Opening Doors

Zoe Hanks

Zoe Hanks

Zoë Hanks MSc, Managing Director, Grassroots Ideas Ltd. is our newest leader writer and we are delighted to welcome Zoë on board!.

Grassroots Ideas are a vibrant and passionate ethical communications and branding agency who are strong advocates of a more socially responsible way of thinking.

Zoë’s background in international Marketing, Branding, Communications and PR – along with her ‘glass half full‘ attitude to life and good sense of fun – delivers real tangible results to the businesses and individuals she works with.

This month Zoë looks at Youth Entreprise.

I recently went into a school in Merseyside and presented to 150 teenage girls on the importance of getting your personal brand right. I was sent straight to the Head Teachers office (history repeating itself there!) where she welcomed me and went on to introduce me to the host of other speakers from the business world.

The line-up was quite impressive, The CEO of the UK’s largest Chamber of Commerce, The President of British Association of Women Entrepreneurs, Senior leaders from Coutts Bank, Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra and Local Governments to name but a few. The theme of the day was ‘opening doors‘, and that’s exactly what it did. Using an idea from the States called ‘minute mentoring‘, each of the girls rotated in groups, spending 15 minutes with each of the speakers getting to hear juicy nuggets of information and career tips from successful women from all walks of life.

What a fantastic change from the careers advice handed out when I was a teenager. As many of you know, my careers advisor told me not to worry as “there is plenty of shop-work available in town for you Zoë”. In some ways she had it right – I loved shopping, gossiping and not being stuck in one place for too long. But on the other hand, a shop assistant? Is that the best she could come up with? (Said careers advisor is still in the same job 20 years later I hasten to add – go figure)

The reality is I didn’t have a clue what I wanted to do and how could I? I was 15 years old and had no idea what an array of amazing jobs were out there, and neither did most of my friends. All we were looking for was some inspiration, something or someone to get us thinking differently about our potential career (aside from the usual Doctor, Dentist, Solicitor, Vet etc. that were regularly suggested to anyone who would listen). I’m pretty certain that had we had something like this ‘opening doors‘ day in my school all those years ago many of us would have made drastically different career choices to the ones we ultimately made.

But knowing where you want to be is just a part of it. The other (and arguably larger) part of it is knowing who you are and what you have in your armoury that’s going to help you get there. And that’s where your ‘personal brand‘ comes in.

According to Jeff Bezos, Founder of Amazon – “Your brand is what people say about you when you are not in the room”. It’s basically the perception others have of you taken from all of their interactions with you. So it’s a combination of the way you dress, the way you talk, your body language, your hobbies & interests, your areas of expertise etc. etc., the list goes on.

A great example of what happens when the perception people have of you is totally different from the one you want to portray is what happened with myself and my careers advisor. I thought people knew that I had a serious side, that I wanted to go far in life, that underneath the façade of the mouthy teenager was actually someone who was pretty bright and wanted to grab life with both hands.

But how could they know? Everything about me told them something completely different.

I was actually a little hurt by the fact that I was only seen as someone who could work behind a till for most of their life but in actual fact she did me a big favour. She made me realise that I needed to sort my act out and show people the real me if I wanted to be taken seriously. So I did. And the rest, as they say, is history.

Which brings me back to my session with those teenage girls. To get them thinking about the impressions they were leaving with people, I shared with them the 4 stages of personal branding :-

1. Discover. Think about your favourite activities, your personality attributes (according to your friends family not yourself!), favourite subjects, ideal job, competition (eg. Who else is going for those jobs? How can I differentiate myself?)
2. Create. Who is your target audience? What would appeal to them? What does your body language say about you? What is your unique style?
3. Develop. What is important to you? What are your life goals? What are your values? What do you want people to be saying about you?
4. Plan. What will you do in the next 7 days? 6 months? 12 months? 5 years? Make a vision board so you are reminded every day what you want out of life.

This isn’t rocket science. A lot of it is about making the time to actually stop and think about where you are going, as opposed to finding yourself on a path that you didn’t know you had even taken.

So, when you have a moment, think about my top 8 tips for successful personal branding :-

1. Be authentic, don’t fake it
2. First impressions count – make it positive
3. Actions speak louder than words
4. Say it like you mean it
5. Dress for success
6. Be the networker, show interest
7. Have a clear and unique message
8. Be consistent
And most of all, enjoy being you. Because you are truly unique!

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