I saw this great Ted Talk and it holds a great lesson for your career and how you shape it.
It is by Morgan Spurlock, the guy who created the documentary Super-Size-Me which was a documentary on what would happen if you only consumed junk food. A prolific individual with a lot of wisdom, conveyed tongue-in-cheek.
In this TED talk he establishes this hypothesis about creating a movie fully funded by product placement and advertising. So everything in the movie is branded from start to finish. Starting with the title, which would be an advertiser, to the drinks consumed as a product placement, to the shoe worn in the movie branded as a product, etc. etc. He takes this concept to all the major marketing and advertising companies making a pitch for them to fund $1.5 million with the funding recovered through this concept.
No one grabbed the idea and Morgan thinks aloud in this TED talk that he felt that the whole premise of advertising was to get your product out to as many people as possible and that was not happening.
So here is learning number one for your career. A lot of people believe networking and meeting as many people as possible, talking to them about your career history and experience will help. The analogy is that the product being placed is YOU and the advertising is about YOU to a relevant audience. But like in the TED talk, there are not a lot of buyers for that, you’d have noticed. So people will have a dialogue with you but few stretch their hand out to actually help you. So the learning is that networking by itself to sell your brand bears little reward.
So Morgan goes direct to the brands themselves to market this concept. And at one stage during the TED talk he meets a brand who is small, a challenger brand and they are interested in his concept. And at that stage Morgan asks “how would you define your brand”. And there is silence with some thought in the moment suggestions on what their brand is all about.
So here is learning number two for your career. When someone comes to you with an opportunity which is still embossed within a competitive field of other aspirants also aiming for the same outcome you are hoping to achieve – which is to get that job or career you are gunning for – be clear on what your personal brand is before you get into the ring. Or you will look as silly as that company who tried to think about their brand on the run.
Then Morgan gets on the street and asks random people “What is your brand”? And the responses he gets? Silence followed by “I like nice clothes” or “a Dark glamor” or “a Alcoholic Brand” and then for some more it was more concrete like “a classic convertible Mercedes Benz” and someone who called themselves as FedX because “they deliver the goods”. The last one really takes the cake doesn’t it? Precise and well thought out.
Can you see how some people are crystal clear about what they stand for and some who are really hazy in their own minds as to what they represent? If you are hazy about what you represent, how will you get others to buy into your thinking and hence your candidature for a company and role you are aspiring towards?
So learning number three is make your brand clear and speak what you will deliver on. Because if your brand is unclear or sounds sexy but if you are a person different to the brand you’ve described, you may have no purchase or a single transaction purchase but after the first buy there will be no repeat purchases because your brand has disappointed, not delivered. Your career will not have that sustainability and stability you need to be totally satisfied. This could translate into you being fired after the probationary period, getting laid off as the first lot of staff to be let go during tough times, or you having difficulty getting the job which really satisfies. You should not enter into a working relationship, get frustrated and be not allowed to thrive to your strengths. You should aim to target career opportunities where your brand, your strengths allow you to fly. Your brand should represent your personal strengths and what you will deliver come good day, bad day, ordinary day – guaranteed all the time.
Also it is about authenticity and delivering what you are good at rather than a sexy notion of what you’d like to be. What you’d like to be, comes in your own time but when you are in a buy / sell decision of someone interviewing you, get into these buy / sell decisions around things your brand stands strongest against. This would mean saying no to job ads and jobs where you are a maybe or you tick some of the boxes but where your brand does not stand out as a beacon shining for someone to gravitate to. So learn to compete and also when to compete and when to walk away from an opportunity because it does not really bring out your strengths and allowing you to thrive.
The TED talk then moves to Morgan saying he needed an expert, someone who could get inside his head, someone who could really help him understand what is “his brand”. And he demonstrates a company who helps him discover this. Through the interview which eventuates, Morgan speaks of aspects which are most important to him and these turn out to the “family unit” being the center of all his thinking. Another aspect of what he loved, was his liking of things which were weird which explains his “creative” genius and then a lot more questions to understand Morgan as a person asked.
Ultimately when the assessment was presented to Morgan – his brand was classified as a mindful-playful brand and the idea was to convert that brand into one word or at max two words to describe Morgan. So learning number four is try and limit your brand description to one or at max two words so its not meant to be an essay about yourself but more of when someone ask you “how would you describe yourself” you’ve got something concrete to present and market yourself best as.
And learning number five is to get help from an expert on something as important as this. Coke do it, KFC does it, Mercedes Bentz do it, Morgan did. It is something which needs independent guidance from someone who knows how to ask questions and also the right questions being asked to help introspection and the true genius to be discovered for you.
As a career transitioning coach for engineers I do this and I’ve found this being immensely effective but what is more relevant is that my clients have found this to be immensely effective. I adopt a sophisticated interviewing process and a strengths assessment philosophy co-joined with a discussion held with a trained psychologist accredited in the strengths assessment program. I follow that up with a strategic game plan relevant to the individual, followed by a mentoring program facilitated by me with individuals along the journey your brand is meant to flourish within. I hand hold the individual along the whole journey taking them all the whole way, from confusion to clarity. This is towards helping the discovery of a personal brand and how to make the most out of that personal brand within work situations.
The TED talk finishes with Morgan asking “What is your brand?”
Well I ask you this – what is it?
Do you know what your brand is? If you don’t; you owe it to yourself to discover it, because it is those with a clear idea about their personal brand who will forge ahead and those with a cluttered mind will fall by the wayside.
And by the way if you want to hear the TED talk viewed by 2,032,704 people, here it is https://www.ted.com/talks/morgan_spurlock_the_greatest_ted_talk_ever_sold.