Personal branding for career success
Personal branding for career success

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Personal branding for career success

2 Knowing what I have to offer − values

There are several elements that are important to consider when determining your personal brand. In this section, you’ll focus on your values.

A pair of hands, palms upward, holds a small brown paper package tied with string.
Figure 2 What do you have to offer?

Many careers professionals will begin a discussion about occupational choice by focusing on your values, as several studies have shown that values often align with occupational preferences.

For example, it has been found that individuals preferring, choosing or attaining business occupations were generally high on utilitarian orientation and material values; people choosing medical occupations, social work, and teaching appeared to be high in social values, in particular on altruism.

(Sverko et al, 2008, p.557)

Mind Tools defines values as ‘the things that you believe are important in the way you live and work’ (Mind Tools Content Team, n.d.). The more closely you can align your values with the way you live and work, the more satisfied you are likely to be.

Gayle Johnson is a freelance copywriter and coach, who has consciously built her business around her values. Here, she explains why that was so important to her and how it has worked.

Download this video clip.Video player: Video 1 Gayle Johnson - Values
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Transcript: Video 1 Gayle Johnson - Values

Gayle Johnson
For me, values are principles or guiding lights for your life, really. They're the foundations of everything. And it doesn't matter what your values are, and it doesn't matter what you then build up out of them- if you're kind of strong in what you believe in and what you stand for, you can then work with that to turn your hand to anything.
So I spend a lot of time thinking about what were the most important things for me. And I did lots of reflective exercises to get to grips with that. And for me, values came down to things like connection and compassion, and I built my business around those sort of brand values, if you like.
There's lots of different ways to be in business. And with copywriting, which is what I do, there's lots of different ways to do that. And I could see other people doing it very, very differently. And at first, I got really daunted by that and I thought couldn't possibly-- I'm not a slick hipster marketing type of person. And to try and pretend to be that, firstly, would've just felt really difficult. I would have spent all of my energy trying to be someone I wasn't. And I just wouldn't have been as good as those people.
So what I decided to do instead was be very clear about what I stood for. So the way I see it, it's about being kind to yourself. And tuning into your values is a way to be kind to yourself because you're working with yourself, not against it. So by doing that, I then built my website being very clear about my values, being very clear that I wanted to work with values-driven people which meant that I didn't say I was only going to work with people from a particular industry, it was people who were driven by something deeper. And it's meant that I've attracted people who I love to work with, and we understand each other.
So it's really helped me having the values as a kind of breadcrumb trail through the woods really. And then if something goes wrong because those values are still strong, it doesn't matter. Mistakes happen. Sometimes things don't go perfectly, but you can always come back to your values, recenter a bit, and and go off again.
So I found them anchor points, really. And they've certainly been helpful in me attracting the sorts of clients that I really enjoy working with and then in turn who value me because it's almost like magnets, I guess.
End transcript: Video 1 Gayle Johnson - Values
Video 1 Gayle Johnson - Values
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Activity 2 Identifying my values

Timing: Allow about 20 minutes

This activity is an exercise that is commonly used in values work. Gayle has used it herself and with clients, and refers to it in this short video as she explains why understanding your values can help you differentiate yourself from others doing the same work.

Download this video clip.Video player: Video 2 Gayle Johnson - Values Advice
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Transcript: Video 2 Gayle Johnson - Values Advice

Gayle Johnson
To spend some time kind of internally thinking about it, the way I did it was to come up with a list of values and then do a sort of process of elimination. But I also spent some time thinking about situations where I'd really felt alive, I'd really felt on fire, I really felt like I was working at my best. And then I thought about what those values meant to me.
And it was through that sort of thinking work that I came to understand what my values were. And I would really encourage anyone to do that. And the benefit of doing it is it really does anchor you in your own work.
It stops you comparing yourself to others, because it doesn't matter if your values are, let's say, growth and ambition and wealth. That might be what you're really all about. And then someone else's values might be around harmony and community, those sorts of things. And they could be doing the same sorts of work, but their vibe will be very different. And the way they then interpret their work would be very different.
So I think by tuning back into your values, it can help you, certainly, when you're starting out in business or in a new role, potentially, avoid that feeling. It can help you avoid that feeling of imposter syndrome, because you're doing it your way. And no one can take that away from you ever.
And it doesn't mean that mistakes don't happen. But it's something you can always come back to, tune into. And it gives you strength to keep exploring and keep going in a way that feels right for you.
End transcript: Video 2 Gayle Johnson - Values Advice
Video 2 Gayle Johnson - Values Advice
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Step 1: Spend a few minutes thinking about times when you felt happiest, proudest, most fulfilled, or as Gayle puts is – ‘alive’, ‘on fire’ and ‘working at my best’. You can include examples from both your home and work life. Use the box below to record your notes if you need to.

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Step 2: When you have reflected on those occasions for a few minutes, consider the values that best represent why those times in your life made you feel so positive and list them in the box below.

The following image will give you some ideas of values, but if you think of others that fit better, add them to your list. If you’re running out of ideas, there are numerous lists of core values available online – type ‘core values’ into an internet search engine to find them.

Go with your initial reaction to each word. Don’t overthink it.

A word cloud incorporating numerous values is presented in the shape of a speech bubble.
Figure 3 Which values will you choose?
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Step 3: Narrow down your list to between three and five core values and list them here.

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Your core values will already be reflected in what you do and what you say when you are comfortable in your environment – but identifying and labelling them in this type of exercise can help you to ensure that they are more visible professionally, and can have an influence on your decision making. They should hold a prominent position in your personal branding.

As Gayle explains, knowing your core values can also help you to feel more comfortable about what you have to offer and how you operate. There might be several people in your organisation who do the same job, but none of them will have exactly the same approach to it as you and that is what makes you unique.

Understanding the values that are important to you will help you to recognise good career opportunities when they arise. If you’ve already done the thinking, it will be easier to see if a particular role aligns with what you feel is important. For example, if you chose ‘wealth’, salary will be a serious consideration. If you value ‘individuality’, a work environment that requires you to conform might not be a comfortable one.

This can be a challenging exercise so do seek support if you need to, either from a careers adviser or coach, or from one of the people on the list you made in Activity 1. Mind Tools offers an alternative version of this exercise that includes a tool to help you prioritise your core values if you’re struggling. Find it here [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] .

Many of us don’t take the time to deliberately think about our values, yet we all have them and they guide what we do. You might feel that your values are clearly expressed in your home life, but what about at work?

In the first video, Gayle Johnson talks about using your values as anchor points to come back to, and this can be helpful when you’re making career decisions.

Aligning your job with your values can be an important element of job satisfaction. For example, if you are someone who strongly believes in accountability, but you have colleagues who seem to get away with making mistakes and blaming someone else, that can make you angry, unhappy or demoralised.

If you are self-employed and your values include freedom and independence, that should be a good match.

If you plan to use your personal branding to find a job that gives you greater satisfaction, clearly communicating your values, to those in your network and beyond, is a good way to start.

In the next section, you’ll look at another important element of your personal brand – your strengths.


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