I recently delivered a short session on personal branding for a group of young people, on a Fastlaners course run by Uprising. Uprising is a youth charity, and Fastlaners is a short course to help ambitious young people with their careers.
A little bit of a departure for me – while I’ve done plenty of sessions for groups of young people, I’d never done personal branding before. But hey – I could do that.
I found while I was preparing that there’s quite a lot of cross over with stuff I’ve done before, stuff I’d done in the recent series of #abookintwominutes, and things related to confidence and public speaking.
We’re hearing a lot about how millennials (I think they still count as millennials? What have we decided to name the people after millennials?) don’t want to work hard, don’t want to get off their phones, don’t have any loyalty to their employers. In short, they want it all their own way.
I don’t believe this is true. The young people in this group all want to get on in the world, they all want decent jobs. I don’t think they’re that different to most others in this respect. Oh, and I didn’t see one mobile phone in the session I delivered.
On the other hand, I believe setting their own terms is a good thing. Why would they have any loyalty to an employer who doesn’t care about them as employees?
A couple of issues I wasn’t expecting came up, and mainly at the end, when they started asking questions about my background. And I realised I’d missed some opportunities. So here's the advice I gave them, and some I wish I ‘d given them.
I was asked, how do you have enough confidence? We talked about things like, fake it till you make it. Some the group were quieter and said little, others were more vocal. Either is fine, it’s all about your personality.
There are two types of confidence. There is the inner confidence in yourself – maybe self esteem is more accurate. The knowledge that you are worth something and have something to offer. I hope all the young people in the group have this – well, all young people to be honest. If not, seek help. Read books on confidence, change your beliefs about yourself, get professional help such as counselling if necessary.
The second is dependent on the situation. I don’t like driving. I’m confident enough to drive a short way, or even further if it’s a route I know, but not confident to take the motorway to Manchester for example. More on this can be found in this earlier post
There are ways to look and sound more confident, even if you don’t feel it.
- Watch your language. Not just about swearing, which we talked about, but don’t use weak language. Don’t say ‘I’m just a….’ . Don’t say ‘I have no experience’, instead say 'I have just left school, college, uni, where I studied, gained, and now I’m looking for a new opportunity’.
- Develop confident body language. It not only makes you look more confident, so people assume you are confident, it actually makes you feel more confident. Stand up straight, make eye contact with people when you meet them or speak to them. (If eye contact makes you feel uncomfortable, look at their face at least – looking away makes you look as though you lack confidence, especially if you’re looking down.) And obviously it’s not constant unwavering staring into their eyes, just make sure you’re properly engaging with them. Take a look at Amy Cuddy’s TED talk for more information
Get out there
One young woman told me how she wanted to find work in fine art and illustration. She had earned a degree in this, and had some relevant voluntary work experience. However, she is looking for work in the retail sector, so she can get some actual work experience on her CV. Whilst I admire her pragmatism, it would be a real pity for her to not pursue her real desire. What I wish I’d suggested is – get out there. Even if you are working in retail, blog, vlog, Instagram, Pinterest, podcast, whatever social media works in your desired field, do something and get out there.
I recently read Crushing It by Gary Vaynerchuk, and he is a big advocate of using social medial for your personal brand, to raise profile. Do this, and when you’re ready to make the transition to your chosen field, you have some assets, a track record, instead of having a standing start. I recommend a read of Crushing It, it’s an uplifting book as well as practical.
Learn the culture at your workplace, and do what you can to fit in
I mentioned the Rules of Work by Richard Templar. There is a lot of practical advice in there on how to get on at work, but there were one or two bits I disagreed with. However, fitting in, learn the system and make the most of it is practical advice. Not in a cynical or dishonest way, but fitting in to the workplace culture is a must. If it’s a poor fit for you, do your best while you look for something else. You spend a big chunk of your life at work – if you don’t fit, it leads to a miserable existence. I know, I’ve been there.
Dealing with difficult situations
I mentioned the job early in my career when I was bullied by a manager, and was asked how to deal with this. Not expecting the question, I don’t think I was very reassuring, and I hope I didn’t create fear around this. Whilst it can happen, it isn’t a certainty in everyone’s career. How to deal with it effectively? This is a lot easier if you have inner confidence (see 1 above).
If it happens – if someone makes aggressive or passive aggressive comments to you, the best way is to deal with it immediately. Let them know you understand what they’re doing, that you expect to be treated with respect and won't play mind games.
If things do get out of hand, go to your HR department or another manager for help. There are resources out there should you find yourself in this situation, and this earlier post gives more details.
Make up your own rules
Have a clear idea what’s important to you. What are your values, what does work mean for you? Your’re entitled to look for this. Yes, you have to play your part too, but being assertive and confident in what you want out of life and expecting to get it as a reward for everything you put in isn’t too much to ask.
We talked a lot about authenticity and integrity, and examining your values in this way can help you to bring your best self to work.
It was a pleasure to meet you all, and I wish you all the luck in the world in finding work you love. And if any of you do start a blog, vlog, podcast or something else, let me know, I’ll be delighted to share it on.