Once upon a time and professional branding

By Scot Herrick | Job Performance

Aug 14

It takes work to determine your personal and professional brand attributes. You speak with others about what you bring to your work. You ask yourself good questions to highlight what you do best. You focus on your career management practices.

Yet, all of that work can go for naught.

There are many ways that people learn. One can recite a list of features, focus on benefits, provide a list to read or watch a video.

Those are good, of course. But what people remember best are the stories that accompany those experiences.

I’ve advocated building your brand attributes – and then having great accomplishments listed for each of them. But the accomplishments only go so far. And, I’d suggest, not far enough to get you into the top contender position for a different job either inside or outside the company.

Oh, the stories you tell

The key to professional and personal branding is the stories you tell that reflect your brand.

The way to do that is a simple, three step process:

  1. Have your brand attribute (I improve processes)
  2. Have your accomplishment list (15 process improvements and the accomplishments of each
  3. Build your story

Building your branding story

Your story should reflect the brand attribute that you are showing your prospective employer. I like the way one of the candidates my wife was interviewing prefaced her interview answers: “I helped the company to…”

By telling a story, you build in the facts of your accomplishment and naturally build the business problem and benefit. So the format of the story is this:

  • accomplishment
  • business problem
  • overcoming obstacles
  • solution
  • benefit (the accomplishment again)

A professional branding story

Consider a process efficiency branding attribute (not mine):

I was able to help the company reduce the cycle time delivering PC’s to employees by 50%.

Every time a new PC is ordered, usually because the PC is broken, it takes six business days to get a new PC to the employee. It’s just such a loss of productivity and it frustrates the employee wanting to get to work.

By analyzing the process, I found that even though the equipment and labor was ordered, there was no notification of the shipment and expected delivery date of the equipment to the technician. Technicians were calling the employee asking if the equipment had arrived.

Once the equipment did arrive, the technician needed to establish an appointment to set up the equipment, delaying the process even further. You can see how this would frustrate an employee, can’t you?

Working with the three different departments responsible for delivering the equipment to the new employee, we were able to determine a clean shipping notification to the technician. We then tested the process with 50 new PC orders. Found a couple of kinks that we then modified and continued our testing until we were ready to roll out the new process for the company.

We’ve replaced 400 PC’s so far using the new process and our average delivery time is now down to three business days, a 50% improvement.

It was really great to help them analyze the process and work with the different people involved in coming up with a solution that works.

That’s different then simply asserting that you did a 50% improvement in cycle time on delivering PC’s. You were able to get to the business problem and the emotions around the long cycle time.

Plus, you show that you are able to work with other departments and could overcome some obstacles. And the specifics (testing with 50 orders, done 400 orders so far, and the cycle time numbers) add great credibility to the work that you did.

Practice your stories

It isn’t enough to know your accomplishments, though you would be surprised by how many candidates can’t even tell you those. You must be able to relate these accomplishments as an interesting story with a problem that needs solving, the quest for a solution, overcoming obstacles, and a happy conclusion.

Just remember this good rule: start with the accomplishment first so that your listener can understand where the story is going as you tell it.

Good stories need practice. Practice helps you feel confident about what you have accomplished in the middle of an interview that most people are nervous about anyway. Practice helps you get the numbers in the story. Practice, as the saying goes, makes perfect.

Perfect is what you want in an interview and your stories will differentiate your professional branding from others in the best way possible.

Photo by kodomut