Nelson Mandela’s inauguration began with a tribal poet, known among South Africans as a “praise singer,” who recounted to the crowd of politicians, dignitaries, citizens and world onlookers the story of Mandela, who had dedicated and sacrificed his life seeking solutions for the legacy of poverty and injustice left by apartheid.
Not only did the praise singer emotionally stir the people as to the magnitude of Mandela as their new leader, but also served to augment the people’s hopes, dreams and visions.
Who are your praise singers?
Each of us has colleagues, clients, referral sources, contacts, acquaintances and friends who sing our praises daily. Through the normal course of business interactions, they tell a story about who we are as professionals and the value we’re capable of providing—the essence of our personal brand. Those within earshot are influenced by such endorsements in determining whether or not to enlist our services.
You may not recognize Jonathan Goldsmith’s name, but I’m sure you’d know his face. After all, he’s “the most interesting man in the world!” Or at least that’s what the Dos Equis’ campaign would have you believe.
The television ads feature a distinguished gentleman in his 70s, who is the life of the party regardless the venue, with an entourage of young, hotties. At the end of the ads, Jonathan looks into the camera and says, “I don’t drink beer very often, but when I do, I prefer Dos Equis.”
No matter the company I’m with, I can rattle off the first half of Jonathan’s calling card and, in unison, the group replies, “…but when I do, I prefer Dos Equis.”
In a forgotten storeroom tucked behind years of old boxes and office furniture lies a hole-ridden map of the United States. In pursuit of his next story, CBS News Correspondent Steve Hartman tosses a dart at a map and with cameraman in tow travels to the location where the dart lands. Upon his arrival, Hartman locates a phonebook, chooses a random name from the directory, and interviews the person—not knowing ahead of time anything about them. Albeit random and unpredictable, it is Hartman’s way of demonstrating that everybody has a story.
We are no different than any of Hartman’s unsuspecting participants. We too have a story that makes us unique, relatable, and memorable. It includes aspects of our background, experiences, passions, preferences, struggles, hobbies, life lessons and relationships. The byproduct of which defines us. It’s our reputation; our personal brand.
Are you leveraging your story to make a name for yourself, to better connect with clients, and to stay top-of-mind with prospects and referral sources?
As a novice skier, imagine the terror I experienced at the moment the ski lift dropped me off at the top of a black diamond run. The wind was howling, visibility was poor, and before I could get my bearings, my two ski companions yelled, “See ya at the bottom!”
My mind raced as I considered how I ended up in such a quandary. I started to sweat. My thoughts were, “How am I going to get down this mountain and in one piece? What if I fall, loose a ski, or another skier runs me over?”
Fear was setting in, but I had the sense of mind to know that panicking wouldn’t get me anywhere. I considered my options.
I knew enough about skiing to know that I could get down the mountain through slow, horizontal patterns. It would take a while, but I would be in control. Instead of wondering how I would finish the entire ski run, I compartmentalized the mountain and only thought about one section at a time. If all else failed, I could remove my skis and walk down the mountain.
Especially considering the current economic climate where employment prospects for grads are limited, I think about the advice I would share with them. My counsel serves as a good reminder regardless of where we are in our careers.
Be flexible. Upon graduation, I relocated to the Silicon Valley to pursue a public relations position with a technology company. Three years later, I found myself jobless as a result of the tech meltdown of the early 2000’s.