During a personal branding workshop for a group of polished, ambitious, and smart new hires at a national corporation, I asked the question: Who are you? No one moved. Their firm grasp on investment portfolios, command of Wall Street lingo, and expertise in accounting principles didn’t help them with this basic question. They looked amazed, caught off guard, like I had just announced a pop quiz that they hadn’t studied for. Unable or perhaps too stunned to answer the first question, I continued, “Why are you here?” The tension eased and hands began to pop up.
Not knowing whose hand raised first, I randomly called on one of the blue-coat-white-shirt-fancy-ties to my left. Sounding like a well-rehearsed 30-second elevator speech, he pronounced, “I’m here to represent the (industry) in integrity while helping my clients build the wealth that they desire and come to expect from a (name of the company) employee.”
I wanted to applaud him for his performance. He had learned the bank’s language. He definitely had their image. Unfortunately, he was a long way from home. His response didn’t represent his brand. It was the company’s brand. He did what most people do when they get hired—find a way to fit in. Falling into the image trap of believing that if I show up the way the company executives want me to, I’ll be rewarded. In order to successfully navigate across the new normal of workplace dynamics, you have to BYOB: Bring Your Own Brand, which means, you have to bring the real you, not just the image you think the company expects of you.
I’ve worked with new hires and seasoned employees at state and government agencies, colleges and universities, corporate and not-for-profit organizations, and I have found this: Many people don’t bring their brand to the company. They accept the values, culture, image and brand of the company—even when they don’t believe in them.
How many times have you heard your co-workers complain about the unfair practices of the company? They label the culture as cutthroat, negative, or unfair yet they quietly yearn to become more entrenched in the organization. They are willing to abandon more of themselves for the schemes that they despise.
In return for handing their life over to the employer, a complete and sometimes unfair assessment by the employer establishes the brand of the employee—how talented the person is, how those talents will be used, who they will be exposed to within the organization, and which growth and advancement opportunities the employee will be considered for. Often marginalized because an employer only has a limited perspective of the employee’s abilities, the employee feels trapped by the system’s skewed perception.
But the employee is unaware that the company’s perception stems from them. The real culprit is the employee’s failure to create and manage their own brand.
For most, I think it’s an unconscious decision. With the day-to-day financial challenges and pressures to get ahead, many people haven’t taken the time to find their inner peace by answering the question: Who am I?
I believe that the best thing about today’s challenges is that it’s bringing us full circle—back to our true selves. Loss, devastation, and excessive stress is prompting us to ask the right questions for the right reasons:
1. What brought us to this space?
2. Why are we here?
3. What are we to learn?
4. Where is truth?
5. What is the truth?
6. How can we live it together, even if our truths are different?
This is an excerpt from The Bridge to Your Brand Likability, Marketability and Credibility.
Copyright 2018 S. Renee Smith. All rights reserved.