What’s Your Brand and Why Does it Matter?

Joe Cool

Are you Joe Cool?


Or perhaps you’re the queen of the call center?


Or just the girl on the go… regardless of snow?

In today’s competitive market, it’s more important than ever to have a personal brand to separate yourself from the pack. But for executives who have experienced a great deal of success, what should go into your brand?

When I have an initial conversation with executives, they communicate a litany of skills and accomplishments, often far ranging and far reaching. Very few are able to succinctly sum up what truly differentiates them and makes them unique. In other words, very few have thought about or developed their personal brand. That’s because to a person, they’ve been wrapped up and committed to developing their company’s brand, focusing on driving performance and profitability.

Having a personal brand not only helps you as an individual, it also reflects well on your company. One of the best examples of this is Steve Jobs, a genuine visionary whose personal brand helped shape Apple as a company that drives innovation.

But when you’re ready to leave your company, what does the marketplace know about you? Have you been diligent and deliberate about developing your brand, calling out what makes you a unique and desirable leader? In today’s digital age, when a quick search and a couple of clicks can reveal so much, are you showing up?

Most executives are not and that’s why it’s crucial to avoid being a digital dinosaur, step into the 21st century and embrace today’s technologies to develop a consistent, cross platform personal brand. It should include a web portfolio, a polished LinkedIn Profile and, if you have time, a Twitter account and perhaps a blog to show off your skills as a subject matter expert. In this way you take control of the content and message and create a unique, memorable personal brand.

Developing your personal brand is what it takes if, instead of running with the pack you want to lead it.









LinkedIn: Updating When You’re Unemployed

I’m frequently asked by my clients how soon to update their LinkedIn profiles when they are no longer employed. That’s why I read with interest a post from the Wall Street Journal’s “Ask At Work” blog. The question involved how soon after leaving a company should one update their LinkedIn profile, especially in light of a bias by recruiters for people who are currently employed.

The answer to me is, it depends. I do believe that honesty is the best policy, but I also believe the world is not black and white and there are extenuating circumstances. For instance, some executives are retained by companies as consultants to ensure a smooth transition, while others are still on the payroll due to their severance packages. In each of those instances you might want to keep the box checked that you’re still with the company. Why, because there is still a bias against people who are unemployed.

This is in opposition to the post.  The author refers to Nona K. Footz, managing director of executive recruiting firm RSR Partners. According to Footz, in the past recruiters often passed on candidates who were “on the beach” (A.K.A. out of work). “But the market has changed, and as long as there is a positive story as to why you were let go, you should not be afraid to be transparent with your situation.”

I commend Ms. Footz for being open minded with her recruiting candidates, but have spoken with several recruiters who’ve confided in me that they prefer candidates who are currently employed. While there are some exceptions among recruiters, like Ms. Footz, who understand that the current economic conditions have left some very talented people on the market, for the most part, the bias still exists.

Ms. Footz also says, “it looks worse if a recruiter calls you thinking you’re still at Company X and you have to break the news that you’ve left.” I disagree. The goal is to get the call and once you have the recruiter on the line, you have control over telling your transparent story while building rapport with the recruiter.

The post also suggests that you should update your profile immediately with the information that you are no longer employed so your network can be your eyes and ears and refer jobs to you. However, if you’re actively using LinkedIn (actively being the operative word here), you can still reach out to your network and achieve excellent results.

Finally, should you use the months and years indicating the time you worked or just the years. Again, it depends. Which makes you look more appealing? LinkedIn is your marketing brochure, using either months and years or just the years are both being truthful, but you need to go with whichever tells the better story about you. Remember, its about being honest but also about being smart with the goal of getting the phone to ring.


LinkedIn: New One-Click Skills Endorsements

LinkedIn recently introduced a new feature on its site, one-click skills and expertise endorsements. Now you can go to a friend or colleague’s profile find the skills and expertise area and click on a listed skill (or even add some skills or other areas of expertise that aren’t yet listed). This new feature makes it very easy to endorse your connection on LinkedIn. Think of it as LinkedIn’s version of a Facebook “Like”.

This is very different from a recommendation on LinkedIn. A recommendation requires that your connection actually sit down and take the time and energy to write a thoughtful and articulate testimonial regarding your work and performance. For a recruiter or decision-maker reviewing a job candidate’s profile, the recommendations can give additional insight into a prospective candidate’s background.

The ease of the one-click skills endorsement begs the question of how much weight someone reading the profile will give to these “likes” on LinkedIn. To me, gathering these endorsements is reminiscent of Valentine’s Day back in elementary school. Do you remember (I know, for some of us this goes back a little ways) running home with your little cardboard box filled with Valentine’s and counting and comparing with your friends how many Valentine’s you’d received. Most with “Roses are red, violets are blue . . .” not exactly the quality love notes we come to expect as adults from a single special admirer.

Which brings me to my point, quantity versus quality. Are we just becoming a one-click “Like” world and moving away from quality assessments that actually add value and insight into a person’s background and capabilities. I’d love to hear from recruiters and HR professionals on their feelings regarding the new one-click endorsements and how much they will impact their decisions in contacting potential candidates.