How I felt during my first meeting with my executive coach is not uncommon, in fact, many people struggle to define themselves, their value and their uniqueness. If you feel that your situation is similar to my story—you have the education and experience, but have not thought about your brand—here are few steps to start to understand yourself and your brand:
These are great tools to help us understand our strengths, communication styles, the way we think, and how we tend to manage conflict. Once you receive the results, don’t judge them or be critical of yourself. There are no right or wrong answers. Instead, review and highlight the areas that you believe apply to you, and in another color, highlight the words and phrases that do not apply to you. Review with your coach or a friend to discuss deeper. Some of my favorites are: Strengths Finder 2.0, Emergenetics, and Thomas Kilmann Conflict Mode Instrument.
It is always uncomfortable to ask for feedback; however, it is extremely important to understand what messages you have been projecting to the world about your brand. A tool that I like is called 360 Reach. This is an anonymous survey that you can send to people you choose (co-workers, family, and friends) to ask them questions about your strengths, weaknesses, and their perception of you. Once you receive the final report, look for patterns and consistent messages that people use to describe you. One important thing to keep in mind is to be selective with the individuals to whom you send the 360 survey. The goal is to get input from people that believe in you and want to support your personal and professional growth.
Take note of your communication style, how you behave, how you introduce yourself, what words you constantly tend to use, etc. Additionally, observe the activities that you enjoy, the kind of skills that you are good at, and the type of projects that ignite excitement in your heart. Discovering your brand is about being mindful and increasing your self-awareness. Keep note of what you observe and reflect on this.
Now, I will ask you the same questions that my coach asked me. Reflect on these questions, and even if you do not know the answers immediately, they will eventually come to you. What matters is to open the door for personal exploration.
My coach and I worked on the above three steps, and my top strength that kept coming up from my assessments and surveys was that I develop others and coach them to advance in leadership. The area of talent development was very different than what I was working on at that time which explains why I was not happy with my job. By gaining a better understanding of my brand, I gained a clearer view of my strengths and the type of career that aligns with my passion. It is amazing how our brand, our strengths and our passion are all connected.