the ul­ti­mate kick in the teeth to any­one who was hop­ing that a gram­mat­i­cal­ly­cor­rect CV and a Top Shop trouser suit was enough to dazzle even the most de­mand­ing of busi­ness con­tacts, Hol­loway as­serts that there’s more to your per­sonal brand than meets the eye. While first im­pres­sions ob­vi­ously do count, there are other things that flesh out your per­sonal brand that are even more… per­sonal.

‘Things like your val­ues, which rep­re­sent your moral com­pass and will be the foun­da­tion on which your per­sonal brand is built,’ says Jen­nifer. ‘They’re an im­por­tant part of any brand and of­ten where peo­ple will con­nect with you at a deeper level – buy­ing into your brand even fur­ther.’ So up­grad­ing your per­sonal brand is def­i­nitely not about ly­ing through your teeth and try­ing to be some­thing you’re not; it’s about mak­ing the most of what you do have.

‘To me,’ says Ebru Goksu Yildirim, a per­sonal brand­ing coach based in Dubai, ‘per­sonal brand­ing is a tool of com­mu­ni­ca­tion and self-aware­ness. It en­ables us to know who we are, and what we are ca­pa­ble of do­ing – and then com­mu­ni­cat­ing that con­sis­tently out in the world.’

Or, as Ama­zon founder Jeff Be­zos suc­cinctly put it: ‘Your brand is what peo­ple say about you when you’re not in the room.’

Adds Ebru: “Defin­ing who we are and lever­ag­ing these qual­i­ties, skills and strengths cre­ates op­por­tu­ni­ties in the busi­ness world.

A per­sonal brand is the true re­flec­tion of who we are – our unique dif­fer­en­tia­tors based on our val­ues, skills and be­lief-sets.’

To help you un­der­stand more about what you stand for – which is the start­ing point if you want to re­think your per­sonal brand – Ebru of­fers the fol­low­ing ques­tions to pon­der:

Who are you when you’re at your best?

What are your ‘un­der­side of the ice­berg’ val­ues? What sets you apart from oth­ers? What are your strengths? What is your per­sonal vi­sion? Who is your au­di­ence and why would they be­lieve in you?

What would ‘Brand You’ look like and what needs to change in or­der for that to hap­pen?

Jen­nifer agrees that there’s a cer­tain amount of soul-search­ing to be done be­fore you can get through to the real you. But it’s ab­so­lutely es­sen­tial to do this if you want to take the next step in the per­sonal brand­ing mas­ter­class: pack­ag­ing your­self in an ap­peal­ing way.

‘Start by gath­er­ing the ingredients,’ she says.

‘Think about who you are and what makes you tick – these are the ba­sic ingredients of your brand. Keep dig­ging un­til you re­ally find what’s spe­cial about you – what is your unique sell­ing point, your USP?’

Jen­nifer’s own list of ques­tions to ask your­self dif­fers slightly from Ebru’s, but they are in the same ball­park. The six key ar­eas she rec­om­mends look­ing at are your val­ues, your driv­ers, your rep­u­ta­tion, your be­hav­iours, your skills and your im­age. It’s easy to get bogged down in that last one, espe­cially when the open­ing salvo of this very ar­ti­cle pointed out that peo­ple make first im­pres­sions very

‘Peo­ple BUY peo­ple. What they are ac­tu­ally buy­ing is your per­sonal brand. The aim is to quickly give peo­ple CLUES about WHO YOU ARE and what you’re all about’

quickly based on what they see. Just try and re­mem­ber that first im­pres­sions these days are very of­ten gleaned from dig­i­tal rep­re­sen­ta­tions of you that peo­ple see on­line, such as your LinkedIn pro­file.

There’s no harm in hav­ing a re­think of your ap­pear­ance, pos­si­bly with a view to cre­at­ing a “look”. It’s prob­a­bly bet­ter if this has more in com­mon with Meryl Streep in The Devil Wears Prada than in Mamma Mia.

Once you have worked out ex­actly what your per­sonal

brand should be, the next step is to bring this ‘new you’ to life. And one of the first places to start shout­ing about what you stand for is on your CV.

‘The way to write a good CV has moved on quan­tum leaps from where it was 20 years ago,’ says CV writ­ing ex­pert James Innes.

‘To­day, it’s more like ad­ver­tis­ing copy­writ­ing be­cause com­pe­ti­tion for jobs is ever greater. What you’re do­ing on a CV to­day is cre­at­ing a per­sonal sales brochure, in a way. You’re try­ing to sell your­self as a prod­uct or ser­vice and it needs to be com­pelling. It has to sell, sell, sell.’

James ad­mits that not ev­ery client is com­fort­able with this. Some equate self-ag­gran­dis­e­ment with ar­ro­gance, he points out. ‘My re­sponse to them is that in to­day’s mar­ket­place, you have to over­sell your­self,’ he says.

The next place to shine is your LinkedIn pro­file – an­other area in which James has ex­per­tise. Once again, he says, the goal is to make as much of the 120 char­ac­ters in your pro­fes­sional head­line (the de­scrip­tion of what you ac­tu­ally do) as you can; to sell your­self.

As for the nitty-gritty of your ca­reer both on your LinkedIn pro­file and your CV, James says it is im­por­tant to de­tail what you have con­trib­uted to each or­gan­i­sa­tion you have worked for rather than just writ­ing a list of the jobs you’ve done. The lat­ter is dis­tinctly ‘old school’. It’s how Char­lie Chap­lin would have done his CV.

Jen­nifer adds that us­ing a good pic­ture on your LinkedIn pro­file is crit­i­cal. She ac­tu­ally rec­om­mends get­ting a pro­fes­sional photo taken, pos­si­bly team­ing up with like-minded friends to save on costs.

Be­fore book­ing a snap­per, put some se­ri­ous thought into how your ap­pear­ance might help to con­vey your per­sonal brand. ‘If you want your colour­ful char­ac­ter to come across, then wear bright colours in your pho­to­graph,’ sug­gests Jen­nifer.

A can­did shot of your­self laugh­ing, mean­while, can in­ject a sense of fun. For in­spi­ra­tion, spend half an hour ran­domly look­ing at pro­file shots on LinkedIn and see which ones you’d like to em­u­late.

But don’t mis-sell your­self. If you’re as gloomy as a wet Bri­tish Mon­day in real life, then a LinkedIn photo which paints you as a flam­boy­ant racon­teur will likely lead to dis­ap­point­ment when a con­tact fi­nally gets to meet you in the flesh. ‘They’ll stop trust­ing you straight away,’ says Jen­nifer. ‘They’ll

Some­times we won­der why peo­ple get an IM­PRES­SION of us that is DIF­FER­ENT from who we re­ally are. Most likely that means that our per­sonal brand is not yet fully DE­FINED, owned or not com­mu­ni­cated

think, “Why did they need to hide who they re­ally are?”’

In fact, hav­ing an au­then­tic dig­i­tal pres­ence is vi­tal, and Jen­nifer ar­gues that even some­thing as in­nocu­ous as your out-of-of­fice au­tore­ply mes­sage needs to be well thought-out if you want to stay on-brand.

‘The right mes­sage will be dif­fer­ent for ev­ery­one,’ she says, ‘and it’s worth think­ing about.

‘If you want to start a con­ver­sa­tion and your brand is all about be­ing open and down-to-earth, you might con­sider a mes­sage such as: ‘“I’m mov­ing house to­day, so as much as I’d rather be in the of­fice re­ply­ing to your email, I’ll be lug­ging fur­ni­ture and un­pack­ing boxes”.’ It con­veys the brand you want and also gives the re­cip­i­ent some­thing to talk to you about upon your re­turn.

No one surely needs re­mind­ing of how a per­sonal brand can be un­der­mined in a heart­beat by a mis­placed Face­book mes­sage or Twit­ter post­ing. Jen­nifer re­cently waved good­bye to Twit­ter be­cause it wasn’t the best use of her time when her key au­di­ences were on LinkedIn.

Know­ing your per­sonal brand and mak­ing the most of it can cer­tainly give you a com­pet­i­tive edge, but there’s an­other side to it, too.

Once you’ve worked out what your brand re­ally is, you may fi­nally be able to un­ravel one of life’s big­gest co­nun­drums: specif­i­cally, why other peo­ple don’t seem to see you the way you think they should.

Ebru ex­plains: ‘Some­times we won­der why peo­ple get an im­pres­sion of us that is dif­fer­ent from who we re­ally are. Most likely that means that our per­sonal brand is not yet fully de­fined, owned or we are not com­mu­ni­cat­ing it cor­rectly, if at all.’

When there’s a dis­par­ity be­tween how we feel and how we ap­pear to oth­ers, she says, it causes lack of cred­i­bil­ity, con­fu­sion and mis­con­cep­tion which may even­tu­ally lead to a dis­con­nect with oth­ers. ‘And that holds us back from achiev­ing our goals,’ she says.

Adds Jen­nifer: ‘You al­ready have some sem­blance of a per­sonal brand, whether you like it or not. And while you can’t dic­tate what kind of opin­ion peo­ple form about you, you can cer­tainly do things that will help them to see your per­sonal brand as you see it, too.’

Know­ing your brand will make you more con­fi­dent about who you are, how you are viewed by oth­ers, and it will let the world see in an in­stant what it is that you have to of­fer.

‘Be hon­est,’ says Jen­nifer. ‘Find your USPs. And then make the most of them.’

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CV ex­pert James Innes and per­sonal brand­ing gu­rus Ebru Goksu Yildirim and Jen­nifer Hol­loway can help you sell your­self – in a good way

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