When you consider your desired personal brand what qualities come to mind? Would you like to be remembered as someone who made others feel safe? Or, would you like people to remember you for your humor and ability to add levity when things were tense? Would you like others to reflect on your commitment to helping others?
There are many individuals among us who contribute to society, their community, their cause and their constituents through financial support, leverage and intellectual capital. Their contribution is greatly appreciated by the groups who are at the receiving end of their generosity.
For others, like me, giving back, “paying it forward” and serving is a large part of how they will ultimately build their desired reputation. This service may come in the form of volunteerism, anonymous contribution, hands-on sweat equity or other ways of helping.
Just last week I had the distinct honor and privilege of working with disabled US veterans from the Marines, Army and Air Force, on personal branding. These individuals had served our country until the time when they could serve no more because of injury or disability. Now they are transitioning to civilian work, in particular, into financial services. I donate my time, materials and expertise to help them in this transition.
Twice a year, I spend a week in Philadelphia with Wall Street Warfighters Foundation and help US war heroes articulate their value proposition, learn how to market their strengths, create messaging and an elevator speech that bridges the expertise they have (military) into relevancy in the corporate arena. Their issues are complex and unique (due to the cultural and traditions they bring from their military careers versus corporate norms) and our work is intense. I do this work because I feel a passion to give back in gratitude for their service. It is my choice and it is part of my value proposition.
When you consider the desired reputation you will build for yourself – how you will be remembered – is serving a part of that brand? If so, here are some suggestions for how to move in that direction intentionally and with authenticity:
1. Find something you are passionate about. Do you love animals? Volunteer at an animal rescue facility or shelter. Whether its playing with the dogs and cats, joining the board of directors or aiding in fundraising for your local shelter, serving where you are interested and have a passion is a great start! Are you passionate about helping children who have been victims of abuse or neglect? There are many local, and national, agencies committed to serving these children and they can use your help.
2. Set realistic expectations for yourself regarding the commitment to serve. Life is busy. Work is time consuming. Families are active. To add service to that mix means a commitment – of time, energy, focus and sometimes financial resources. Evaluate your the commitment realistically. What can you realistically contribute that will add meaningful value to the entity you will be serving, and satisfy your personal desire to give back?
3. Give unconditionally. If you serve with the expectation of gaining new work, meeting valuable contacts and producing a direct ROI on your efforts, then you might find your service to be not fulfilling. On the flip side, if you serve with the goal being to help, contribute and make a difference, you might be surprised with the return you receive. Sometimes, volunteerism turns into paying work. Often it is simply service to better society and community.
Intentionally developing a strategy around networking is different from service. When we design networking strategies, we systematically target specific audiences and have clear expectations, boundaries, goals and objectives. Service, on the other hand, is done selflessly and from your heart.
If service is part of your ultimate desired personal brand, start today. There is someone out there who needs you.