Monday, May 13, 2013

Does Your Social Media Presence Support Your Career Goals?

By Jo Miller

How seamlessly does your social media presence support your career goals?

According to Liz Brenner and Margaret Resce Milkint, if you’re not utilizing the personal branding opportunities offered by social media, you’re passing up opportunities to position yourself as a leader in your field of expertise.

Senior Director of Talent Marketing at SAP, Liz Brenner, believes that when social media is used in a thoughtful and targeted way, it can be a powerful tool for differentiating yourself in your career.  “Social media gives us all an opportunity to become influencers in our areas of expertise" said Brenner, speaking in the women’s leadership webinar Building an Influential Brand with Social MediaIf you can get beyond the noise of social media and use it strategically, you can build your brand as a thought leader, and cultivate an influential network.”

Margaret Resce Milkint, Managing Partner with The Jacobson Group, is a widely-recognized insurance industry expert, author and speaker on topics related to best practices in career management. Resce Milkint cautioned the webinar audience that “social networking can work against you just as easily as it can work for you.” She went on to explain, “Your digital footprint can be viewed by anyone, anywhere, and at any time. Sometimes, this online footprint is the only version of us that people know. That's why it's very important that your personal social media pages capture your true personal brand. You must protect your brand and develop a smart and strong digital footprint.”

So how can you clearly communicate your brand to a social media audience? “Don't boast or brag. You will lose your audience if it's all about you. You want to make it all about them” advised Resce Milkint.

Added Brenner, “Share content that's valuable and that adds value to your audience. The information and the content that I'm sharing is consistent with my brand, and it's tailored for the audience in each of those sites or social networks.”

You may be thinking, “But I’m not yet an expert or an influencer. How do I start to build an influential brand?” It can be easier than you think if you understand the three distinct stages involved.

3 Stages of Building an Influential Brand

1.  Informational powerhouse
Early on in your career, when you're embarking on becoming a specialist in your field, before you've developed deep expertise, you can build a brand as an informational powerhouse. Spend time finding, collating, and disseminating others’ expertise. 

“Be timely,” advised Milkint. “Share newsworthy information. It's important to be a part of the current buzz, what the state of the market is, and the state of thought is.”

You can quickly make a name for yourself by sharing valuable, timely information that relates to your domain of knowledge.

2.  Expert
Once you've become an informational powerhouse, the next point on the journey to building an influential brand is to become an expert. Experts are highly knowledgeable about their field. They share knowledge that they've gleaned from other sources blended with their own unique content, in forms such as blog posts, articles, and musings – all based on unique ideas that they've generated. Experts mix the collating and disseminating of others’ information while putting their perspective out there, too.

“Find and share content with other influencers” said Brenner. “This builds the halo effect. If you're seen as hanging out with and sharing information from other influencers, you'll start to be seen as an influencer yourself over time. Commenting on a blog or sharing an article can lead to real discussions and opportunities.”

3.  Thought Leader
The final stage is to become a thought leader. Thought leaders break new ground and push the cutting edge in their field of expertise. They generate their own unique content in the form of articles, videos, blog posts, webinars, and more. Some thought leaders to follow on twitter are @nilofermerchant, @padmasree and @hollypavlika.

What stage are you at, when it comes to building an influential brand? If you haven't started yet, don't fall into the trap of thinking that you need to be a top expert in your field to have an influential voice on social media. You can start by sharing information. Be an informational powerhouse and go from there.

Take the first step
“Invest some time in figuring out who you are and what your brand is,” advised Brenner. “Know your values and figure out what's important to you so that can be reflected in social channels. We all have an opportunity to be influencers in our area of expertise. The first step is knowing who you are.”

And don't ignore social media, warned Resce Milkint. “Social media is here to stay. Jump in. Explore your options. Be bold. And be a game changer.  Sheryl Sandberg says, ‘Fortune does favor the bold and you'll never know what you're capable of if you don't try.’ So try, try, try and have fun doing it.”

To learn more, watch the webinar “Building an Influential Brand with Social Mediawith guest speakers Liz Brenner and Margaret Resce Milkint. 

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Thursday, May 9, 2013

From the Article Achive: How to Re-Brand Yourself for a Big Leap Forward in Your Career.

Question: I have a reputation as a high performer but this is holding me back from going to the next level. How can I re-brand myself for a big leap forward in my career?

Jo Miller Answers: Have you allowed others to define your reputation? Everyone has a certain reputation or “brand” that they are known for in their workplace, however for most people that brand is created by default, not by design.

What reputation are you currently known for? What do others say about you? It’s important to know, because then you can choose to embrace that perception and build on it, or take steps to change how you are perceived.

At one of my workshops a technical woman approached me during a break for some personal coaching. She had received feedback from a manager who said that she was perceived by others as a high performer but was considered “high maintenance” and for that reason was not being considered for certain career opportunities. Upon hearing the feedback, the technical woman had reacted with frustration because she saw herself as the only one on her team who paid attention to details, set high standards for the team’s work product, and was not afraid to speak up when she saw a problem that others were inclined to overlook. Unfortunately, the team did not always appreciate receiving unsolicited critique, and they came to resent her opinions. When she spoke up, she encountered resistance and defensiveness. It didn’t matter that she was often right.

As we talked this over during the workshop break, it occurred to me that she had a genuine desire for her work product to be the best it could be and for the team to achieve a high standard of excellence in all that they did. But what she had not realized was that she was currently walking on the wrong side of the very fine line between giving valuable feedback and being overly critical.

The key to re-branding herself would be finding a way articulate her feedback to the team at the right moment and in the right way, so that it could be perceived by them as a positive and valuable contribution. She would need to be highly selective in choosing when to offer her critique and change the tone of her comments. If she succeeded in doing those things, there was a strong likelihood of re-positioning herself as the team-member who champions excellence and brings out the best in the team.

“It seems to me that you have a passion for excellence,” I remarked. With that, her face lit up. “That’s my brand!”, she exclaimed. We spoke for a few more minutes and discussed ways to subtly introduce her new brand and evolve how others perceived her, and proactively cultivate a new reputation as the one on her team with a passion for excellence. I challenged her to monitor her interactions with others closely and avoid saying anything that would be judged as too critical. She decided to look for opportunities where it was appropriate to express her brand by acknowledging excellence and championing it within her team.

It can take as little as two months to completely re-brand yourself, but I won’t lie; it takes a lot of work. I have seen a few women bounce back from devastating career missteps that harmed their reputation and could have haunted them for years. They overcame poor reputations by paying close attention to every interaction they had with others.

Three steps for re-branding yourself for a big leap forward in your career

Step 1: Understand your current brand

Get a baseline to understand the existing brand that you are known for. Ask managers, mentors, trusted colleagues or HR partners to describe how you are currently perceived by others.

Step 2: Identify the new brand you want to be known for

When you know what your niche is, create a short, concise brand statement that describes what you want to be known for. Check to see that your brand is one that will be valued by your company.

I tweeted a request for technical women to share their brands, and here are some responses I received:

“Change agent; and turnaround specialist for failing programs or teams.”

“The person who can make things happen, has great contacts, and can move projects forward.”

“Spunky, energetic supporter of women in tech with a focus on students, and working on becoming a go-to person for phone development.”

Step 3: Align your communication and actions with the brand you want to be known for
For two months, pay close attention to every interaction you have with others and try to stay in alignment with the brand you want to be known for. Look for opportunities to take on, stretch assignments, projects, or even a new role that showcases the brand you want to build. When you deliver results in those brand-building roles or assignments, make sure to promote those accomplishments so that others know the value of you and your brand.

To learn more about building a leadership brand, revisit the webinar “Create Your Leadership Brand” with guest speaker, Titina Ott, Vice President, Organizational Effectiveness for Oracle Corporation.

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