Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Define Your Image with Your Personal Brand

Learn how to stand out and eliminate your competition.

So, you’ve heard of branding and you know that defining a brand is essential for a company’s survival and for it to consistently produce new and successful products. Many notable brands have become household names such as Band-Aid, Xerox and Kleenex. However, what about personal branding? What is a personal brand, how do you create it and why is it important for you to have? In the simplest terms, your personal brand is you. It displays your personality and conveys what you stand for. In turn, it helps you to distinguish yourself from others and eliminate your competition.

Your personal brand is what others think about you. When you brand yourself properly, you determine how other people perceive you instead of the other way around. Your brand defines the image that your target audience associates with you and reveals what you have to offer. It is used to determine your total perceived value and how you measure up to your competitors.

Defining your personal brand can also help you to gain strategic positioning within your industry. In the August 2008 edition of Who’s News, we discussed a few of the steps you should take to become an expert in your field. Developing a strong personal brand is another way that you can establish yourself as a knowledgeable resource among your peers. Highlight the elements that make you unique from your competition and people will pay special attention to you. Your personal brand will assist you in building your reputation and attaining expert status.

There are several components that make up your personal brand. The first is your personal appearance. The way you dress, your etiquette and your overall attitude toward others all contribute to your personal brand. The last thing you want a potential client to think, when meeting you for the first time, is that you do not match the brand you have worked so hard to develop and portray. The next component is your personality. When others think of you, what comes immediately to their mind? What words do they use to describe you: knowledgeable, confident, dependable and dynamic? Is that who you are and the image you are trying to portray? The third factor is your core competency or your primary areas of expertise. You may be proficient in several areas but what are your strongest points? Some people are dynamic public speakers while others are talented writers. Some people are better at training versus managing. What are your strengths? The last major component is your uniqueness. Defining what sets you apart from your competition is essential to building your personal brand. Without doing this, others will not be able to differentiate you from your competition and you run the risk of letting your competition define you.

Once you have established your personal brand, begin sharing it with others immediately. A great measure of whether or not you are successfully promoting your brand is by typing your name into a major search engine such as Google or Yahoo. Do you retrieve positive, informative and consistent information about yourself? While branding is not all about your presence on the Internet, increasing your online visibility is an easy and cost effective way to share important information about yourself with colleagues, clients, recruiters, etc. Here are some tools that will help you to build your brand online:

  • VisualCV.com: This website lets you create an online CV and display it as a webpage, providing others with easy access to your portfolio. It also gives you the ability to upload pictures and videos of your work. Best of all, it is free to use! If you are a Cambridge Who’s Who member who does not have a website to link to from your Cambridge Who’s Who profile, you can always link to your VisualCV instead.

  • Personal Blog: Cambridge Who’s Who utilizes several blogging sites in order to provide useful information and resources to Cambridge Who’s Who members. Cambridge Who’s Who Charities is hosted on Wordpress.com and the Cambridge Who’s Who Resource Center, Learning Center and News blog are all hosted on Blogger.com. We even have our own Wiki on Wetpaint.com called Cambridge Who’s Who Notables. These sites provide our members with information about who we are, what our major products and services are and how we can assist them in develop their professional network and personal brand - all of which is part of our corporate brand. When you launch your own blog, write about the areas in which you hold the most knowledge and experience. Provide valuable information, and you will become a resource for others in your industry. You can also share your thoughts and expertise by commenting on other people’s blogs. Include a link back to your own blog when you leave a message!

  • Website: Creating a simple, professional website can also aid in the development of your brand. Your personal website should showcase your expertise, your skill set and your unique value that separates you from others in your line of work. You can also include your VisualCV as an integral part of the site. Be sure to share your website when you are seeking a new career opportunity, applying for an advanced degree program, requesting client referrals or are being considered for a special honor or award.

  • Cambridge Who’s Who Multi-Media Promotions Program: How do you maintain your personal brand so that it is remembered? The Multi-Media Program increases your visibility on major search engines through the distribution of one or more press releases about your endeavors. Your press release can also be used to announce something noteworthy such as a special event, achievement or promotion. Learn more about the Multi-Media Promotions Program at the Learning Center.

When using these tools keep in mind how you want to be perceived. Make sure that you develop an image and marketing materials that bring that message across and reinforce it. Highlight what distinguishes you from others. You want your brand to be recognizable and easy to remember. Most of all you must be consistent! Your resume, your blog, your website and all of your other promotional materials (including business cards, stationery, flyers, newsletters, etc.) must all convey the same message.

Your personal brand will help you to survive in your industry and stand out from the crowd. Remember to be receptive to feedback; it will let you know if the brand you are portraying is coming across properly or if you need to make any adjustments. Want to find an easy way to get started on developing your personal brand? Check out the Cambridge Who’s Who Contributing Author Program and see how other members are building their brands.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Cambridge Expert Dr. LeslieBeth Wish


Dr. LeslieBeth Wish, president of Love Victory, has been a member of Cambridge Who’s Who since March, 2005. Dr. Wish's expertise is in journalism, research, writing about women's love relationships and career development, overseeing small business and management consulting, public speaking and workshops, managing psychological and marriage issues and couples counseling. Dr. Wish also served as a former graduate school administrator and faculty in business and counseling. She has written a book entitled, “Incest, Work and Women: Understanding the Consequences of Incest on Women's Careers, Work and Dreams” and also numerous articles including fictional articles and poetry. Currently she is working on her second book on women's relationships, “Strong Women and Love.”

She currently holds a doctor of education in human development, work and career management from the University of Massachusetts Amherst (1996); master’s degree in marriage and family therapy from Medical Center, Georgetown University; master of science in social services, clinical studies and management from Bryn Mawr College; master of arts in English from Ohio University and a bachelor of arts in history and English from Carnegie Mellon University. She is a licensed clinical social worker in the states of Maryland and Massachusetts.

Published Articles

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Overcoming Adversity to Find Strength

Life isn’t perfect, but adversity helps to define who we are.

By Cambridge Who’s Who Member and Contributing Author Jo DeMarco

Most of us reach a point when we begin to think that life used to be much easier. Memories of our youth peek in and out of our consciousness and we flash back to what we thought was the best time of our lives. If we’re lucky, age and experience teaches us that is not so. Rather, the knowledge and strength that we gain from enduring adversities allow us to develop a strong sense of self. We are better equipped to face future challenges and more likely to achieve our goals.

I cannot help but look back at my own life, the various adversities I faced and how (by the grace of God) I overcame each stumbling block that presented itself. At the time, I thought each to be an insurmountable obstacle. Now I look back and feel blessed that each hurdle was there to confront me. I have found that being faced with challenges forces us to grow, develop and thrive. I am certainly not an expert on solving problems nor do I propose that I have all the answers. I merely know what I have experienced, how I dealt with it and what worked well for me. Although much time has passed, I believe that the main adversities I have faced continue to plague many women today. I hope that sharing some of my personal experiences will encourage, enlighten or inspire someone who is going through the same or similar circumstances.

Divorce – At the age of 20, I was a divorced and single mother with $240 to my name (hey, at least the next month’s rent was paid!). I realized that the relationship I was in did not have a positive element left to it and was certainly not what I had bargained for or wanted my daughter to grow up in. I refused to let someone drag me and my baby down with them, and I chose to move on to achieve a higher quality of life for both of us. I planned, I plotted and I set goals. Each goal was for the short term and very attainable. Upon achieving an objective, I quickly set another, raising the bar and aiming higher. In deciding which direction to go in, I took a realistic view of myself and evaluated what assets I had and what I needed to acquire in order to get where I wanted to be. Remember that you need to learn to walk before you can run. Keep your focus and your eye on the prize. No whining, no finger pointing, no begging, no crying (ok, maybe just a little, but not in front of anyone). Assess your current situation and create a plan to overcome it.

Working mom and student – In the early 80s, a working single mother came with the stigma of being unreliable and a risk due to having limited resources for child care. Therefore, single working mothers were often associated with unpredictable attendance and/or frequent emergencies. I sometimes felt that I had the scarlet “A” stamped on my forehead. To assure my employer of my dependability, I communicated a plan A, B and C for child care. Starting at the bottom of every position that I was fortunate enough to obtain, it was never enough to be a “good” employee. I was driven to be the best. I was a sponge in each work environment, soaking up every single detail of my job, the company, its make up, opportunities, etc. Taking a class here and a seminar there, watching, listening and studying the particulars paved the way for me to grow. One job led to another; the next one was always a step up. I learned early on never to ask for a raise. My strategy was to take advantage of every opportunity the company had to offer, prove my worth and ensure that I was an asset worth keeping. My appetite was insatiable, yet I sometimes forfeited a higher salary for more experience and vocational training, knowing that it would benefit me in the long run. I felt that every single position I held had a reason and purpose that I could draw from in the future. That feeling rings true to this day.

Finances – Very simple. Prioritize your expenses and live within your means. Want more? Need more? Work more! Take a second job, find a third job or work at home if necessary. Plan ahead. Commit a specific amount on a regular basis to whatever you’re saving for and before you know it, you’ll meet your goal. Have a financial back-up plan. Cut up those credit cards, buy sale items and don’t overspend. I used to think that being rich meant being able to pay all of your bills on time, to go to the grocery store and purchase anything you want without having heart palpitations and to take one vacation per year. I still believe in that theory today!

Love – Isn’t it safe to assume that matters of the heart create a significant amount of turmoil in our lives? Didn’t someone once say, “Better to have loved and lost, than to never have loved at all?” Love is a continuous lesson in life. Although we may try hard, we may never get all the answers. However, we can learn a lot and have fun in the process. Be true to yourself, and while it’s good to be the willow once in awhile, don’t let anyone break you. The benefit of keeping your life full is that in case love goes out the window, your whole life doesn’t go with it. Sharing your life is a beautiful thing, but remember that sharing is only giving a part of something; not the entire thing. Also keep in mind that the only reason to look back to the past is to learn from your mistakes; otherwise keep facing forward. Keep your focus and you’ll find your next love around the corner.

Adversity is a part of life and we should not fear it for it helps us to define who we are. After all, wouldn’t life be dull if it were perfect?

The Power of the Ripple Effect

How one life and one choice can change the world.

By Cambridge Who’s Who Contributing Author Cheryl Nordyke

There isn’t a person alive who would not like to think that their life has made a difference in someone else’s life. We all hope to positively impact our friends, families and maybe even our neighbors and co-workers. The truth is that many of us will never know the full extent or the lasting impression that our smallest actions may have on others.

On July 4th, 2008, I was on the bank of the Charles River in Boston, Massachusetts along with more than 500,000 people celebrating this country’s birthday. This was also the 35th birthday of the Boston Pop’s Fireworks Spectacular and, performing live at the event, were the Boston Pops and Rascal Flatts. As I sat there and listened to music piped through speakers along the Charles, I could not help but wonder, “What would the Founding Fathers think today if they knew what the signing of the Declaration of Independence had accomplished?” More than 200 years later and this country is so much more than it was on that day when nine out of 13 colonies voted in favor of this new democracy. Then I wondered if anyone thought that the Boston Pop’s Spectacular would become this big of an event when it was first held in 1974, attracting not only a large live audience but also the millions of people who tune in via telecast.

It became very clear to me at that moment how much one ripple, even an action as small as a smile, can continue to grow into a wave of change. Who knows where we would be as a country or what our impact on the world would be if those men had not created the Declaration of Independence. Not only did they craft it, but they willingly signed their names and took action toward creating the life they wanted to live. That act has given us a lifestyle that people from around the world want to experience and be a part of.

The purpose of the first 4th of July concert held on the Charles River was to revitalize the concerts at the Esplanade. Today, it is nationally recognized as an iconic event; Arthur Fiedler’s brainchild has turned into a full-scale production that at least one person from each state in the U.S. attends every year. This Independence Day, the band Rascal Flatts was the featured musical guest. Rascal Flatts started out as three guys doing simply what they love – playing music in bars and clubs. There were times, they said, where there were only two people besides themselves at their gigs. Then in the early 2000s, with the release of two albums, their lives changed forever. They are now multi-platinum recording artists who live their dream everyday and recognize that the life they live is possible because of the fans who support them and their music. The fans, in turn, are impacted through their music and lyrics in ways that the band may never know.

You and I may not play as significant of a role to such a large population of people as those who have become famous. However, it is possible for us to do so if we take action. Each person who has made a strong impression had a dream first and then took steps to realize it. The Founding Fathers decided that we could live in a country with freedom of choice and Rascal Flatts thought that other people would feel something from the music they loved to write and perform. These people started out the same as you and I – with an idea and a dream. The difference is that they took that idea and that dream and made it come to life. We can have the same influence and legacy when we become an agent for change. Be the ripple and stop simply riding the waves created by others.

Today the economy is in the worst shape that it has been in decades. There is an increase in unemployment, gas prices are exorbitant and companies are cutting back. Regardless, there are still people out there reminding us that we can have and become more. Rhonda Byrne’s “The Secret,” Randy Pausch’s “The Last Lecture” and books and lectures by Wayne Dyer all strive to inspire us to live the life we choose. There are companies that have started in dorm rooms and are now making millions, and there are more people who are able to work from home and dedicate more time to family and friends. Yet most of us, while inspired by the stories we read about and see on television, are still living today the same as we did the day before and the day before that.

So how did they do it? What is their secret? I don’t know for certain that anyone can answer those questions because each person has a different path and different challenges to overcome in achieving their dreams. The one thing I do know is that they stopped waiting for next big wave to come along; they stopped depending on someone else to make their dreams come true. They became the ripple and started their own wave that in turn, made more waves and inspired others.

How do you become the ripple? For Mark Zuckerberg, the student-genius behind Facebook, it was turning the idea of students wanting to share information with others into an online business. He stayed focused and worked on making his dream a reality. For Burt and John Jacobs, the guys behind the Life is Good t-shirt company, a few obstacles stood in the way of their goals, but they did not give up. They came up with a winning concept – a character named Jake – and before you know it their dreams were reality.

Is there is a risk in making your own ripple? Of course there is a risk. That holds true for all great things in life. Yet, there is also risk in riding others’ success. That risk may not be as great and we may not even notice it, yet, it does exist. We do not have any control over how the owner of the company that employs us may change. The owner may sell the company or decide that cutbacks are needed. Therefore, there is always a risk.

I am no stranger to creating a ripple, and I am sure that there are many others who have started their own ripples whose impact is yet to be seen. When I was taken from riding a wave that I had been quite successful on to crashing off of it, I realized that I never wanted to jump on someone else’s wave again. My friends and I began rewriting our book and looking for something to inspire us and to remind us to be grateful.

Our quest led us to the idea of creating jewelry that we could purchase for ourselves and our friends, employees or loved ones to say, “Thank you. I am grateful.” We knew that there were people who had read, seen or heard something that had inspired them to pursue and realize their dreams. They would want something to remind them to be grateful for what they have and thank the people who have positively impacted their lives. There, right in front of us, was an opportunity to take action.

Teaming with Jessica Fields, a talented, up-and-coming jewelry designer, we created a line of jewelry called Waves of Gratitude™. The collection includes six individual pendants that represent the many different movements of the ocean. By layering these pendants, which may be worn a bracelet or necklace, we have created a unique and fresh style while holding on to the message of gratitude. We also have a pendant called the Branches of Hope to remind us of where we have been and where we can go. The purpose of the line is to create a tangible symbol of the key elements needed to become a ripple in society. It is a reminder to be grateful, acknowledge that we are not alone, and symbolize that we have done great things and can accomplish our current goals.

There are so many teachers available to us and with today’s diverse media outlets we can access them all very easily. By leveraging these resources, we can become the people we were meant to be. Be the ripple. Create a wave of change for yourself, the people immediately surrounding you and perhaps the world.