The CFA Society Chicago Women’s Network hosted the third
event of its four-part Alan Meder Empowerment Series on March 15th
at The University Club. The series is intended to support career development
and the advancement of women in the investment management profession. This
event also attracted a number of men who were interested in the universal topic
of Personal Branding.
In today’s workplace how you articulate your value
proposition to the organization can make or break your career possibilities.
Advocating for yourself, articulating your value and utilizing your branding
statement as a part of your personal development strategy are all crucial to
long term career success. Your future at
work is tied to who you think you are, as well as who your customers, clients,
partners and prospects think you are.
This interactive session was led by Karyl Innis who knows
why successful people succeed and, when they don’t, how to help them. She is a
career expert, CEO and founder of The Innis Company, a global career management
firm, and one of the most successful woman-owned businesses in the country.
Innis took the podium and quickly asked the audience “What
do you think of me?” Write down one word that answers that question. She then asked us to contemplate “what does
that word mean to you?” and “what about me made you think that?” She then noted
that we’d return to this topic later.
Innis went on to share that how you talk about yourself and
how you let others talk about you is a career accelerator or killer! She next
asked “how many of you have a brand?” By show of hands, about half the room
indicated they have a brand and the other half felt that they didn’t.
Lesson #1: Everyone has a personal brand! You may or may not know what it is; you may
think you know, or you may think it is one thing while others think it’s
something else. You may like the brand
people bandy about when they speak of you, or you may want to change it. Why does personal brand matter? Because people make decisions based on what
they think they know about you. The more you/others hear what your “brand” is,
the more it becomes truth and reality. Your brand is other people’s perception
of you – rightly or wrongly. That’s why
it’s so important for you to be in charge of your narrative!
Take Oprah for example, she has a personal brand. She has a lot of other stuff too – television
networks, property, copyrights, licenses, and that very valuable personal brand
of hers. Some say the value of that
personal brand is worth a tidy 2.4 billion dollars. So what do you get for that
$2.4 billion? Nothing – her brand
belongs to her and your brand belongs to you. Oprah’s brand solidifies her
reputation, transmits what matters to her, and creates future opportunities for
her. Her brand does that for her and your brand can do that for you!
Lesson #2: Brand messaging and brand are different.
Brand messaging = Look, Act, Sound, Say. Your brand is how people think and
feel about you – it’s a combination of a thought and a feeling. Brand is the
place YOU occupy in the decision maker’s mind relative to all others. It’s
similar to the place a product occupies in your mind.
Consider three pairs of leopard shoes: one from Target; one
from Nine West; one from Jimmy Choo. You
have a different perception of each shoe based on various factors such as
durability, price, styling, etc. Based on these factors you position and
differentiate the shoes in your mind and have reasoning for why you would
choose one over the other. There is a premium brand, a middle of the road
brand, and a low-end brand. This same
positioning and differentiating translates to human capital hiring – are you
worth the money? You want to be the premium brand!
Lesson #3: We tend to position ourselves as average.
We talk about ourselves with average words, yet we want more pay and more responsibility!
We should be using premium words to describe ourselves and our capabilities. There are A, B, and C levels of words to
describe your brand. People frequently use “competent” to describe themselves,
when in fact this is a C-level adjective with broad interpretation (having the
necessary ability, knowledge, or skill to do something successfully – capable,
able, adept, qualified). The elevated or “A” version of this adjective is expert or executive. Use A-level words
to describe yourself and your competencies. How valuable is your personal
brand? The more premium you are, the more you can command!
Start creating your brand by selecting three premium words
which convey what you want your leader, hiring manager, or others to think of
“A” Words “C”
Brand makes a difference – you will be hired for what you
know and how you’ve applied it:
- Oil and gas banker – an executive that fixes broken businesses
- Client service advocate (voice of the client) – leader for everyone
- Hard worker – powerful leader of people and teams
Lesson #4: Have what it takes to create an initial
impression. Brand also has to do with how you look and how you deliver your
message. Initial impressions are key and
based on the following: 55% visual; 38% vocal; 7% verbal (this goes up to 22%
if you’re talking on a continuum). Everything from the tilt of your head,
shoulder positioning, hand and leg placement, clothing, and smile factor in to
how you are perceived by others.
This takes us back to the start of Innis’ presentation when
she asked the audience to write down one word describing her, before she had
even delved into her presentation. This word was our first impression of her. Since
she had barely spoken people’s perceptions of her were largely visual, as
Like those of us in the audience, you may be wondering how
get an accurate assessment of your current brand. Innis suggests gathering performance
reviews, email compliments, bio’s, casual notes, etc. Additionally, interview at least five people,
asking them all the same questions, clarifying with them what you thought they
were telling you and recording their answers. The takeaways from these various
sources will help you gain insight into others’ perceptions of your brand.
In the world of work, you will be talked about. People will
describe you as they introduce, evaluate and sponsor you by using a succinct
description attached to your name. It’s important that you control the brand
attached to you and that it be one that accelerates your career and not one
that stalls it. It takes about 18 months for a rebrand to take root, so write
yours today! If you desire Karyl’s help
in crafting your brand, she can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To learn more about career development and advancement, read
about the previous events of the series – “Taking
Control of Your Career” and “Tips
and Tricks for Negotiating for Yourself” on the CFA Society Chicago blog.