With furloughs, lay-offs, and slow-downs due to the endless impact of the COVID-19 virus you might be wondering how you stay in the game; how you look fresh and current even when you have lost months, and possibly even a year, actively in your career. If you already have your digital brand (see box below) in place then there isn’t much you have to do after a lay-off. If you don’t, then that is a whole different blog.
Digital branding is how you design and build your brand online through websites, apps, social media, video and more. – 99design,com
With your digital brand already in place, I recommend two areas that you should tweak to free yourself from anything that may not be authentically you. You see, branding is all about showing yourself in a true, and authentic, manner.
As discussed in previous posts, the first step in personal branding is to focus on what makes you unique. Whether you worked for a public or private company, or even for yourself, if you have your digital presence in good shape, the task to tune yourself up is not as daunting as it may seem.
When ‘Big Blue’ laid me off 7 years ago, I had this nightmare that I had to totally reinvent how I looked digitally to get my next gig. At that point, I reworked my profile, again and again, and again before reposting on LinkedIn, etc. That scared me awake! A big piece of how I define myself, and my brand, was what I did for work and who I worked for. I wasn’t sure what I was supposed to look like now. For most of my career, I defined myself as being part of a big corporate machine. Once I started looking at my actual digital footprint however I realized that there was little I had to change to appeal to a more diverse group of employers.
Your brand is your personal message. This message is picked up by the people you interact with (physically and virtually). Branding has less to do with ‘who you work for,’ and is more about ‘what makes you unique.’ So, as I reviewed my dossier for my resume rewrite and social network profile updates, I realize that most of me was the same as I was before unemployment, before COVID, before… (you fill in the blank). My competency had not diminished: my knowledge and skills hadn’t changed; my critical thinking capability was the same as it was; my technical knowledge didn’t disappear overnight. My appearance was the same; my great sense of style, my infectious smile, the way I enter a room.
So what really needs to change in my brand?
Here are 2 keys areas to look at when reworking your brand after leaving a company or having a break in employment:
1. Give your old company it’s ‘Point of View’ back. An important part of your brand is your personal opinions on things, also known as, your POINT OF VIEW (POV). You communicate to the world what you value through your opinions and positions on matters of interest. This is your attitude or the way you view things.
Companies, and even departments within companies, also have POVs. And, when we work in them and do business for them, we take on the company’s POV along with our own. They may call it – company values, organizational culture – but you know what I am talking about. When you negotiate a deal for a particular company, you are doing it from the POV of the company you are representing. If you write blogs or post things on a company site, you are (or should be) representing the company’s POV.
With the large push in digital marketing on the internet, most companies are aware that having a clear POV that the customer understands is a critical success factor. Howard Shutz, CEO and founder of Starbucks, in his book Onward, talks about how he needed to re-communicate Starbuck’s point of view when he returned to the company in 2008 to ensure that customer knew exactly what Starbuck’s stood for. When you think about certain companies (Starbuck’s, Walmart, IBM) their POV in business is very loud.
So, the first hurdle is being able to identify your own POV after being part of a larger and louder voice for however long you were with that company. Many people, when first trying to define their personal brand outside their company’s, have trouble finding their social ‘voice.’ (Hatch and Schultz)
As an employee, we take on our companies POV (which is what we’re supposed to do), but when we leave, we need to make sure we re-find our own.
2. Update Your Message. I don’t mean your answering machine tape (no offense meant to those of you that still have them or even know what they are).
After a while in any company, you figure out what the communications expectations are and how to work within the company’s culture. Even sentence structure and vocabulary is influenced by a company through years of interaction. How information is delivered is influenced by the culture and acceptance practices of an organization.
Dale Cyphert, PhD, in a paper about business communications, relates operating in a corporate culture to traveling in a foreign country. She says that “successful travel through foreign lands involves learning to eat, talk and behave the way the natives do. Similarly, success in a business involves acting, communicating, and thinking ‘like a businessperson.” (Dale Cyphert)
We all learn how to communicate in our company cultures through an “exchange of information and transmission of meaning” (Daniel Katz and Robert L Kahn). We learn how to operate through our communications with co-workers and colleagues, as well as, across boundaries of departments, regions, and organizations themselves. Over time, the corporate way of communicating becomes part of who we are and, many times, part of our personal POV. No matter how comfortable you were with your old company, it is time to find your personal voice. It is like coming home after being in a foreign country for a long time. You may still like to eat the foods of that land, but you have more options now, so is that still your POV?
Your values and perspectives are uniquely your own. There is nothing wrong with holding on to many of the values and ideas that came from your previous work, but now you get to decide if they really fit who you are. This is your chance to tweak your message and to speak with your own voice.
- Relationship Between Organizational Culture, Identity and Image, Mary Jo Hatch, Cranfield School of Management, Cranfield University,Cranfield, UK, and Majken Schultz, Copenhagen Business School, Copenhagen, Denmark, European Journal of Marketing, Vol. 31 No. 5/6, 1997, p p. 356-365 © MCB University Press, 0309-056
- Business Communications Self Study, University of Northern Iowa, College of Business Administration, Dale Cyphert, PhD, 2007.
- The Social Psychology of Organizations, Daniel Katz and Robert L Kahn, 2d ed, New York, Wiley, 1978
- Images courtesy of Google Images