31 May 2018
Brands help people choose.
If you need sneakers, Nike, Adidas, Puma, and Reebok are ready to help you make your decision on the best shoes for you. They don’t want to talk about features and product distinctions, but about values and character.
But what if the thing people were deciding about were you?
If I were to start telling you that people are brands, you would probably stop reading right now. Of course people are not brands – but the way we make our appreciations of people and brands works in a very similar way. In the world of branding, the most important part of the brand experience is getting to know the personality of the brand.
Taking a New Direction
After a long career, either in one job or doing different things, many people over fifty years old are starting to cast about for starting something new. We could be looking to start a new business, to set up as a consultant or expert advisor, or start a new venture that combines business with pleasure too!
Starting a new business is an adventure – and hopefully a profitable one too. But one of the first obstacles that we might face in getting it off the ground is ourselves. Maybe we have been working for someone else for a long time and we need to establish ourselves as leaders. Maybe, even though you have studied French literature in college, you have been a sales rep for an industrial solvent maker for twenty years. In that case, if you want to set up a French-English translation agency, people need to know that you have expertise in that area! That’s where your personal branding comes in.
What is Personal Branding?
Personal branding is nothing more than letting people know who you are and what you can do. Personal branding sometimes gets a bad rap because too many people believe that it is all marketing fluff. The automatic assumption people make about personal branding and self-marketing is that it is full of lies and misdirection. But nothing could be further from the truth! Your personal brand should be a reflection of who you really are – not some pretty picture that does not correspond with reality. In fact, you probably already have personal brand.
Do people tend to call you when they are having car trouble, knowing that you tinker with engines? Or maybe they get in touch with you when their pets need training because they know you have had dogs for years. This is part of your brand – it is the thing people think of when they think of you.
Working on your personal brand means working on that narrative. If you are thinking about starting a new business, especially if it is a little different from what you have been doing until now, it is important that people (potential consumers and clients) think about you.
You can shape the way people think about you by showing them. And if you do not pay attention to how people think about you, they will make up their own minds based on experience and imagination, and your brand will be out of your control.
It is important to remember that shaping up your personal brand is about putting people on the right track, not trying to pull the wool over their eyes. We have all known people who like to make up stories about themselves. It never takes too long for us to see through them and find out that they are blowing smoke.
A personal brand must be genuine.
Show and Tell
This is Bill Schneider. Bill has been a postal worker most of his life. At 55, he has always been a good employee, never making waves, always friendly with colleagues and customers. Bill had a hobby: he liked to work on small kitchen appliances, fix them up and make them more efficient. He never spoke to anyone at work about his hobby.
Then one day, he decided he wanted to get into a new line of business, become an entrepreneur. He wanted to set up an appliance repair service, leave the post office and be his own boss.
What’s the problem here? First of all, probably most people who see Bill do not know he has a hidden talent. On the first day he opens his shop, people will see him and say: “Really? Bill Schneider? I thought he was just an office guy.”
Without setting in motion a plan to hone and mold his personal brand, people will not imagine that he can be trusted with their kitchen gadgets. And that is the first axiom of personal branding – establishing trust.
In order to get to that trust, he has be known. By telling people, little by little, about his hobby, the public will get to know something more about Bill. They will be able to say that, yes, he is friendly and efficient, but did you know he’s good with his hands too? When he starts to talk about it – and other people pick it up and pass it on – he has taken the first step to changing his personal brand. A word of mouth campaign can go a long way to shape opinion.
But words can only take you so far.
When the word gets around that Bill is good at fixing things, sooner or later someone will need to have proof. So now Bill has to show off his talent. He could bring in a mixer or blender and work on it at the lunch hour. That way people would see him hard at work and practicing his skills. He could also offer to help one of his colleagues repair a microwave oven or a coffee maker. Showing everyone what he can do shapes his personal brand even more! Not only does it give them proof, but it also adds a new dimension: he is willing to help!
By starting his Show and Tell campaign a few months before leaving the post office, Bill Schneider suddenly will have developed an entirely new reputation and people will look at him very differently.
Taking Bill’s example, we can see a very easy way that you can be active in changing the way people perceive your personal brand. Getting the word out is sometimes as easy as talking to people. This example would work well in a very local environment. But what if the business you want to create is more global in breadth? If you want to set up an advisory service about taxes, you could service clients anywhere in the country, or even abroad. In that case, you need to cast a wider net with your personal branding.
There are many easy ways to do just that online. When you go digital, you have the opportunity to rewrite your history in a way that shows your new direction in the best light possible.
Two tools that will be helpful are your resume, or curriculum vitae, and your LinkedIn profile.
Writing a good resume is not about getting the facts right and making an efficient list. The resume is above all your story, and you should use it to tell the story you want people to read. In many ways, your resume is like an advertisement for yourself. If you are applying for a job, it is the first thing people see about you. And as we all know too well, many resumes get thrown out because they are boring or look irrelevant. In many cases, for those of us that are starting a second career, a resume may also be discarded because they see we are over 50.
How to avoid that trap? By giving them something better to read about you than your DOB.
Let’s use Bill as an example again. Bill does not really need a CV to start his new business, but he does need a story. In that case, he should write a compelling case for his repair shop at the top, in the section reserved for Goals or Objectives:
Bill Schneider is a highly experienced electronic technician, having effected repair and upgrades on a wide variety of kitchen appliances in the Appleton area for the past 15 years. In his capacity as a US Postal worker, Schneider has had occasion to work on various projects for colleagues and friends and is now about to launch his own specialized atelier.
It is the truth, but it does not place emphasis on his actual job. That is a nuanced approach to setting up your personal brand. By writing your experience in such as way as it highlights what you want to do, you are making your brand much clearer and easier for others to comprehend and embrace.
Bill does not want another postal job, so why should he give it much space in his story?
Aside from the resume and personal story, LinkedIn is a very useful place to publish another version of your story. On LinkedIn, the most professionally oriented of all social media sites, people are searching every day for new hires or outsourced services. On LinkedIn Bill can tell his story, use illustrations, and even write a blog about his work. Moreover, he can join likeminded groups, obtain testimonials, and showcase his skills.
Who Needs a Personal Brand?
While having a good and well crafted personal brand is important for everyone, really, who are the ones who benefit most from having one?
As I mentioned before, establishing trust is key. Working in the service sector, especially, people need to know that they can trust you with their repairs, their pets, and their taxes. If you have designed a new product, the product will be the brand that needs communication more than you personally.
Once you establish your identity as a person of trust in your area of expertise, the next big step is getting to market and starting your business. Your personal brand will require the right kind of communication to the right people at the right times. Starting a business at any age is a serious undertaking, and in a competitive world such as ours, it is best to get the right advice on how to go about it.
Entrepreneurs over 50 face even more issues – age discrimination being only one of them. It is all the more important than for your personal brand to put your qualities in focus. Then you can rely on the advice of experienced professionals, such as The Go To Market Company, to help you make the right moves and put your personal brand to work!
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