Digital disruption doesn’t just apply to companies. It applies to you.  The world has changed. It’s not about Discover me, it’s about Brand Me. Everyone needs a personal digital strategy – Baby Boomers, Gen X and Gen Y. Everyone has to evolve their work identity: How you see, how you are seen and how you project yourself;

It’s time to be the CEO of your own career, at whatever point you are in it.

This was the main message I captured this week when I attended the annual lecture organised by de Groots delivered by Prof Peter Little, AM, Deputy Vice Chancellor of Queensland University of Technology.

I was reminded, yet again, of three things that any professional/creative person should live by every day.

  1. Turn up
  2. Live with an open mind
  3. Invest in yourself.

1. Turn up.

We’ve all accepted invitations to attend events, lectures, seminars or briefings because they look interesting. Yet, when the day comes we become ambivalent, indecisive . . . or we’re just tired. We’ve had a stressful day, busy week . . .whatever, so we don’t turn up.

We justify this to ourselves on the basis that ‘well there are always no-shows so they won’t miss me’, ‘there’s something more important on’, ‘I’m tired’.

On Thursday last week this was where I was at. A busy week, I was tired and wanted to go home. However, I didn’t. I am old school. You accept an invitation you attend unless there is a specific event that really means you can’t and then you call and let the host know.

I arrived early and was soon engaged in conversation with the guest speaker and hosts, neither of whom I had met before. I was energised and engaged with them and learnt something about them… not their businesses, them. There were ideas and thoughts that we connected on. They were interesting, engaging and I was energised.

The hosts had published a book, Social Media is not enough to maximise your marketability, written by Mark Vincent and Margot de Groot, and were to have some new ideas around marketing it. I provided some tips and ideas and offered to help. We’re catching up in the next couple of weeks. I have the knowledge to help them, a genuine interest in their challenge and it was an area that I can help them with.

2. Live with and open mind

The lecture titled Beat the Disrupters, Everyday steps to build powerful brands and networks was presented by Prof Peter Little, someone I had not heard of before but clearly someone who I should have been aware of. That said, you can’t cover everything.

His presentation was thoughtful provocative, relevant and direct. Not a slide, PowerPoint, any point visual display in sight, only a short video of Lady Gaga and Tony Bennett singing a duet, The Lady is a Tramp to illustrate how ‘the best in the business’ are constantly reinventing themselves, reinterpreting the space they capture and creating new, dynamic partnerships.

Peter’s insights, thoughtfulness and observations had the audience of 200 legal and accounting professionals (yours truly aside) captivated.

He captured me with his opening comment about the conservative nature of boards. He said he often thinks/asks directors…’have you brought your own inertia to the table.’

His half-hour conversation (it wasn’t a lecture) was focused directly on the topic. You’d be surprised how many presentations don’t do this. They veer off into a rambling presentation about what the person delivering it is interested in, often with very little relevance to the audience. Not Peter Little. He was relentlessly focused on the topic and laser-like in how this was critically important to the audience. I am sure it made more than a few of them uncomfortable. After all, you couldn’t get a more conservative group of people than lawyers and accountants.

I attended not knowing what to expect and got way more than I thought I would. I had what I’d describe as a half-open mind. I was half-expecting to attend another standard corporate event and not get much out of it. Maybe meet a few people, listen to an average presentation and go home. The other half of me, the optimist that I am, turns up and ALWAYS finds someone interesting.

Having turned-up with a half-open mind I was soon totally engaged with my mind fully switched-on.

3. Invest in yourself

Prof Little’s core messages resonated with me. I am a 50+ ‘creative’ who has built a traditional corporate book publishing business that got overtaken by the GFC and digital, then morphed (over 4 years). I have just launched my first an online business, business book writing and publication program The Book Adviser. I related to many of his insights and messages. Here they are in summary . . . and they apply to Gen X, Gen Y and Baby Boomers.

  1. Be the CEO of your own career, at whatever point you are in it, in other words take responsibility and take action;
  2. The world has changed. It’s not about Discover me, it’s about Brand Me;
  3. Everyone needs a personal digital strategy, and he means everyone – Baby Boomers, Gen X and Gen Y;
  4. Everyone has to evolve their work identity: How you see, how you are seen and how you project yourself;
  5. Average is over;
  6. Personal interactions are still critical;
  7. People do business with people. You need to have and show empathy, thought leadership and be an effective communicator/storyteller, but
  8. Your digital presence is part of your recognition as a thought leader and influencer.

The well-used quote ‘timing is everything’ is true. If you explore this in any depth though, either from a personal development, career progression or business development/growth perspective, it’s really about getting various time-lines aligned. Getting this alignment does not happen by chance. It happens because individuals make it happen. They become the CEOs of their own futures and the Brand me approach is now critical to stand above the crowd.

Too many senior executives, professionals and consultants are comfortable, waiting to be discovered. Cathy Benko, Vice Chairman and Managing Principal at Deloitte in the Harvard Business Review notes that the world of work, is changing quickly and precipitously. ‘One estimate has it that 60% of the new jobs created this century will require skills now possessed by a mere 20% of workers today. This means that whatever your specialty, it’s at risk of soon becoming outdated if not completely obsolesced. That’s quite a moving target when you’re looking to develop your career, self-actualize, and maximize the return on your career investment.’

Guess what? If you’re not the CEO of your own future, and this means taking responsibility and action in relation to your personal brand you won’t have the future you thought . . . that future is already being disrupted.

As Luke Sayers, boss at PwC comments, leaders in their field claim a premium in the market. They open doors and attract like-minded talent. ‘Personal brand and differentiation from a market perspective” is the single most important message for young partners’ Deloitte went so far as to make “Aim to be Famous” one of its seven cultural signals.

Sharing stories and knowledge is the key to your future

Those who can create, find, and share knowledge and present it in a compelling way will build followings, to their outsize advantage.

All things being equal, people with powerful personal brands have a leg up on getting jobs and being promoted to leadership within them. And personal brands are built on, among other things, capturing and sharing knowledge, sharing great stories.

Additionally, the Internet means that like it or not we’re all competing for jobs in a global labor market, and millions of us will soon be freelancers. Whether employed or freelance or not, the best way to get the attention of and be memorable to the people who pay us (clients, bosses, donors) is to share your knowledge and tell true stories in exciting ways.

Stories make presentations better. Stories make ideas, your ideas, stick. Stories help us persuade. Savvy executives and leaders tell stories to inspire us, motivate us. Stories can help us build businesses and independent careers.

Create your own business book– the ultimate personal brand calling card

And, the best way by far, even more so now, is to present your story, your knowledge in a book. A business book – your business book – showcases your knowledge, insights and expertise. It’s tangible, credible and authoritative.

Your business book is the ultimate personal brand calling card. Your life and career are your story after all, capture and share it.

With thanks to: Margot de Groot and Mark Vincent – for a timely reminder and Prof Peter Little-for inspiration and insight.