One of the most important lessons I learned early on in my career was building my brand. In business and in life, for better or for worse, people will associate you with what they see of you. Social Media is one of the best examples of this. How many people do we know from high school who portray themselves on Instagram or TikTok wildly different from who they are in their everyday lives?
Your brand is your lifeline, and it’s up to you to decide who you want to be. The way you portray yourself is vital for your success. I started to build my brand early in my career – as a sports broadcaster. I actively chose what I wanted my brand to be; a bombastic storyteller painting a visual picture of the action on the field while also peppering in personal stories picked up on the road to make you laugh. I viewed my job as that of a stand-up comic, and it clicked. When our minor-league baseball team went on the road, game attendees would constantly and consistently tell me how much they appreciated my style. The anecdotal evidence clicked for me.
When I got into recruitment, I made a quick decision to be the person who would always be willing to fight on behalf of my candidates. I would always operate as honestly and be as candid as possible about what I knew. Everyone I work with knows that when you work with me you are going to work with someone who will tell you the hard truths, who will always be honest, and who is committed to adding value. It IS my brand. When you speak with Ross Simon, you know you are always getting the truth…even if that truth is “I don’t know.”
Internal branding is sometimes even more important than external branding. When working in “corporate America,” be it a small business or even a large enterprise one, your internal brand is how your colleagues view you. Being an honest dealer internally and always working to do the right thing for your team and your colleagues is vital to success in any organization.
When you consider how to build an internal workplace brand – always consider the way your colleagues view your work. Being an honest dealer is always the best advice I can give. Sometimes we feel pressure to take on more than we can handle. One of the sure-fire ways to tank your internal brand is to take on more than you can chew. Be honest with your co-workers. If you want to go the extra mile, do it! If you feel that you’ve bitten off more than you can chew, say so. Being open, real, and honest with your colleagues will help you to brand yourself as someone who can be depended on, even if sometimes that means saying no.
External branding is a little more difficult, and it’s certainly not something that is going to happen overnight. Deciding who you want to be and what is going to make you stand out when dealing with clients and candidates is not the easiest thing to do. Think about what you want those outside of your organization to view you as, and work towards that view. Embrace it.
Building my external brand was a lot more difficult than building my internal brand. I wanted to be someone who was able to make connections quickly, and provide market information that was not readily available. I had to work extremely hard to bring that market knowledge to the table. When I began my career as an Accounting & Finance recruiter, I didn’t know much about the world of accounting or finance. I made it my mission to be able to constantly speak to the market, adding value to my candidates and clients by being able to give real world examples of the job market in their field. How did I get that information? I wasn’t afraid to ask questions or request clarification. I would constantly tell people, “I am not an accounting professional, but I am a market professional.” I didn’t run from the fact that I don’t know how to do a pivot table or V-Lookup…I embraced it. I made sure my value was in bringing information to the table that was only obtained through networking, research, and listening.
Even as a general rule to an external branding exercise, don’t “take, take, take;” be prepared to give and be knowledgeable on a given subject. Sometimes the old business adage “You scratch my back, I scratch yours,” can be very applicable to building your external brand.
Ultimately, your brand should exist in order to add value to not just you, but those around you. Sometimes that can take its form in the “internal form,” where your colleagues and co-workers know what to expect of you, and sometimes in the “external form,” how those outside your company view you. Branding is not just in content creation, it is your lifeline to your network!
Ross Simon, District Director