Whenever I work with clients to develop their personal brand, one of the first pieces of information I seek to extract from them as part of the process is the following question:
Give me 5 words to describe yourself both professionally and personally.
The second piece of information I ask is:
Explain why these 5 words describe you both professionally and personally.
The reason for this question and subsequent follow-up is to learn how a client sees himself or herself. It’s also important to understand why the client feels this way and to explain how these characteristics are applied in real-world examples. This helps develop the client’s personal brand because these words formulate key selling points of the client to a prospective employer in a job interview. I also ask the additional question from the employer perspective:
How would an employer describe you and what would they say about your best work traits?
While it may seem limiting to describe yourself in 5 words, here are some suggestions of words that I highly recommend leveraging. They can speak volumes about you as a leader, professional, and individual when it comes to creating an everlasting impression for your digital footprint or even at an interview to a prospective new employer.
Companies are always changing, and growth is part of the process in any company (from start-ups to even those on the verge of an IPO). Whether the company is going through tumultuous financial times or big changes in leadership, the ability to adapt to a sudden change and remain adaptable to that change is an important skill to have. Consider if you have the ability to roll with the punches as well as step up to the plate when the company or leadership teams are faced with tough challenges (i.e. CEO walks out). Additionally, think about how you react during tough times and if you are the type who can be trusted by executive partners to proactively build cohesiveness within the infrastructure and lead teams to become stronger and more resilient.
Being collaborative is not just about being a team player. It’s also about having good sportsmanship and being able to jive with different personalities across all functions of the business. Think about the ways you excel in being collaborative in your work environment when it comes to specific tasks and projects, but also in daily relationships with executive partners, stakeholders, and clients. Consider if you have encountered a situation where you have had to work with a difficult co-worker or a difficult client and how you have handled it professionally. Think about the outcome and what you learned from it. Keep in mind that professionalism is vital to your professional success and personal growth, so also lean in on the personal growth you have achieved by being collaborative.
Meticulous and adaptable go hand-in-hand and are two great words to describe yourself. How you think and can mold that thinking with the framework is a value-add skill that can apply in various situations. Since you are adaptable and versatile in any environment, being meticulous shows a flair for paying attention to detail and using critical thinking skills in analyzing complex technical issues while also jumping in with creativity when the situation calls for it.
The big picture of the business, the intricate details of the solution at hand, and key stepping stones of the process are collective aspects of the work you do. Corporate attorneys are hybrid legal advisors and business executives. They have to think analytically when it comes the legal framework, but also balance business strategy and organizational impact when making decisions. No matter your career path, you want to be able to do the same.
How you handle tough ethical dilemmas can speak volumes about your character and credibility. Imagine being faced with a difficult situation that could potentially compromise your internal moral compass or professional ethics but could advance someone else’s interests. How would you handle it? Consider the times in which you have caught someone cheating, stealing, or even being dishonest. You can leverage your ethics and strong moral compass to show how you have taken a stance in a role, in an industry, or in an uncompromising personal situation. Can you be counted on to do the right thing? Or will you shun away from using your integrity for short-term financial gain?
Life throws many wrenches at us, but it’s often our ability to be resourceful and overcome those trials and tribulations that will resonate with prospective employers and even prospective clients. Being resourceful requires applying good critical thinking and good judgment in times of stress. The characteristics of a resourceful individual can include a focus on being creative in tackling new projects, considering things from the other side of the transaction, and applying best practices when it comes to a grey area that you have never been exposed to. Do you take an active role in trying to apply your own knowledge on a topic while also taking the time to achieve a client’s goals or needs? Consider how you have had to come up with Plan B and C in case Plan A didn’t work out. How did you apply your resourcefulness in those situations?
There is no right or wrong answer in selecting the 5 words to describe yourself when building your personal brand. Ultimately what it comes down to is being authentic and true to yourself so that your personal brand is the real you.