As governments begin to hire again it is imperative for those seeking employment to be better positioned as a powerful professional brand. Everything about you should demonstrate that as a candidate for employment you are THE protagonist for high performance and thus, make it easy for decision-makers to hire you.
In essence, your professional brand is your professional reputation: are you someone who is constantly improving and an exemplary performer achieving unprecedented results, or not? By the way, saying you’re a hard worker in a job interview does not distinguish you from anyone else and leaves absolutely no impression on those making the hiring decision. Ladies and gentlemen, now is the time to be bold!
A cautionary tale when it comes to “best practices” in building your professional brand. Be a skeptic; a combination of so-called best practices doesn’t guarantee a strong brand. Instead, focus on “next practices” in which you build a professional brand that is effective for the times as they are now and as they will be. The old models just won’t work anymore.
Here are four practical actions you can immediately take to strengthen your professional brand:
- Leadership Capital: Remember, leadership has little to do with job titles and everything to do with work performance. Sit down right now and write in one page or less, what your leadership brand is and what you’re consciously doing to generate leadership capital (be sure and email it to me and I’ll return it with a few comments). What’s your game plan for being an effective leader? Leading by example, being honest and acting with integrity are the bare minimum and do nothing to distinguish you from other job-seekers. Think bigger. Be the leader who is the flame-starter instead of the flame thrower.
- Career Trajectory: Ask yourself what you are actively doing to ensure your career trajectory is still ascending? While dollars for your professional development may have been reduced by your current employer, you own your career so be careful not to fall in the trap assuming it’s your employer’s responsibility to ensure you keep your mind moist and advance your career. Seek out new job assignments (especially those assignments no one else wants), serve on a cross-functional task force, shadow someone in a position you’d like to pursue, and ask to attend a higher-level meeting. Be vigilant in lubricating your career muscles so your career arc is always up.
- Work Outcomes: Most government agencies have a predisposition towards employees completing a series of tasks, assuming the completion of such tasks will generate desired outcomes. Not so fast! If you focus solely on completing tasks without a concentration on achieving results, you may land that new position, but your impact on organizational results may be minimal and boredom will ensue. Alternatively, strive to ensure your work performance is directly linked to achieving desired organizational results. With laser-like precision emphasize your contributions so they directly influence the services and programs your agency is providing its customers.
- Innovation: Playing it safe is no longer playing it smart. So how are you keeping your innovation muscles strong? What’s your innovation workout routine? What new solutions are you injecting into your agency’s mindset of improved performance? Read more and not just industry/trade publications. Send me an email and I’ll reply with my suggested reading list. Participate on a blog. Explore the arts. Travel in the “discomfort” zone. All these targeted actions serve to keep your mind sufficiently sharp to translate challenges into new opportunities.