My Personal Brand Part III (Veterans transitioning; from a brand you are given to a Brand you will name)
To conclude my three-part series of “My Personal Brand”, let’s discuss how the dynamics of personal branding changes for U.S. Military Veterans – or at least from my experience. In the “civilian world”, when it comes to Branding, differentiation is critical. Without differentiation, your brand is weak and you are not much more than a commodity in your industry – just another number. In the military, differentiation is largely frowned upon. Members of the military are the epitome of conformity and uniformity. The only approved and sought after differentiation supported and condoned is that which is based on merit and performance. It is okay to stand out because your performance is above that of your peers. Beyond that – don’t try to be different.
To the public eye, a Marine, in or out of uniform is first and foremost a Marine. Your attributes, both good and bad are first accredited to the Marine Corps and THEN you are considered as a person. In the Corporate World, an employee’s attributes are accredited FIRST to his personal brand and THEN to his organization. This is a vital shift in perspective and dynamics that must be understood by Transitioning Veterans. A Veteran can no longer assume that being part of a successful organization will result in the assumption that he or she is successful as a person. Rather, an organization will look at your personal brand, and if your brand will contribute to the organization’s success. From that point forward, your actions will define a brand that is associated with you. Do you care about money? Do you care about philanthropy? Can you be trusted? Are you good at your job? Are you dependable? Anything you do will shape, mold and detail your brand both personally and professionally and you are the SOLE PROPRIETOR responsible for all operations, execution and public relations regarding “I Incorporated” branding.
Professionally, there are two major areas to develop in your brand: Skills and Traits. This is an idea I came up with while building the Veteran’s Recruiting Division (an architecture I will be using to help Veterans transition). Skills are those abilities that we can learn in class, through practice, and are taught – often in an academic environment. One can be taught out to add, type, send emails, develop databases, etc. There are MS Office skills, athletic skills, software development, writing code, completing a SWOT analysis, folding a t-shirt, etc. Traits cannot be taught in a classroom. Traits are embedded abilities, developed over time and speak to a person’s character. These are abilities that have to be ingrained trained over time and reinforced through habit and ultimately retained through confidence in their importance to the quality of one’s personal brand. To give a specific example, the Marine Corps has what they call “14 Leadership Traits”:
Having favorable strength in these areas is not something one can build in a classroom. Traits are force multipliers that vastly improve the efficacy of skill. The fiscal investment needed to build or develop traits like those listed is far more extensive than any certificate course. Traits are what Veterans bring to the table. Traits are what Veterans, and most Employers alike, don’t know how to translate in a resume. It is these traits that will be the guide for Veterans to build their personal brands upon. Understanding the traits and applying them accordingly is what will build the individual brands of Veterans. These traits are differentiators. These traits make skills much easier to acquire and to sharpen.
Skills may provide immediate benefit, and the first 90-days of a job opportunity, but TRAITS are what employers and organizations are truly betting on and will determine success beyond the short-term. Skills are also the medium in which traits are demonstrated. So it is also important for anyone who is trying to display or build their brand to understand, you may have to invest in your own ability to translate your value through appropriate skills.
Veterans – please remember: You went from being in a scenario where everything you did gave credit to a brand you were PART OF. Now you are in a scenario where everything you do DEFINES the brand which YOU are. Also, trust that the contributions you made to your Service Brand have developed the traits that now define YOUR brand.