By Maura Kelly and Tim Leary  (Adapted from Irish Echo article – Jan)

It’s the start of a New Year and time to get innovative if you want to thrive in today’s tough economy. Personal branding is getting a lot of attention lately but this concept is hardly a new idea. I remember working with management guru, Tom Peters on a PBS special in the late 90’s and a main theme was “A Brand Called You.” I was a little skeptical then, but it turned out he was ahead of his time. In my opinion, personal branding is now becoming a career requirement. Today, it’s no longer enough to be very good at your job; people need to be outstanding. Yet, doing great work doesn’t necessarily mean that you have a great reputation. That’s where cultivating “a brand called you” comes in. I recently spoke with Tim Leary, a business transformation expert and IBO member who successfully adopted the strategy.

Tim, let’s start at the beginning. What is a personal brand? A personal brand is used to describe everything from professional expertise, to manner of speaking, dress style to your online reputation. It represents something unique about you; your personality, interests, talents and goals. If you don’t know what that brand is, you need to ask yourself: “What do I want to be known for?”  Who is the real me?

How do you come up with /define your personal brand? First, find a couple things that separate you for others and make you unique. Think about the concept of a VENN diagram with 3 overlapping circles.  The first circle contains all the things you like to do. The second circle contains all the things you are good at.  The third circle contains all the things that are in demand. Your “target area” should be where the 3 circles overlap. In my opinion, it’s smart to position your brand in the “sweet-spot of demand.” You can authentically do this by augmenting your skill set with ongoing training and information.

What is your brand and how did you get there? I am a Business Transformation Expert. That is my personal brand and the foundation of my management consulting business. I’m where I am today through progressively responsible roles across multiple industries.  I have broad experience making things better, faster and cheaper. I started with a BS and MBA in Information Systems. I added a Project Management Certification (PMP), a LEAN/Six Sigma Black Belt and most recently, a Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) certification. The point is that on-going education and certification is crucial to growing your skills and credibility as you position yourself for where you want to be.

OK, you do all this work and then what? How do you market yourself? I cannot emphasize enough that when looking for a job or a career change, you have to be your own advocate.   A personal brand statement will not help much if you are not telling people what it is. Online is where many first impressions occur.  Start an account on LinkedIn. Add your Biographical information and start reaching out to people you know and trust.  Join groups with common interests that reflect your professional goals.  Get some professional recommendations and update your resume with your brand at the top. Have a business card reflecting your brand with a matte finish so someone can write on the back.  I keep Facebook and Twitter for personal use but it’s important to have a cohesive look and tone on these as well.  

Develop a short brand statement, also known as an elevator speech; “Who you are” in 30 seconds, to be able to market yourself quickly whenever a spot chance arises, e.g. in an elevator!

They say your “net worth” is your “network.” Yes, I agree. Start with social networks to practice pitching your elevator speech.  Join a local professional organization in your area of interest, like the IBO.  Focus on meeting a couple of quality contacts per event and develop a relationship. Immediately following an event, I usually write notes on the cards of people I’ve met and I keep in touch with them.

Sounds like a lot of extra work. How do you manage your time? Be careful not to spread yourself too thin.  Time is precious. If you focus on one area at a time you will deliver stronger results. It’s always good to have a long-term goal in mind. When you know where you’re going you can position yourself, build a foundation and eventually achieve what you want.  You can’t be everything to everyone, but you can be very valuable to someone or some organization because of the unique value that you bring. 2011 is going to be a great year, make sure you are ready. Tim Leary works in management consulting as a business transformation specialist.

Join the IBO on January 12th at Ireland House for a special evening with Loretta Brennan Glucksman. More information at www.ibo-ny.com. The Irish Business Organization is the premier business network connecting entrepreneurs and professionals in the tri-state area.

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