Do you have time for a coffee?
I receive at least half dozen emails like this each month. The sender is often a senior executive who has been introduced to me by someone who is trying to help them. They are educated, credentialed, experienced and looking for their next job. Many are trying to build networks that they either never developed or let lapse.
There was a great article in the Globe this week; "Why is your resume extinct and how to fix it." It got me thinking about the issue of relevance and personal brand and how they tie to networking and these executives' searches. I am often surprised by how many of the people I meet with don't have a specialty or don't express it succinctly. Many of them have risen progressively throughout their career within their field of expertise but often have switched industries, so their networks are stale, except perhaps in their most recent industry sector. Their personal brand is muddled and often comes across as: "smart person, done lots of things, can help your company". Unfortunately, this is not what gets you a job in today's market, especially when there are so many talented senior people available.
Like the article suggests, I had to go through a personal branding exercise for myself and The Meaford Group. Unfortunately, I did it a couple of years after the company launched instead of before launching, because I too believed that there was a market for smart, broadly experienced executives who had done a lot of things in their career and could help clients with a broad range of services. I found out the hard way that there is a market but branding yourself this way doesn't lead to it.
Today, I brand myself as a Go-to-Market strategy and execution specialist for technology, professional services and software companies. I know that I can go nose-to-nose with the best in this specific niche and blow their socks off. That said, it does not stop my clients, especially once the relationship is established, from asking me to participate in other parts of their business such as talent strategy, leadership development, raising funds, and so on. Clients also introduce me to their peers for opportunities outside of my branded specialty because they know that I can do it.
I also present a specialized (not unique, but rarer than normal) Point of View (POV). I am a "big company" guy – 17 years at IBM followed by 10 years at PeopleSoft while it grew from a $250M to $3B company. Fortunately, I was an "intrapreneur" and change manager within those big companies, building and doubling five, ten and twenty million dollar business units. As an independent consultant, my last six years have been spent in the Start-up World, yet I have never started a company (other than The Meaford Group, which doesn't count) and likely never will. I am not a serial entrepreneur. It is just not in my blood. What I am is an advisor that can coach an entrepreneur through that start-up phase in order to become a big company. I know how to build organizations and processes in order to scale with growth; what represents "A" level talent; how to make the trade-offs between "critical" and "good enough for now"; and other factors key to a start-ups' growth.
So I hope you don't think this article is about me. I am just a case study of someone who lucked into having an effective personal brand and POV.
My advice is that if you are senior executive who is looking for your next gig, think now about your personal brand and unique point of view. More importantly, if you are earlier in your career, start now to figure out how you build those specialties and experiences that are going to give you a personal brand and unique point of view.