At work I ask people all the time, “how is your brand?” Normally my question is met with an inquisitive facial expression from the person I am speaking to. Most shrug off the question as being gimmicky because they feel I deliberately interject a business term into a routine personal conversation. And I do. But I do so to make a point. How often do you, the service member, take time to think of yourself as a brand? If you have ever taken a business class, your instructor will talk at length about a company’s brand. It is the product or service they deliver and the personal care and attention they devote, day in and day out, to provide the best-possible experience to their customer.
If you think about a brand is that context, it is easy to see that service members fit into the same narrative. They deliver a product or service—or both—to their organization (the customer). How well we deliver that product or service, day in and day out, becomes their individual brand.
The Benefits of Thinking of Yourself as a Brand
There are several benefits to thinking of yourself as a brand; however, I will only cover a few of the main points. First, it ties you to your work in a meaningful way. For example, if your job is to provide training to your organization, the deliverable is not just the training plan. Is becomes how well you create, deliver, and implement the training plan. It is your brand. How well you accomplish and deliver the work is as important as the work itself.
Internalizing branding helps solve one of the more troublesome challenges associated with PreVeteran military members—articulating what you do in the military into terms that will resonate with those in the private sector. By simply embracing the branding concept and applying it to yourself, you have gone a long way to bridge the wide gap between performing government work and functioning in the private sector.
Creating and Portraying Your Professional Brand
Your brand is more than what you do. It is having the forethought to determine how you want to be viewed by others and then take the actions necessary to bring about that conclusion. It is more cognitive and proactive then simply doing your job well. The simplest way to create your brand is to know what your skill set and strengths are and continually work on honing those to provide your customer the best-possible experience at every engagement.
Once you create the brand you want to communicate, then you take the steps to portray and promote that brand. In this digital, database-driven age, you simply must have a LinkedIn account. This is primarily because the way people network and look for partnering opportunities is influenced by the convenience LinkedIn offers with its keyword search. Similar to a simple Google search, within minutes, you can connect with the right type of person or group you are searching for. Prior to this, you had to meet others at networking events. While face-to-face meetings are still very effective, they are not as efficient as using a digital database like LinkedIn.
No matter where you are in your career, take some time to think about how you and others rate your brand. This is especially important for those of you nearing separation or military retirement. Making that mental shift from simply doing work to providing the customer the best-possible experience will go a long way to ensure your success long after you finish your military service.