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Who do you REALLY work for?

A standard line that you hear at any networking event, industry forum or conference is, “So, who do you work for?” I would dare say that the majority of us, when we answer that question, respond back with the name of our current employer. It is in our nature to identify with our current employer and we make that our own personal employment brand. But really, the question about who you work for does require a bit more thought than simply responding back with the name of your employer.

I have always advised people to invest in their personal brand. In conjunction with that, I have also advised people to think about things as if they worked for Your Name Inc. That is, think of yourself as the business and the employer and make your decisions accordingly. Now, please don’t interpret this the wrong way and think I am advising you to be disloyal to your current company. For those people that are not self-employed, we all work for someone else so I would strongly suggest that decisions that are in the best interest of Your Name Inc. mean showing up for work on time, doing a great job for your current employer, providing your best effort/work, being honest, professional etc.

WorkHowever, what working for Your Name Inc. means is that you are constantly working at building and improving your personal brand. You constantly need to have the mindset of trying to improve your personal brand by doing things like taking on new and challenging projects at work, learning new skills or technologies, taking training courses, becoming involved in cross-functional areas, etc. If you are the first one to put up your hand to lead a new project, think of how that looks when building your brand. You are the risk-taker, the fearless one who isn’t afraid of the unknown! What a great personal brand!

The reality is that everything we do (or don’t do) in our personal and professional lives is all about building our own brand. The decisions about how you represent yourself at work, the quality of work you do and the nature of the network you build on the job are all part of your brand. Think of yourself as a business. Make decisions as if you were in charge of that business. Try to find ways at work to enhance and cultivate your personal brand. Overall it is a win-win. You are improving your brand and your employer is winning because you are putting forth a stellar effort and producing results for them.

In many cases, decisions that are in the best interest of Your Name Inc. are also in the bests interests of your employer. When these two things are in conflict that is when the tough decisions need to be made. Say that your current employer is engaging in some suspect business activity or pushing some ethical boundaries with new product lines or accounting practices. Or let’s say that the new sales approach being implemented by your company is in conflict with your own personal values, or maybe the company has changed its people management philosophy. Regardless of the situation, if you find that something in your professional life may be negatively affecting your personal brand and damaging the reputation of Your Name Inc.; then you have to decide if you truly are going to make decisions in the best interests of Your Name Inc. Perhaps this means a change in job? Maybe you need to draw a line in the sand with your manager and discuss your concerns? Maybe it is no longer the right job/company for you?

My point being is that you need to always need to apply this mindset in your professional life. Look at things through the lens of working for Your Name Inc. Evaluate situations and apply your decision-making skills in this context. If you do, I think you will be pleased at the ROI you will see on your personal brand. As always, I welcome your comments and feedback.

Image courtesy of Sean MacEntee/Flickr.com

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2 Responses

  1. Thanks for another interesting read Scott. I am in that awkward situation currently where I don’t have a current employer to even name. I was at a recent event where everyone was introducing themselves based on where they work. I have been trying to work on how to not make this the focus, but instead, on Me Inc. Selling who I am and what stills I have and what I am working to achieve. Any other suggestions you can offer on how to pitch Me Inc. when in these networking event? if so, would love to hear them.

    • Hi DeNeen – I understand the challenges you are referring to for sure! I would suggest is that what you need to prepare is your elevator pitch for events such as this. In other words, what are the top 3-5 reasons why someone would want to hire you? You can start out by identifying that you are a recent HR grad with a passion and focus in the following areas: (you list your skills here). You want to pitch how your operational experience allows you to better apply your HR knowledge and skills.

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