INDIANAPOLIS, Ind.—Coca-Cola has had the same logo and tagline for a century. The brand is easily recognizable and so pervasive that it’s available in over two hundred countries. The company is a lesson in consistency and constancy, and that’s just one element to creating your own personal brand.
“If you don’t brand yourself, others will do it for you,” said Kim Saxton, clinical associate professor of marketing at Kelley School of Business Indianapolis. She was the keynote speaker at the second of three Career Compass for the Creative Class professional development workshops hosted by Kelley Indianapolis, IndyHub and IUPUI.
Saxton asked the group of over fifty attendees to consider the definition of a brand and how one associates with such a name. The audience gave first-impulse descriptions for big corporations like Microsoft (daily use), McDonalds (convenient) and Google (cutting-edge). The brands are so ubiquitous that they elicit an immediate reaction.
“In essence,” Saxton told the group, “you want people to be able to do that with you.”
Saxton explained that there are three steps to branding yourself: extract your brand by figuring out who you are, express your brand by deciding how you will communicate it to others and exude the brand by making it a part of your whole life.
“The key is if you want to exude something, it has to be real for you,” Saxton said. “If you’re pretending to be something you’re not, you will not be able to live it. You have to look into your heart and decide what you like about yourself.”
Saxton led the attendees in an introspective exercise to identify their vision, values, purpose (Imagine you’re at your own funeral, what are people saying about your impact?), passions, strengths and what kinds of attributes they’re likely to assign to their personal brand. She encouraged the group to do research on themselves by asking family, friends, significant others, acquaintances and even strangers for impressions.
“You can ask people for 3-5 adjectives that best describe you,” Saxton said. “Some you will like; others you will not. Think of how to categorize them as positive and negative and decide which you would like to leverage and which you want to diminish.”
These exercises all culminated in a written personal statement. Saxton suggests this be one sentence in length, something a 12-year-old can understand and a statement that can be recited from memory. Saxton provided a descriptive example: I use my energy, forward thinking and passion for web technology to help high-achievers take control of their own careers.
“This statement will help you prioritize your goals and make you feel good,” Saxton encouraged the group. “It will help remind you of the things you care about and will assist you in making choices. This should get you excited about the things you’ve done in the past and want to accomplish in the future.”
Saxton encouraged attendees to use the statement to update their professional documents, including bios, résumés and cover letters.
“Don’t tell me what you did on your résumé,” said Saxton. “Tell me about the attributes you want to leverage. What makes you special? If you’re good at bringing people together, show me how you’re the glue. If you’re the analytic who excels at processing data, tell me that in your résumé. Showcase your skills and use your cover letter to reinforce those ideas. This is what tells a potential employer what makes you special.”
The personal statement must be clear, consistent and constant, according to Saxton. A personal statement must be expressed in many situations and consistently, much like Coca-Cola. Saxton also suggested monitoring one’s image on social media and actively managing web pages while using a consistent photo and username.
“The idea is when you’re ready to communicate, treat yourself like a brand,” she told the group. “Have a professional photo taken. If you develop a calling online, you might be asked to speak in front of others, and you’ll need this photo.”
Attendees say the lesson in personal branding gave them insight into how to put their best image forward.
“I always enjoyed Professor Saxton's class as a student, so I knew I was in for a treat with the Indy Hub Career Compass workshop,” said Amy Crook (BS ’05), development innovator at People for Urban Progress. “I think we tend to put aside our efforts on personal branding, so events like this help bring it back to center. This reminds us to lead life with intention.”
“My takeaway was that you can have the best résumé in the pile but if an employer Googles your name and finds unflattering items or an inconsistent message across media, it can be detrimental to your job prospects,” said attendee Becca Loofbourrow, coordinator at Indiana Jr. Historical Society. “She motivated me to invest time in my online profiles and to really define what I value and want to achieve.”
“Until this morning, I thought of my personal brand only in terms of how I am seen online,” added Linda Broadfoot, executive director at IPS Education Foundation. “I have some work to do really thinking through my values, strengths and how I want to be remembered. I look forward to seeing how my new brand statement will impact my future work!”
The next Career Compass for the Creative Class event will be Thursday, October 25 at the IUPUI Campus Center, Room 405. The workshop titled Managing Professional Relationships will feature Amy Warner, IUPUI’s vice chancellor for external affairs and Mayowa Tomori, junior account executive at TrendyMinds. They will discuss best practices for professional relationship management and how volunteer opportunities may be leveraged to advance your professional development. Free registration is available online at indyhub.org.