Many small things we do in life are often translated into theories to put them in the right scientific context for us to systematically learn. Looking back, I recall a short conversation with Prof. Henry Moon from my Organizational Behavior class at London Business School, on the topic of work ethics and commitment that he summed up in the importance of branding yourself at the beginning of your professional career. As we come closer to the end of The Proteges – Generation 5, I noticed how important Henry’s piece of mind is for anyone at the beginning of their professional career. I realized that there’s more to branding than work ethics and commitment. Here’s how Henry’s small branding comment looks in my head today.
The first 10 years of your professional career are the best 10 years for branding yourself. Many of us get consumed with the workload and the demanding long hours, which is fine as long as its directed to what you’re passionate about; “The only way to do great work is to love what you do.” When you find your passion, you will specialize and focus on a certain domain, which should always be associated with your BRAND. Here are 10 ways of improving your brand in your first 10 branding years:
- Maximize your learning curve: The best way to maximize your learning curve is by associating with the best in your industry. Work with the best institutions, best managers, best partners, and if they do not accept you, find a way to get accepted. If you are not offered a job or an opportunity, push yourself to work for free; Find a way to only work with the best. Improve your hard/technical skills by getting better schooling, degrees, certificates, and practice by building your track record. Get the widest exposure and take very deep dives in your domain, know all the secrets of your trade. Have a mentor that listens to you, provides you with the right guidance and more importantly makes you aware of how the industry works.
- Work ethic: Having integrity will make you foster relationships with your stakeholders and will insure trust is built in the long run. The commitment to your work coupled with discipline is important to shaping your attitude towards work; Work in an environment full of dedication, fun and a sense of military discipline. You have to feel responsible for every thing you do, you need to feel empowered and accountable otherwise will you not feel the heat. Your work ethic should reflect on your lifestyle, people should be able to tell your work ethic from your attitude towards life.
- Feedback: Seek feedback from your peers/partners continuously. Even if it’s not very constructive, take it as an opportunity to learn how to deal with non-sense. When it is constructive, it’s a great opportunity to further develop your skills, to motivate you and perform better. When you’re giving feedback, offer it only to those who are willing to listen, to those who value your input. Act wisely by knowing when to provide feedback, who to provide it to and what to communicate.
- Stay positive: Don’t get sucked into any negativity around you and focus on achieving your learning targets. If you complain about your work, go do something different because you’re clearly not enjoying it. Look at the brighter side of things. When others see weaknesses, turn them into opportunities to improve. Be realistic in your approach and act on your positivity. Choose your battles wisely and know your capabilities when deciding on your actions.
- Hang out with smarter people: “If you’re the smartest person in the room, you’re in the wrong room.” Always hang out with people who outsmart you, who are better than you in what you do, who broaden your thinking horizon beyond the narrow/focused mindset you’re in. Without consciously realizing it, you’ll find yourself in a competition to outperform yourself; they will push your limits and help you beat them at what you do.
- Be approachable: Your attitude matters very much in business and perception is reality. Helping others makes the working environment you’re in a better place, which ultimately benefits you in the long run. Even if you see this theory differently, Brad Feld’s “give before you get” attitude implies that giving back to the community you work/live in should be a normal behavior without any expectations in return. “Adopt a philosophy of helping others without an expectation of what you are going to get back. It’s not altruistic – you do expect to get things in return – but you don’t set up the relationship to be a transactional one.”
- Community involvement: Regardless of the industry you’re in, getting involved in your community helps you become aware of how you’re industry is evolving. It helps you gather intelligence, utilizes your idle skills, gives you a sense of belonging, and more importantly aggregates all the different skills of its members to better serve your industry. The community addresses industry challenges and provides solutions, and typically advocates policy/regulatory changes when need. An active community will have a significant role in shaping the industry you’re in.
- Publish content: Don’t publish content for the sake of publicity only, instead focus on creating original content within your domain that readers would want to practice and share. Content doesn’t necessarily need to come in the form of articles, but can also include delivering workshops, campaigns and competitions…etc. Do not dilute your brand by producing content in different domains, focus on what you know best and get creative.
- The best: You have to aim for being the best at what you do. Equip yourself with all the tools and resources you need to master what you do. Practice does make perfect. People in/out of your domain have to always reference you for a skill-set within your domain because one day, the best opportunity will come and you need to be the best fit and ready for it.
- Do not look for monetary reward: “Fortune favors the prepared.” If you spend your first 10 professional years branding yourself, fortune (monetary and non-monetary) will definitely follow. There is no arbitrage in life; earn every bit of success you plan to have because it will never happen by chance.
“It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer or the baker that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own self-interest.” Everything you do should revolve around self-interest, even what I am writing now does.