Personal Branding: My 3 Step Assessment (Part 2 of 3)

This post provides an easy, inexpensive way to assess your personal brand.

This is the second post in this three-part series. Please see my previous post on why and how executives should go about personal branding.

Identity Crisis

In August, I faced an existential problem: I had no idea what I would do with my career. I was at a cross-roads with difficult choices: 1) Continue with a start-up that I felt was underfunded, under-resourced where I had too little control (or equity) to turn things around. 2) Renew my efforts to buy a small business (after looking at more than 150 deals over the previous 2 years). 3) Start a new business that where I would have greater control… or 4) take the easy route and just get a job working for someone else.

Option 4 (getting a job) made my head spin. I am a Renaissance Man and with a circuitous career path – a Jack-of-all-trades and master of business without the prestigious MBA.

Why would anyone hire me? Or rather, which of 4,000 reasons to hire me would be the single best answer? Hiring managers, like customers, voters and the rest of us, have short attention spans and brains crowded with information.

Now more than ever, companies want to hire specialists – not generalists. Hiring managers need to associate a job candidate with a quick, easy-to-understand sound bite, such as: “Olin Hyde is a marketing and business development expert.” Or even better and more specific: “Olin Hyde is an expert in consultative sales of business intelligence and predictive analytics solutions to the financial services industry.” Although I think it is far more accurate and valuable to say that “Olin Hyde loves to solve problems.” Such a description is far too broad to have much use in a job search. How would a hiring manager perceive me? More importantly, how is “Olin Hyde” perceived by people that know me?

Google knows the answers – all of them: “personal branding survey” returns about 304,000 results. Most personal branding so-called solutions are a lot like the exercise machines sold on infomercials – complete crap that go unused by overweight people with more good intentions than Mother Teresa but less self-discipline than a puppy. But I’m the kind of guy that goes to the gym…

So started my own, almost-free and easy-to-do, personal branding assessment:

Three Steps to Brand Yourself for Less than $100

1.      Determine how others see me.

Good branding is authentic. Since we want to build on strengths, rather than weaknesses, it is essential for us to understand how other people perceive us. Moreover, an objective survey of our friends and colleagues provides valuable insights on our own self-awareness.

Reach360’s personal branding assessment has a first page search engine result – so clearly they are doing something right. There is almost no on-site SEO for this site – their high rank seems to be mostly from off-page activities and inbound links.

I signed up for the free assessment then upgraded to the paid version (~$45). I reviewed the book associated with the website — “Career Distinction” by William Arruda and Kristen Dixson. I’m grateful to Amazon for the “Look Inside” feature: The book sucks. Don’t buy it. Reach 360 is in the business of manufacturing a steady stream of “certified personal branding consultants” much like 24 Hour Fitness produces personal trainers. And like the trainers at a cheap gym, the book is filled with Captain Obvious advice that can be summed up in a few bullet points. Let me save you the drudgery of plowing through 200+ pages of bullshit to capture these pearls of wisdom:

  • It is important to know how others perceive you.
  • You can reshape those perceptions to achieve your goals.
  • The best way to communicate your personal brand is to be authentic to who ‘you really are’ (sic ‘authentic’).
  • You must clearly and consistently communicate your brand to see results.
  • People who “live their personal brands” are more powerful, richer and happier.

Unlike the book, the Reach360 survey is very good. I struggled with the idea of creating my own assessment using SurveyMonkey.com or similar – but I saw great value (worth more than $45) to get the benefit of a structured, proven approach. I sent the survey out to 141 people with a note explaining the survey and how their responses would be anonymous. I included people whose opinion really mattered to me – from all aspects of my life including personal and professional. I also included people that I knew did not like me – including people who I had fired or had fired me, failed business relationships, unhappy customers, etc. I compulsively checked the results for about two weeks until I had 55 responses and almost as many complaints from friends who did not want to participate.

2.      Determine how I see the world.

Self-awareness is precious. Few of us have enough of it. Just ask my spouse. Yet, if we know our selves exceedingly well, we make far better decisions: We know our strengths, our weaknesses, how we process information, our biases, blind spots and so on.

Put in a more global context: More often than not, history is written by those that know themselves better than their adversaries. Winners play to strengths while knowing how to obviate the consequences of their weaknesses.

I’m a huge fan of meditation: I find it is easier to endorse than to practice. However, if you have a couple weeks spare time on your hands, I highly recommend heading off to do a Vipassana retreat. It is one of the most challenging things I have completed; including 10 days of complete silence while meditating more than 12 hours per day. Yes, I got a headache. No, it is not expensive. In fact, it is free (actually donation-only).

An easier approach is to take the Keirsey Temperment Sorter. Go ahead and spend the $25 or so to get the full evaluation of your results. Keirsey provides an instant assessment based on the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. It will tell you which of 16 personality types you fit into based on how your worldview and how you make decisions.

3.      Determine how I fit into a job.

The most successful people in a given career seem to share similar personalities. I am amazed at how every emergency room doctors I know are all smart, driven, adrenaline junkies. And I met many ER docs through mountaineering and rock climbing… good guys to know on the side of a cliff.

Many executives categorize the types of people they want to hire based on stereotypes formed through personal experiences – usually earlier in their career when they held the same position for which they are seeking to fill.

For example, I had a boss who hired salespeople based on how social they were in a bar. My interview with him consisted of going up to a woman I did not know and asking for her telephone number.

Throughout my career, I have used many assessments to help me decide on whom to hire. My favorite is Ascher Strategies’ CPQ Compatibility Hiring Chart. This is a test scores a candidate’s probability for success in career by assessing eight basic personality traits. Ascher predicts job performance by comparing the results of testing personality traits to actual job performance.

Wow! What a concept: Linking a professional performance to objectively identified personality traits!

I’ve hired a lot of sales people and swear by this test. Ascher provides a valuable, data-driven approach to predicting job performance – and it is FREE the first time you use it.

Digesting the Results

It took me three weeks to gather and review all the information.

I could not believe the results.

I read every report at least three times. I discussed the results with my mentors and colleagues. I meditated…for less than 10 days…and I talked; a lot. I like to talk. Just ask my spouse.

So if you want to learn more, please check back or subscribe to my RSS feed to see the results in the next and final entry in this series: Personal Branding: Olin Hyde’s Special Genius (Part 3 of 3)

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