Monday, February 9, 2015

Building your Brand and More

I have been doing more reflecting on the great Women of Isenberg Conference that took place this past Saturday and, as promised, am writing this blogpost to capture some of the messages in the session, Building Your Brand I that I was a panelist on,  and also the followon one, Building your Brand II.

Our great panel moderator was Caroline Malloy, Isenberg School '15, who is a Management major.

Joining me on the panel were: Natty Hoffman, Denise Durgin, and Linda Ronan - all of whom are Isenberg alums. A brief summary of our backgrounds can be found here.

Caroline had earlier sent us the questions that we would be asked, which are below, so that we could prepare.

Building your Brand

1. How have you cultivated your brand? Discuss what you believe are the critical components to building your brand and differentiating yourself in the workplace.

2. Have you leveraged social media to establish yourself? What limitations, if any, did you encounter or words of caution you might have?

3. The term "building your brand" to me is synonymous with creating your "story." What is your advice to college students as we begin to create our "story" for today's job marketplace?

4. What are the steps students can take today to begin building their brand that will differentiate themselves as they prepare for life after graduation?

The moderator first had us introduce ourselves and then asked each of us the same question and we answered in round robin fashion. It was great to see so many students in the audience - undergrads, MBA students, and even my PhD student, plus quite a few faculty and staff, and alums. Even one of my male undergrads came to the panel.Plus, the daughter of one of our panelists, Linda Ronan, who is a student at Isenberg, was also in the audience - very cool!

My doctoral student, Sara Saberi, took the photo of our panel below
and produced this very short video clip.  

Below, I provide some of the "answers" to the above questions, interweaving also what I had prepared as notes. The themes that continued to resonate both in the afternoon and other sessions that I managed to attend I will further emphasize.

Some answers to Question 1:
You have to be excellent in your work and do it with energy and passion and support you organization.

Find your passion and work will be a pleasure. 

You have to be visible - this means different things at different stages of your career. Take on challenging tasks and be a true contributor . Make sure that the right people know of your contributions and successes. Write Letters to the Editor and OpEd pieces.

Always be positive (several students throughout the day told me how much they appreciated this comment, so thanks). Positive energy  is uplifting to you and those around you. There is too much negativity in the world.

Build a good team of supporters both below and above you.

As you move up, be sure to help others and to mentor others.

Some answers to Question 2:

Keep your personal and professional social media separate. The importance of this was emphasized by many in the morning and afternoon. Some are not even on Facebook to make sure that only a professional image is projected.

Keep in mind that what is said in social media may become public. Don't say anything that you may regret later and may be held accountable for.

Use social media to give pats on the back, and to celebrate the accomplishments of others - this will be very much appreciated and is something that I try to do regularly, both on this blog and through Twitter. At times, I also follow up with personal notes.  Congratulate students, faculty, and other co-workers on their achievements.

As a blogger, I receive many thank you's for the posts that I write from professionals and students alike. This is a time-consuming task but it is important to get the news out, to recognize and celebrate achievements, and to offer advice and commentary and also to share advances in research and teaching. Due to blogging, I have been interviewed by journalists and have had quite a few speaking engagements both in NYC and internationally.  I have received many messages stating appreciation for people that  I have acknowledged that even their organizations or universities had not. Plus, students have thanked me for advice on jobs and interviews and some of my posts have even been referenced in doctoral dissertations and talks at conferences. 

Some answers to Question 3:

Professionalism is very important. Spend the time to creating a standout Linkedin page. This theme was emphasized throughout the day. Sometimes it may be your outside activities on the page that create interest and may help you professionally as Victoria Vega noted in the afternoon Building your Brand panel. She was interviewed by a national magazine because she had put as one of her hobbies being (sic) fancy cars on her Linkedin page. Update it periodically and show your leadership positions. Elizabeth Morgan, a panelist in the Building your Brand II panel in the afternoon, who works for IBM said that, since her first job, she has not had to ever apply for another one and that has been due to excellent networking (which clearly Linkedin, if used engagingly, can provide opportunities for).

I also emphasized the importance of serendipitous meetings that have evolved into great professional opportunities - such as a seatmate on a plane from Logan to Europe who then hired me to teach in Executive Education at Harvard because we had such great conversations on what could have been a tough flight since I had a middle seat. 

Be open-minded, friendly, and get out of your comfort zone.

If you see that there is something missing or needs to be done, be entrepreneurial - that is why I founded the Virtual Center for Supernetworks, for example, and applied for grants, which were awarded and helped to establish it.

Do give back and do good. The importance of volunteerism and community service and  the associated personal rewards were note.

Natty Hoffman gave some great advice. She had worked for years for a big company (IBM) and now was working for a startup in the Boston area. She spoke about how enjoyable and rewarding working for a startup could be and that each student should figure out what kind of organization would be ideal. Some are better suited for a large corporation and others not.  I worked for two high tech consulting companies in gorgeous Newport, Rhode Island, while I was pursuing my Master's at Brown University (yes, the companies were paying my tuition). These companies were fairly small but had outstanding benefits and because of my work I got to speak at a conference in Monterrey, California where many Admirals were present. The work involved software development for submarines and later even research on networks, always my passion!

Some answers to Question 4:

Don't just join clubs, but be a leader, and even establish new clubs.

Always have integrity and never compromise it. 

Develop as many skills as possible, from quantitative and IT ones, to more qualitative ones, such as communication skills, both verbal and written.

Take the time to write Thank You notes - the personal kind and not just email versions. This I had mentioned on our panel and then the second keynote speaker, Kelly O'Kane, also emphasized this. Great manners can differentiate you.  Kelly even said that,  after an interview, when she got the job, she saw that those who had interviewed her had posted her Thank You notes in their cubicles. One said that this was the first such note he had received in 2 years!

Other points that resonated with me:
  • The importance not only of relationships but the strength of relationships - nurture them;
  • Have your Board of Directors - you are the CEO of your brand, and you need people that you trust and that you can count on;
  • There are  differences between a mentor that you feel completely comfortable with and can reveal a variety of emotions with and an "executive sponsor," who is your advocate;
  • Your life can take different paths and directions but your brand stays with you.
Thanks to the Women in Business at the Isenberg School of Management for organizing such a successful and thought-provoking conference and congratulations!