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I've been a woman of leisure (read: unemployed) for several months now and, frankly, it doesn't suit me. I'm a high energy/high action person and being sidelined has been frustrating. My frustration peaked recently while working on an exercise in the Reach Branding Club curriculum. A former Inc. 500 marketer, my objective was to reposition my brand to transition back into software marketing after five years in technology sales. The rebranding process consisted of two primary phases: brand development and brand communication. From a communications standpoint, my objective was to establish an online presence to differentiate myself from my competition and extend my reach beyond Southern California.
Brand development incorporates not only personal elements such as vision, values and goals, but external perceptions, to serve as a reality check. Articulating my personal vision and purpose was relatively simple. However, translating my personal vision into supporting goals was not. Although I have a classical marketing education (Kellogg MBA), my career path has been more random walk than linear. The gaps between where I was and where I wanted to be caused a crisis of faith. These doubts were exacerbated by one interviewer who commented that my portfolio was "dated". Of course, one of my supporting goals was to update my portfolio, but I couldn't see how to generate relevant content without a job.
Strategy, Tactics & Perspective
Confronting the content gap was a pivotal point for me. The apparent Catch-22 caused me to question the viability of my rebranding. Did I believe in what I was trying to accomplish? Did my objective truly resonate? What facilitated my progress at this point was a fundamental belief in my vision and my ability to execute - despite ambiguity. Thus, in order to maintain momentum, I created an action item that read: "brainstorm/articulate opportunities to expand portfolio". For me, "brainstorm" is a trigger phrase that stimulates both conscious and unconscious thought. Although this placeholder didn't immediately address the issue, it allowed me to keep the issue in perspective and proceed with interim project deliverables such as developing my brand statement, documenting supporting accomplishments and developing a communications plan.
Since the Internet was my preferred means of communication, I concentrated on that medium and considered two options for establishing an online identity: a web portfolio and a webblog, or "blog." Since either option would accomplish my differentiation and visibility objectives, my initial choice of a blog was tactical: cost and time to launch. However, as the project began to materialize, I realized the solution to my content dilemma lay in the medium itself. My blog is essentially a dynamic portfolio, providing multiple options - proof of performance posts, observations and commentary on ideas and events - to address the content issue. From a technical standpoint, the dynamic nature of blogs increases search engine rankings, resulting in greater brand exposure. From a strategic standpoint, the nature of the medium reinforces my personal dynamism and change agent brand attribute. Further, my blog is in itself proof of performance, illustrating the use of technology to achieve results that is central to my brand message.
So now I had a clear sense of identity, a current portfolio, and a broad reach.. The next step was determining how to fast-forward through several years of marketing history as I'd been out of the game for five years. My technique: scoping the blogs of target company executives. In so doing, I found a reference to "The Big Moo." I eventually ended up at Amazon.com and realized that the group of 33 authors - including such thought/industry leaders as Tom Peters, Dan Pink, Tom Kelly and Seth Godin - were articulating and redefining the world of business and marketing. Leveraging Amazon's associations and input from business publications, I developed my reading list.
Who Do You Love?
A final point of frustration was getting up to speed on current marketing tactics. Based on job descriptions and outtakes from my recent interviews, I identified critical success factors and went off in search of best practices. What I found is that the bios and blogs of people you admire are a great source of information. What sources do they frequent? What mediums and specific vehicles do they use to communicate their ideas? Tapping into these sources doesn't require a $250 association membership, a $95 event fee or even a paid subscription. There is more compelling content on the web - webinars, white papers, newsletters and blogs - than a person could ever assimilate. (My recommendation: use Debbie Weil's BlogWrite for CEOs at http://www.blogwriteforceos.com/blogwrite as a springboard into the blogosphere.)
Case in point: I'm a William Arruda fan. Not only in the abstract (I firmly believe in what he and Kirsten Dixson at Brandego are doing) but as a Reach/Brandego client. I noticed that he wrote for MarketingProfs and subscribed to the newsletter. There is a wealth of best practices on MarketingProfs.com. The ON24 and WebEx Libraries are also great resources for webinars on topics ranging from Sales and Marketing to Health Care. When you're doing due diligence on a target company, check out the resource sections on that company's web site for highly relevant content. Indeed, the trend in the marketing industry to influence/attract prospects by demonstrating and sharing thought leadership is ideal for the job seeker - or any woman developing/honing her competitive edge.
Distinguish Yourself (aka Be Remarkable)
Although the Technology Industry is our common denominator, each of us finds our challenges and satisfaction on a different front. However, I believe the drive to achieve and the passion for self-actualization so horrifyingly yet hilariously spoofed in the classic Monster.com ad "When I grow up" is universal. Comic relief aside, survival is no laughing matter. The reality is that at some point in our careers, we will all be impacted by business cycles, reorganizations, mergers, strategic errors or other factors outside our control. What is in our control is how we respond to change. Moving from survive to thrive is a matter of personal initiative. From my perspective, the critical imperatives are to innovate and accelerate, to set the pace of change. Toward this end, here are 5 guidelines that can add focus and momentum to your career endeavors:
- Connect to your core values, passions and competencies in order to generate remarkable results.
- Demonstrate faith in yourself.
- Use your resources (yourself and technology) strategically.
- Benchmark your performance. Development must be an ongoing priority.
- Perpetuate a culture of growth; share insight freely.
And remember that in business, as in life, there are no permanent winners.
What is your point of view? Please post your thoughts on the discussion board.
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