You served your country. You bravely fought the fight. You returned home, put together a resume and began your transition into a civilian career. What no one probably told you is that the resume is not the key to a new job – your personal brand is!
What is personal branding? Everyone has a personal brand - it is your reputation, what others use to assign you value and relevance: Do people around you feel you are someone who can be trusted with confidential information? Do your colleagues feel heard and respected?
Your personal brand already exists in the minds of colleagues, friends and people with whom you served. Your behavior and actions over time earned you a reputation – good or bad. For some of you, your reputation is not how you want to be seen, and you might find yourself limited in personal and professional growth.
EXAMPLE: My client, Mike, is passionate about helping others, building teams and meeting objectives. This served him well as an Army Officer for more than 10 years. Mike is responsible for many successes and accomplishments during his service. He is not proud of his reputation, however.
The troops who served with Mike saw him as “pushy, arrogant, non-responsive and difficult to be around.” Mike saw himself as, “driven, assertive and collaborative.” That’s a big difference in perception!
It is in Mike’s control to work on that reputation. He cannot go back and change what’s happened in the past, but he can focus on the values and reputation he desires and make his actions line up with that goal.
In working with Mike, we examined how his actions created the perception that he was pushy and arrogant. He recognized the need for decisiveness and authority in his service-role and acknowledged that as a retired Officer, that behavior would not serve him well. We explored ways that Mike could solicit input from his civilian team, share the recognition of accomplishments, and help mentor younger personnel to grow in their positions. All of these intentional steps moved Mike towards a personal brand that closer aligned with the values he believed in – helping others be the best they can be.
Business professionals live in the world of differentiation, value propositions and competitive advantage. Business schools taught us to capture the attention of target audiences with compelling and relevant messaging. At all levels of the civilian work environment, individuals are embracing the power of personal branding to intentionally build a reputation for themselves that attracts opportunities to them.
Personal branding starts with you Personal branding begins by understanding what you are passionate about, what you value and how you live an authentic life. What would you fight for? The personal branding process starts with you and your goals.
What led you to a military career? What passions did you bring forward in your service that are relevant as you transition to a civilian career? What makes you stand out in the minds of your colleagues?
Understanding the needs of your audience Next, you need to understand your audience's needs. In personal branding we strive to make ourselves relevant and compelling to a specific target audience. Not everyone will get your jokes or feel comfortable around you. Targeting those employers, clients and customers who will find you relevant is critical and cuts down on your marketing efforts! It is easier to promote yourself to people who already get you.
Creating a powerful reputation The key to personal branding and reputation management is showing up consistently and authentically. Instead of trying to please everyone or acting like someone you’re not, focus on the highest value you have to offer and target a specific audience with the lowest resistance to your offer.
Take control today You can begin to create power and relevance in your personal brand. In every action you take (from posting on LinkedIn, to participating at a networking event, to dressing for a presentation) consider how others could perceive you. How will others feel about you? This will impact whether they assign you value and want to learn more about what you have to offer.
Consider the words you choose, the people you associate with and the way you present yourself to others. All of these items create a perception – You can be in control of how you want to be perceived, the reputation you want in the world, then intentionally create a path in that direction.
Lida Citroën, a branding expert based in Denver, has made a career of helping people and companies create new or enhanced identities. She is donating her time, expertise and effort to help returning war veterans learn how to compete in a civilian, particularly corporate, career. Lida works closely with Philadelphia-based, Wall Street Warfighters Foundation, and has produced numerous programs and materials to help military veterans with reputation management after service. If you have a transition question Lida can help answer, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.