I was having a discussion today with one of the big-brand IT consultants working on a project for the same client as I am helping. Sadly, his reaction was exactly what you hear all too often from knowledge workers: "But my skills speak for themselves!"
The truth is, skills will get you so far in a career, but eventually you reach a point at which the realities of business will start to hit home: managers don't promote skills, interviewers don't hire skills, and investors don't invest in skills. They promote, hire and invest in people. And if they don't know who you are as a person then you're not going to get that promotion, job or investment you've been hoping for. Unfortunately, most knowledge workers don't realise this until it becomes an issue in their career. And of course, by then it's too late.
So if you're a knowledge worker who has spent the last few years with your head down, learning your trade and going from project to project on the wave of your technical prowess, take a little time now to think about your brand:
- Why do I do what I do? What's the ultimate vision behind what I do?
- What is it about my work that is getting me to that vision?
- How have I been doing it? What do my colleagues and clients see as my core strengths and values? What about my weaknesses?
- What is it about all of the above that makes me different from all the other people in my company and industry who do what I do? And, above all, why should that matter to my clients (and does it!)?
The killer, here, is the last point, of course: having to think about what sets you apart from your peers and compeitors will eliminate most of what you think of as your core skills. What's left, however, is the stuff that will make people remember you, the stuff like your good humour, or high energy, your ability to get on with people, or your willingness to help a hand - whatever it is that you do around the main business of delivering your knowledge and competence.
That's just a very high level view of what it takes to start to define a personal brand. Once you have that in place you need to think about how you communicate it, who to and how, and, even more importantly, how you build it into the way you live your life - in work and out of it.
It's not an easy task. It takes time, attention, and a willingness to let go of old preconceptions and look into who you really are deep down. But if it stops you from ending up in a career rut then it has to be worth it!
OK, enough from me for today. Catch you next time.