As a child, we’re all taught about the value of hard work. “Work hard,” our parents and teachers said, “and all doors will open for you.”
That’s only partially true.
Here’s the part they don’t tell you: hard work only gets you so far. At a certain level (let’s call it the “senior management” level) EVERYONE works hard. Everyone possesses a certain baseline degree of competence. And if you continue to use “working hard” as your sole means of getting ahead in this group….you will STAGNATE in this group. You will plateau professionally.
I want to share 3 executive branding secrets that are designed to get you out of this trap, and playing the game the way the best of the best play it. If you’re serious about being seen as a credible candidate at the executive level, consider these MUST DOs:
Executive Branding Secret #1: Show, Don’t Tell
What’s a common piece of resume “wisdom”? If you want a VP of Marketing Communications role, study job postings and then echo the skills listed there within your resume.
Successful executives do the exact opposite.
You see, TELLING you that I’m an expert in CRM systems does very little on the impact front. But if I share a powerful story about how I built a CRM system from scratch and leveraged the insights to diversify the customer base and take engagement to a new level, then I’m not telling. I’m SHOWING. And the magic of this approach is that it enables the listener to tell THEMSELVES, “Wow, this person is a real expert in the CRM area.” And that’s infinitely more powerful.
Go through your Resume and LinkedIn Profile with a fine-toothed comb. Look at every passage that talks about your skills and see if you can replace it with a specific story instead. Here’s an example:
REPLACE “Expert in turnaround of software/hardware programs.” WITH
“Led strategic turnaround of $93M software/hardware development program, establishing new team priorities combined with new working and reporting practices. 2018 results include: $14.8M profit versus $9M target. Captured new orders with a total lifetime value of $28M.”
Executive Branding Secret #2: Talk to the Right Audience.
Forget about trying to win over low-level hiring managers and HR. The bulk of executive roles are filled by strategically networking with people who can either CREATE a role for you…or are at most 1 step away from the person who can. This means a completely different approach when it comes to presenting yourself.
-Identify your competition (precisely). If you’re looking for a Chief Commercial Officer role on the West Coast, begin by pulling up the profiles of people who currently have this job. What commonalities do you see? Chances are you can use key insights from their LinkedIn Headline, Summary Section and Featured Skills and Endorsements sections to better position your own. Just be sure that you can credibly defend everything you add in here.
-Use the 80/20 rule. When it comes to your Resume, LinkedIn profile and interview strategy, I would recommend spending 80% of your time highlighting your FIT for the role you’re after, and 20% of your time demonstrating UNIQUE VALUE and PERSPECTIVE. That second part is key: once your credibility for the role has been established, it’s unique value that will almost always rule the day. It’s also your most powerful defense against being commoditized in the face of stiff competition.
-Never outstay your welcome. If they want the full story behind how you accomplished something, they can pick up the phone and schedule a meeting. Share just enough details so that your major accomplishments make sense, and cut it at that. If you find yourself retreading the same ground, cut. If you’re struggling with old or non-relevant career history, cut or consolidate.
Executive Branding Secret #3: Stay Top-of-Mind.
It’s important to become known as a “go to” person in your area by those in your network. Get this right and you’ll find a steady stream of potential opportunities regularly landing in your lap which you did not have to go out and generate.
–LinkedIn Status Updates are one of the best ways to stay top-of-mind with your network. Every update is automatically shared with every one of your connections. Start small- say 3 posts per week- and then grow from there. You can automate this by using a service like Buffer or Hootsuite to load up your posts in advance. Share interesting content. Ask questions. Share an opinion. And keep track of what’s resonating with people, and what’s not. An executive with a voice is INFINITELY more powerful (and desirable) than one who is radio silent!
-Adding blog posts and short video clips to your LinkedIn Profile are both major credibility boosters. The best part is that they can be “evergreen”- center what you share around universal topics and they’ll continue to serve you well for months and years to come.