Personal Brand: the auditor behind the numbers
Does it sound a bit fluffy? Put the terms 'personal' and 'brand' together and you could be envisioning, an image-conscious metrosexual, style without the substance and not something that you'd necessarily associate with your professional life. We tend to think about brand in the context of commercial organisations and can't deny (or avoid) its ubiquitous value across consumer and business to business markets. But just imagine for a moment how and why commercial brands are important: the consistency of a Starbucks' coffee, the kudos of a Big4 position, the quality of service at McDonalds or cutting edge style at Apple, brands raise our expectations and promise consistency in meeting them.
You are more than your job title
It's nearly 20 years now since Tom Peters began espousing 'The Brand called you' and asserting we should all self-style as the CEO of Me Inc. In the mid 1990s this was progressive stuff, in the 2010s it is incontestable. Web 2.0, the age of virtual networking and user-generated content heralds 'the age of the individual' but most of us in audit have not yet developed the self-confidence to fully embrace this brave new world.
Time and time again, auditors come to me for coaching, heavily identifying themselves with their current organisation or recent role. I know I did when I first left EY, but while 'Big4 trained' might have opened doors, on its own it wasn't enough to get me into the elevator. It is useful to leverage the brands of others, but you can, and you must, wield so much more; you need to discover and capitalise on what gives you your edge as an auditor.
Step 1 - Identify your authentic strengths, do your own market research
Regular readers will be expecting me to wax lyrical on the benefits of a personal SWOT and you won't be disappointed! Behind your CV should sit an in depth appraisal of your Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. Do not limit this to just your professional audit skills and experience, cast your net deeper and wider and think about 'you' as an individual - this is what builds the authentic aspects of your personal brand. You are looking to discover your particular skills, experiences and characteristics, as well as ultimately finding your edge which may well come from identifying where your personal passion lies.
Step 2 - So what? What makes you different?
If Step 1 is discovery, Step 2 is about evaluation. Look at the data you have collected in your SWOT and start to identify what might make you distinctive. If you find this challenging, go back over the last week and think about your performance in context. Where did you go the extra mile, what did you do that made you stand out and what happened that made you feel good about yourself? Need more input? - ask the same questions of peers, managers, friends and family.
Step 3 - What's your story?
And this is where another old chestnut of mine, the elevator pitch rears its head. The elevator speech is the 20 second version of your brand statement. You will need an expanded version for your Personal Profile or Personal Statement which normally heads up your CV but the 20 second version is a good starting point as it has to encapsulate the very essence of you in just a few short phrases. It creates discipline so you can get right to the heart of your brand and decide what really is the most important. Take some inspiration from the following examples, but remember, this is your story!
Through my intuition and interest in others, I build strong professional relationships with colleagues and clients which consistently support the delivery of high performing team objectives;
I'm an experienced, cross-disciplined auditor who deploys sound project management and innovative problem solving to achieve an unsurpassed track record of producing highest quality deliverables, effectively and efficiency on time and within budget;
As a leader, I energize, focus and align intact and cross-discipline project teams to fulfil demanding and challenging briefs;
Step 4 - Use your brand
Raising your self-awareness of what's truly important and which of your talents you're looking to really play to will help you in achieving better (and deeper) career alignment. But to work your brand, you need to adopt a brand strategy that is consistent, clear and relevant across all marketing channels. We're talking about a homogeneous view of the essence of you on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, blogs and forums that will mirror your CV and the words that you use to describe yourself. This is a great example of the importance of substance over form; it's not just what you say about yourself (content), it's how you do it (consistently and authentically). Ultimately, this approach creates a tangible personal brand where synergy kicks in - the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.
Who's been head hunted from the internet? Me!
I'm sure by now most of us have experienced the impact of Web 2.0 inter connectivity, where consistent and effective personal branding has reached a new level of imperative. Employers, head hunters, agencies and colleagues will, and do, use the internet to check you out in a world where your virtual invisibility can be just as damaging as a dodgy thread.
Investing in developing your personal brand will make you stronger and more resilient. It will improve the odds of being noticed by potential employers, industry-specific networks, both internal and external and reduce the risk of social and professional identity blurring. It puts you in the driving seat, in control of your career decisions, by helping you derive that crucial edge over the competition. Hard, tangible, powerful outcomes.
Personal branding - fluffy? I don't think so...
Which topic would you like to read about next month? Look over the list of topics in the original Audit Advantage article here and let us know your choice for the next topic we should cover.