Updated: May 24, 2022
How to (re)frame your story for career opportunities
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Although the topic of personal branding is a popular one, most of us are not sure how to begin. It doesn't matter how fuzzy the topic is, a compelling personal brand works like magic. It is an excellent tool for boosting your career, getting noticed, and finding opportunities. It is extremely beneficial to leverage online tools such as LinkedIn as it opens doors beyond our immediate surroundings.
It is important to pause and ask why personal branding for Product Managers matters. I have seen several talented Product Managers experience a stall in their careers and at other times spin their wheels to eventually burnout. While honing on the craft of product management is important, it is also key to invest in building your brand or reputation and how people perceive you.
The core of personal branding is learning how to position, market, and advocate for yourself. This is especially true for those considering a career in product roles or those already working in product roles because you need to differentiate yourself in a very competitive environment. Storytelling is one of the most important skills a Product Manager can possess, yet many struggle to tell their own stories. This is where personal branding comes in.
“Your brand is what people say about you when you are not in the room.” - Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon
Personal branding is not:
Let us start with what personal branding is not:
Gaining more followers or likes
Copying someone else's stories
Running LinkedIn polls
"Authenticity is about being true to who you are, even when everyone around you wants you to be someone else." - Michael Jordan
What is personal branding?
A good way to think about your personal brand is to market and advocate for yourself so your target audience knows about you. beyond the day-to-day. Your target audience could include recruiters, hiring managers, peers, and leaders both within and outside your company. Here are four principles for effective personal branding:
1. Find your unique voice and story
A product professional must reflect and tell their own story. It might be hard to look beyond the skills or experiences that you might not have. The key here is to find the leverage from your past experiences and link them with your future goals. Find things that differentiate you from your peers or competition. e.g. Fellows in PMDojo often find companies reaching out to them because of the unique real-world experiences, skills and perspectives they gain that sets them apart every single time.
2. Be genuine and authentic
Authenticity means contributing to areas you are passionate about whether it's writing about something or engaging with someone else's content. Engaging goes beyond linking to a post. It is a common misconception that building a brand means announcing a job change or career change. In PMDojo, we talk about being genuine and sharing your knowledge; not in the hope of becoming famous, but to solidify your own understanding. When you write, share, and discuss topics that you are passionate about, those words can inspire and reach a lot of people.
3. Raise your visibility
Being visible lets you remain top-of-mind in people's minds. Here are a few simple tips to build your own visibility:
Advocate for yourself without losing your humility
Host a lunch and learn about a topic you are passionate about lunch and learns about a topic you are passionate about
Write about what you know
Share relevant views on LinkedIn and Twitter
Take on high-profile internal projects at work
4. Be intentional
Putting more thought into the "why" behind your career interests. You will most likely be asked why you are interested in moving into a product role. Take some time to prepare an answer that is memorable. Do not think about pivoting into a product because others are doing it. Following are some simple ideas to help you frame your "Why" in a meaningful way:
Reflect upon your goals, dreams and aspirations
Make journaling a habit of writing down your "why"
Build your skills inventory and evaluate gaps to achieve your goals
Keep learning new skills to fill the gaps
Keep sharing what you learn
in your brag document. Advocate for yourself with humility
Perfect your new introduction. Practice and perfect to reflect the new you and your new role
Why does writing and sharing help?
You can certainly journal your learnings and keep them to yourself. If you don't share it with others, then no one will know what you have to say. Among the many benefits of writing are:
Builds self-awareness and a growth mindset
Strengthens your learning
Sharing your thought process with your peers, mentors, and potential employers'
Builds your reputation as a product manager
Shows your network that you are growing and learning
Why does your perspective matter?
Each of us has a unique story and this unique perspective needs to be shared.
"There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you." - Maya Angelou
Even though our background might feel unconventional, we remind ourselves in PMDojo how our unconventional path might be our biggest leverage if used well. We work on this a lot with our Fellows in PMDojo Product Accelerator.
The paradox of Imposter Syndrome?
It's no secret that most of us (aka mortals) struggle with the feeling of self-doubt that stifles our ability to build our own personal brand. You might find yourself asking "What could probably share with people?"
This is why Adam Grant speaks of the paradox of Imposter Syndrome. He says, "Others believe in you -You don't believe in yourself -Yet you believe yourself instead of them If you doubt yourself, shouldn't you also doubt your judgment of yourself? When multiple people believe in you, it might be time to believe them."
Source: Adam Grant's post on Twitter (workchronicles.com)
Popularity is not the same as your personal brand. Think of your legacy or what would you like to be known as amongst your peers, recruiters, managers and so on to increase your circle of influence gradually.
"Think of what would it do if you could inspire one person who might be just one step behind you." - Bosky Mukherjee, Founder, PMDojo
Reframe Personal Brand like a Product Manager?
One of the best things you can do is to reframe your career and personal brand as products. Below are some ideas to build your personal brand as a Product Manager:
1. Identify your target customer: Would these be Recruiters, hiring managers, and peers who want to support and champion you?
2. Customer problem/pain points: Think hard about the pain points of your target customer from step 1 above. Typically, companies need to find good talent. Just like you might be finding it hard to make your transition into product, companies find it extremely hard to hire and retain good product talent at all levels. Yes, this is true... Since they need to find talent, they need a quick snapshot of you as a candidate.
3. Find your minimum viable message (MVM): Reflect and find the smallest message that you can share. This can take the form of a post, an article or some visuals that helps you share your point of view.
4. Take Action: Thinking alone about your personal brand is meaningless. Develop your it and share it. Engage on social platforms. Seek feedback and think of ways of getting better.
5. Rinse and repeat: Make small improvements and repeat
How to get started?
Getting started is always the hardest part. We find these 3 ways to get started with online personal branding super helpful:
1. Make space for yourself:
Give yourself time and space for self-reflection
Pick the same time every day to write and share
2. Set goals:
Start small or big: but do it your way
Think about whether you want to write one long post a week or 2-3 short ones. If you write a long post, make sure you also add a TL;DR version
3. Start Now:
Use your voice. It matters, we need more diverse perspectives in tech and in product
Think about how might you reframe and repackage your prior experience. Why? simply because we cannot change our past
Think about what are some things you are reading about that you found extremely insightful? Share that.
Think about what might be a new skill you are learning about that you might want to share?
See what feels natural to you once you start posting
Build on your posts from week to week to create excitement
Know that not all of your posts will do well; it is OK
Some best practices that have helped PMDojo fellows:
Cross-post to other platforms
Tag other people in posts or comments
Add relevant hashtags to your posts
Share others’ content and give your perspective
Do not stop because you found your dream role. Taking a pause from time to time is totally fine. Our mental health is important!!!
The PMDojo community has seen many magical moments with our Fellows building and owning their personal brands. However, you should ensure that you substantiate any skill or experience gaps when building your personal brand. You want your personal brand to count and not be regarded as "snake oil", which lacks credibility in the market.
If you or someone you know wants to learn this while you gain real-world product experience in an immersive way, join PMDojo or feel free to share this with them. Kickstart your career while also knowing that you are changing lives and making an impact in the world. 🔥
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