Understandably, many young careerists focus first on building a successful brand. However, it is just as important to understand what can negatively affect your brand, and how to avoid killing all the hard work you’ve put in so far.
A colleague of mine, Chris Collins of branddesigner.com, distinguishes between getting branded and getting labeled. Getting labeled means you’ve lost control; people are defining your brand behind your back in ways that would make you cringe, and your potential is being flushed down the toilet.
Luckily, you won’t have to fish your brand out of trouble if you avoid making these five killer mistakes:
Lack of Intention
If you don’t know exactly what your brand is, who your target audience is and what you want that audience’s perception of your brand to be, your brand becomes meaningless. I hear too many job seekers indicate they are trying to reach “everyone.” Well, reaching everyone just is not possible.
It’s easy to fall into the trap of wanting to be all things to all people, but the fact is that unfocused brands get slaughtered.
Taking Too Long to Explain What You Do
There’s a reason the art of the elevator pitch is alive and well. People have short attention spans, so your brand needs to make an immediate impact. If your brand doesn’t instantly resonate, you’ve already lost whomever you’re speaking to.
If I see someone at a conference I want to network with, I don’t approach them until I know exactly how I want to open the conversation. This most often involves identifying something to say that I know will resonate so I can develop enough rapport to connect. In branding, connecting is everything.
Those who are verbose get a polite nod – and a quick exit from the conversation.
Asking for Support Before You Clearly Demonstrate Value
Anyone who has watched “Shark Tank” knows that if you ask for a deal with an insane valuation without demonstrating value means you’ll be hearing “You’re dead to me!” before you can finish your pitch.
Similarly in the job market, your personal network, and especially employers, aren’t obligated to help you until you’ve clearly demonstrated value to them. How have you helped them? What networking karma have you established? See how you can help them.
Sowing seeds makes people want to reciprocate. No seeds, and you have nothing to sow.
Having an Average or Below-average Online Presence
Your online presence is an opportunity to clearly define your brand. And there is a very real opportunity to grow that brand and demonstrate expertise via LinkedIn, get feedback via Facebook and follow trends and employers on Twitter.
Just as social media can help build your brand, negative Google results can also spell the end of your credibility. Have you Googled yourself lately? What did you see? What do you need to fix?
Not taking great care with your social accounts, blog or personal website is the equivalent of inviting guests over to a dirty house.
Authenticity and maturity are two of the biggest factors that drive trust. Being defensive or contrived is a sure turnoff. If a contact, colleague or commenter asks you a question about your stance on an issue, do you respond with a smile… or do you get agitated?
When it comes to authenticity, realize not everyone needs to buy what you are selling. Not everyone needs to agree with you. And they won’t. But your brand depends on how you react to negativity – and how resilient you are when things aren’t going well. Turn into a troll, even once, and everyone around you will assume that is how you’ll react every time.
Building your brand is a huge investment of time and energy. Don’t let a weak brand leave your plans and goals dead on arrival… avoid these five brand killers!