By: Courtney N. Johnson
Hello Ladies, I want to share some advice regarding branding one’s self in Corporate America. As a young black millennial in Corporate America or in my case in the insurance and banking industry, it can be tough to distinguish yourself amongst the crowd. Despite, having the degrees and experience on top of being far more qualified than your counterparts; it can still be struggle central. I know from my experience, in the corporate world I have felt discarded as well as forgotten about.
Although, a notable contributor, my accolades got discounted in comparison to my peers. Not sure if it is because the corporate landscape does not know how to receive us (black women) or because I live in a highly conservative state, where obstacles of race come into play quite often than one wants. But I want to provide words of encouragement to let you know that you can morph yourself into whatever you need to be to get your achieve your pursuit to professional happiness without losing yourself.
After 24 months of intense mock interviews, actual interviews, and everything in between; I was left feeling depleted and discouraged, but persistency was the driving factor that allowed me to prevail and redirect my focus on branding myself. Even though, I did not get a promotion; I had success with being selected for two major projects to work on to build more professional experience, which can lead to potential promotional opportunities. This was made possible by exposure to the right people through the power of branding.
I had to step back and assess myself. Ask yourself, what do I bring to the game? How does it make me different? And why do I have that X-factor? I created a list of the things I do great and what I needed to work on to become a greater asset to the organization. I decided to pursue an additional graduate degree program in Communication with an emphasis in Public Relations.
In an effort to gain some insight, I asked a hiring manager for feedback on how I interviewed and on what I need to do to get hired next time. He explained that I needed to be associated with more big name projects to discuss as examples to demonstrate a higher quality of leadership related to my current field.
I took this feedback as gift and ran with it. Within 3 months from my interview, I organized a department wide team engagement and productivity event for 5 teams in my Phoenix, Arizona office and 2 teams in San Antonio, Texas. This event helped put me and my brand on the radar amongst my leadership at the director level, and created a positive experience I can share in my next interview that drove positive and business results.
In addition to receiving the hiring manager’s feedback and putting it into action swiftly; I sought understanding of my brand from my peers and my direct leadership. I would suggest that you seek 3-5 perspectives to give you a well-rounded analysis of how others receive you because their perception is reality.
This process is insightful and can help you re-invent your brand if you need to. I did this exercise and I got great feedback; which I organized by similarities/commonalities of pros/deltas.
Based on the feedback, I found that visibility was my area of opportunity; so I became inspired and joined an employee driven group that volunteers in the community. This created another opportunity to network outside of my department with leaders; and this month I organized a soup kitchen event for the group. This is another way to show others I can lead and my brand is viable as well as relevant.
Overall, I want you to know that you are deserving and that you should embrace your professional brand development. You may interview and not get the job; but do not let that stifle branding yourself after the fact.
You need to be aware of what you bring to the game; and keep yourself relevant in positive spheres at work. This can be done by joining an existing work initiative or implementing something that you create that brings value to showcase your brand.