ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — If you had to tweet your professional identity in 140 characters, crafting one positive, professional statement, what would you say?
That shorthand for you is your professional brand, an increasing necessity in a world where your physical and virtual selves often overlap, experts say.
“Become your own brand,” says futurist David Houle. “There is an ongoing dramatic transformation. We are increasingly becoming independent contractors. It’s a fact of life. We don’t get hired and spend our careers climbing the corporate ladder. The concept of a job and a management hierarchy are basically an industrial age concept.”
Houle, a Chicago-based author who has spent more than 20 years in media and entertainment at NBC, CBS, MTV and other venues, says the global reach of the Internet and the instant connection of social media have changed the ways the individuals work, with or without a corporate umbrella.
“Social media allowed people to create brands from anywhere using only their fingers and thumbs,” he wrote in his 2014 book, “Brand Shift: The Future of Brands and Marketing.”
Houle adds that the number of people paid with a 1099 (an income tax statement for independent contractors) has likely quadrupled in the past 15 years. “Unless you are Joe and everyone knows Joe, everyone has to become his own brand.”
Make an impression
Stephanie Palmer, a Santa Fe-based coach for creative professionals and business leaders, says most people can benefit from developing a personal brand whether they are an independent contractor or advancing their career in more traditional work environments. “Whether you are a professional or a small business, it’s important to present yourself and your ideas well.”
Palmer, previously part of MGM’s executive team, describes how to be successful at promoting yourself in her 2008 book, “Good in a Room: How to Sell Yourself and Your Ideas and Win Over Any Audience.”
The title is a Hollywood term that describes screenwriters who “could pitch their ideas effectively,” she says.
Because we are more connected than ever, Palmer says refining and knowing who you are and what you have to offer are even more important because you never know who may be linked to your next attractive position or contract.
“We are all so connected, especially in New Mexico, you never know who will repeat your exact words to someone else. There’s nothing better than a personal referral and recommendation to make a strong impact.”
To condense the key elements of what makes you marketable into a brand people will remember, both Palmer and Houle recommend self-reflection, objective feedback from friends – and practice.
For example, if you’re a lawyer, practice telling your family and friends or new acquaintances what kind of law you practice and describe your specialities, Palmer says. “Maybe I’m meeting someone who needs a lawyer and I tell them my friend Donna is a tax lawyer who specializes in nonprofits. People see how you could be helpful the more specific you can be. That lets them connect you to other people. Nothing is better than a personal referral and recommendation.”
She cautions about talking too much about yourself in an interview or a project pitch appointment. “People often start talking business too soon. Spend a little time building rapport. If you are clear and concise, you are much more likely to have a dialogue, rather than a monologue. Nobody says after a pitch meeting that they wished the person pitching had talked longer.”
Houle says whatever your brand becomes, “you have to come from a place of passion. You’ve got to love it.”
Passion helps people launch themselves into their most meaningful work, he says. “Work for free to get your name out there and to have the quality of your work understood, appreciated and known.”
A new résumé
Crafting a new résumé is one way to uncover the essence of your personal brand, says Dyan Jones of Verde Valley Consulting of Albuquerque.
“Your résumé is probably the single most important branding tool you have,” she says.
For people looking for a new position or working to land a new contract, Jones recommends tailoring a new résumé to each situation.
She recommends losing old school thoughts that link a résumé to a printed page, because it’s likely the manager with the job or contract will read all about you online, especially if you include hyperlinks to examples of your work. Ideas that don’t work anymore include listing all experience, whether it is relevant or not and cramming everything onto a page, virtual or paper.
And, learn to like tooting your own horn.
“Action words, verbs, bullet points and short phrases make a résumé more dynamic,” she says. “The version of their résumé they submit needs to match the job description as closely as possible, even down to using similar vocabulary. Your brand (you) needs to be consistent through the process.”
These tips from author Stephanie Palmer (“Good in a Room”) are good for interviews, meetings and sales pitches:
- Research the people with whom you’ll be meeting. Read what they’ve written and what’s been written about them.
- Take time to make “small-talk.” Don’t rush. The most common mistake is starting sales patter before establishing rapport.
- Keep your elevator pitch or sales pitch short. Get to the best parts more quickly. The more you say, the less people hear.
- Prepare answers to likely questions. If you’ve been asked it before, you should have a plan for how you answer it now.
- A sales meeting is ideally structured around one “ask.” Be able to ask for one thing in simple, clear language.