Self Branding and Career Development Advice

We were asked to give the PRSA New PR Pros advice about how a young public relations practitioner can advance their career in the right way. These are our notes:

Q: How to get a job without experience, because you can’t get experience without the job? A: Personal Branding.

  • You get to create who you are. Changed the perception by focusing on your most positive traits.
  • Do your own SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) analysis. Take a good, honest look at your best skills and those that could use some improvement. Ask a trusted friend (or 2) to give their opinion of your personal assessment.
  • With your personal SWOT done, position yourself like a company does. Focus on your  strengths, change the conversation to avoid your weaknesses.
  • Self Branding is a mind-set, not a business plan. Keep it simple, straight forward and easy to understand. Write your own elevator speech about why you’re a great employee or prospect. This exercise alone will focus you on what your best traits are. Again, ask a trusted advisor to listen to you and tell you if it makes sense when hearing it out loud.
  • Put your best foot forward, but keep it real. Self branding is not about creating a false narrative. Focus on the best parts and strategically avoiding the lesser parts of your skill set, experience or other professional attributes.

Questions to ask yourself:

  • Do people really write marketing plans for their own careers? No, not really, but doing the first few steps (Skills list, SWOT, Position, Elevator speech) can be of great value to any professional looking to advance their career.
  • What does it mean to cultivate your personal brand, and how can you accomplish this? By truly understanding yourself, what drives you, what your good at and what you are not so good at will create a picture of who you are as an employee. By understanding that what you do (at work and elsewhere) reflects on your “personal brand” will allow you to avoid pitfalls that trip up many young professionals. If your boss has a clear idea who you are and what you bring to the workplace, your value will also be evident.
  • How do you work up the corporate ladder without stepping on your co-workers? This is the nature of competition. To many businesses and individuals look at having competition (for a promotion, project, raise, etc.) as someone who needs to be crushed or eliminated. That’s not actually the case. Competition should be used to drive you to be the best you can be. No need to pull others down, but instead elevate yourself. A good employer knows the difference.
  • How do you promote yourself within an agency or in-house department? Is it too simple to say “work your butt off”? A solid work ethic, being a team player and always expanding your skill set will pay off every time. Pride in your work is good, being self-centered is a detriment. Take credit and give credit at the same time. Do not feel like giving your co-workers and others involved their “due” in any way subtracts from you as a professional. In fact, a team first attitude will push you forward.
  • But what about the “others” who cut corners and take advantage of situations for their personal gain? Solid ethics never go out style. Professional karma always catches up to you. Do it the right way, and the success will not only come, but stay with you.

Good to know:

  • Find a mentor! This can be someone you have an ongoing relationship with who actively pushes you to be better or a business professional you admire (even from afar). You can learn from great leaders, even if you never meet them or they work in a different field/type of work. Once you adapt the attitude of being mentored, you will never stop learning and improving.
  • Be patient! Your role models and mentors didn’t have overnight success, so why should you. Take a good look at how long it took the CEO’s of today to get to the top, even in companies they started. Slow down and develop a career.
  • Act like the person you want to be! This is my take on the old saying “Dress for the job you want, not the one you have”. Want to be the boss – think, talk and act like the boss. Want to keep the same job (and paycheck) forever? Keep doing whatever you have been doing.

Social Media, portfolio website, online presence

DO:

  • keep it up to date
  • Celebrate victories (yours and others)
  • Promote bigger than yourself
  • Keep it real

DON’T:

  • Fake it
  • Take “extra” credit
  • Be too slow on updates

When in doubt – stop and think about it.

I asked Twitter/Facebook for advice to give, here’s what you said:

  • DON’T be afraid to ask for help – it’s the best way to learn.
  • DO check your ego at the door…you might think you know everything, but you don’t.
  • DON’T go over your boss’ head without giving them the chance to review.
  • DON’T be afraid to ask questions.
  • Listen.
  • Do learn from others on the team. 
  • Work hard. 
  • Keep working on your professional development. 
  • DON’T criticize without offering a solution to improve it. 
  • Pay attention to company culture. 
  • DON’T be afraid to admit you don’t know the facts yet or that you don’t have a skill. 
  • Always learn!

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