The Power of an Expert Personal Brand…

What I’m going to tell you about in this episode, so dramatically accelerated my career that I want to spend the second half of it teaching others how to get the same benefit that I did. That topic is the power of an expert personal brand and the impact that that can have on your career…

My story in this case started out in 2006…

I had just moved to Microsoft after about eight years at some other technology and consulting companies, and I was looking for a way to really accelerate my career – make a name for myself, get known inside of the consulting organization within Microsoft that I had just joined. Now at this time, there was a pretty big shift in the industry where this new technology called “virtualization”. It was really starting to have a big impact in the world of it.

And so I made a decision that said, I am going to focus and I’m going to become known as one of the top experts in Microsoft on this technology. I decided right then and there that building a personal brand or building awareness of that expertise was going to be key to accelerate in my career.

In this episode, I’m going to tell you exactly how I did that and how you can too…

Just like any good architect or consultant or a technical professional, the thing you want to think about before you really embark on any path is what your strategy is. What are the outcomes that you’re going for? What are some of the requirements that you’re looking at?

In this episode, I'm going to show you the power of an expert personal brand. I've spent the last 20 years as a top performer in some of the largest technology and consulting companies in the world. Now I'm helping technical professionals like you dramatically accelerate your career by cultivating expert personal brand and building a business around your expertise. The real question is this, how can we pull forward with raises and promotions, or build six, seven, or even eight figure expert businesses without spending all our money or becoming a stranger to our families? This show is here to give you the answers. Join me on this journey and learn how to start, build, and scale your expert brand and business. My name is David Ziembicki. Welcome to the Build Your Expert Business Show.

Hey everybody, Dave Ziembicki here from the expert business agency. What I'm going to tell you about in this episode, so dramatically accelerate in my career, and I want to spend the second half of my career teaching others how to get the same benefit that I did and that topic is the power of an expert personal brand and the impact that that can have on your career. My story in this case started out in about 2006 I had just moved to Microsoft after about eight years at some other, you know, technology and consulting companies and I was looking for a way to really accelerate my career, make a name for myself, get known inside of the consulting organization within Microsoft that I had just joined. Now at this time, there was a pretty big shift in the industry where this new technology called virtualization was really starting to have a big impact in the world of it.

And so I made a decision that said, I am going to focus and I'm going to become known as one of the top experts in Microsoft on this technology. And I decided right then and there that building a personal brand or building awareness of that expertise was going to be key to accelerate in my career. And in this episode, I'm gonna tell you exactly how I did that and how you can too. So just like any good architect or consultant or a technical professional, the thing you want to think about before you really embark on any path is what your strategy is. What are the outcomes that you're going for? What are some of the requirements that you're looking at? So when I took a step back and I said, okay, well what does it mean to become known within Microsoft as an expert in this technology or known within the industry?

And I pretty quickly realized that it was going to require not only just actually learning this new technology and being a true expert in it, but also figuring out ways to make sure that people knew that I was an expert in this thing and in this technology space. And that's where this first real deep dive into personal branding that I'd ever done really came into play. So stepping back and looking at my strategy, I've really made a discovery there that had a pretty big impact on the rest of my career. And that was I needed to take two paths in parallel. I needed to build out my personal brand inside of Microsoft. And I also needed to build up awareness and a brand in the industry at large. Okay. Because if you're a true expert and you're just really known within the company that you work for, um, you're kind of invisible to the rest of the industry.

So, um, there's a lot of reasons why you want to have both of those things going at the same time. And so I came to call that an internal personal brand where all of the efforts and the things that you do inside of a company that you work for augmented by an external personal brand where you also start to do activities and provide value outside of your company and in the wider industry. And it was really the combination of those two things that really caused that acceleration in my career. And that is also something that we do for people that are clients and customers of ours. So as soon as I started thinking about these things and going down this line of, uh, you know, trying to build out my personal brand, I made a rookie mistake that almost everybody does when they start thinking about personal brands and what does that mean and what do I do?

And that meant I started talking about myself. I was, you know, promoting the things that I was doing. Or Hey, look at me, I just did this project. Or Hey, you know, look at what I accomplished over here. And that's the type of branding that technology professionals hate, right? We're not really self-promoters, we're not marketing and salespeople or anything like that, you know, but I thought, Oh, well how else is somebody gonna know I'm an expert unless I tell them, Hey, I just did this, this incredible project and you know, we pulled off all these, these crazy results. So again, I made another discovery at that point in time, which that was critical. And that was that the key to building a personal brand and becoming known as an expert is not promotion. It's all about providing, it's not about promoting yourself, it's about providing value to people that can help them and then position yourself as an expert if you're teaching, if you're providing value, if you're showing people how to do things, if you're doing demonstrations or tutorials or in any way helping other people that automatically positions you as an expert with that person because you both know more than they do about that topic and you're actually helping them, you're providing them value.

So luckily I'm figuring this lesson how pretty quickly. Um, and then from there that really set my strategy and my direction for both the internal personal branding and the external personal branding and it was all about providing value. So I'm going to give a couple examples of what that's like and how you can model that inside of your own career as well. So we're going to start first with your internal branding efforts for internal. What I'm assuming is you're actually working for a company, you're not an individual freelancer or something like that. In a second we'll talk about some scenarios that make sense for you. But if you're working inside of a company, large or small, internal personal branding is all about helping people as often as you can and then also doing it in a professional and consistent way. Okay. So a lot of people, when they think personal branding, all they think about is colors and logos and design elements and all that kind of stuff.

And that's important. And you want to get that stuff set up up front and get it done right and you got it done professionally. But after that it's all about the help and value that you provide. So when I started looking at what I was going to do for my internal personal brand, I decided that helping people on internal distribution lists and forums and collaboration channels inside of the, you know, the company that I was working for was the key way I was going to build up that brand and become known as an expert. So what that meant was anytime somebody asked a question internally about virtualization or data centers or all this, you know, technology background that I had, I was going to take the time on my own time. It's not something that we got paid for or you know, or, or, uh, bonused on or anything like that.

But I was gonna take an extra hour or two a day up to whatever it needed to make sure all of those questions were answered. If I knew the answers, I was going to answer it. If I didn't know the answer, I was going to go do some research for that person and find out and see if I could help them. Every single time I did that, I would do a professional response, well-written. I would proofread it right. Even though it's just an email reply on a, on a distribution list. And I would put in my personalized email signature, you know, my name and my title and my position, but in the areas that I focus on. So every single time I would reply, people would know, Hey, this is going to be well thought out. Okay, Dave writes long emails. Why? Because he's answering the question.

He's given the background, he's backing it up, he's showing examples. So you know, within a couple of months of doing that consistently every day I became known as, you know, the answer guy on these distribution lists. And by the end of the given year I might've answered a couple of hundred questions, you know, probably spent, you know, a hundred, 200 hours, uh, which is a substantial amount of time helping people out. But that very quickly built up my internal brand inside of the company that I was working for. In this case that was Microsoft. So really large pool of technical experts. So standing out there is pretty difficult, but that is one way to do that. And obviously that can lead to a lot of different opportunities after that, when it came time for, Hey, who gets the interesting and challenging projects or who gets assigned to these, you know, special internal initiatives, my name was front of mind in those areas because everybody in the, uh, you know, in the organization had seen me consistently providing that value.

So the thing here is this is something easily done just with commitment, right? So if you have that commitment where you're going to go learn it and you're going to answer it, you can do that inside of almost any company that you work for. Now, I mentioned if you're a freelancer or an independent and you're not inside of a company, be exact same things can happen inside of technical communities in places like LinkedIn or Facebook or Reddit or all the other areas where people within your realm hangout. So you can do the exact same things in there, be known as the person that freely gives value and expertise, and that's gonna automatically start positioning you as an expert and then building up your personal brand in that space. So again, in parallel to the internal personal branding efforts, the other thing I did back in 2006 in 2007 and beyond was to start looking at that external personal brand.

So at that time, blogging really had another kind of leg of popularity. At the time, Twitter was really starting to become popular among, you know, technology professionals and things like that as well. So I really didn't know much about that space at all, but I knew I needed to have some presence out there and I just started experimenting. So what I did first was set up initially a blog on Microsoft properties. So at that time anybody in the company could create a blog and it was, you know, your posts would get some promotion because it was coming from Microsoft and so forth. So initially I started building a blog there. I also got on Twitter and was, you know, doing a lot of stuff there, talking about virtualization and some of these technology things at the time. And again, trying to do the same thing externally as I was doing internally, answering questions, you know, curate resources and, and help people out a little bit.

And pretty soon I realized though that generally it didn't make sense to build that external personal brand on, you know, a Microsoft property. I started to realize while I intend to be there for a long time and here I am 14 years later still working there and happy with the job there. I just realized that I wanted to build that external brand as an asset independent of who and where I was working for for a bunch of different reasons. We've talked about in different episodes to get some diversification, to also have some other, you know, options just in case disaster struck and got laid off or fired or something like that. Um, so there were a lot of different reasons to make the external be independent from the internal, even though there was a lot of overlap and um, you know, uh, benefits to doing both of those.

So while at the time blogging and Twitter and a few other channels there were popular today, this could obviously still be the same things as could be LinkedIn, it could be Facebook, various other technical communities that are out there. It's really about finding out where are the people that you, that have an influencer will have an impact on your career. Where do they hang out? Where do you want to build up that personal brand? So it could be inside of these technology or professional focus groups could be in different areas, wherever that may be for the audience that you're trying to position yourself. And that's what you want to think about focusing on. Now, once you've decided on those locations, you know, what do you do in these areas? And again, like I said earlier, it's not about self promotion, it's about providing value. So what you want to take a look at is, okay, in that audience, what type of value can you provide in the technology space, there's tons of opportunity around teaching people things, doing demonstrations, tutorials.

I'm writing white papers, writing blog posts, explaining how a concept works, taking something that works maybe in one industry and showing how it can work in another. Right? So like in my background with, you know, with virtualization and in cloud computing, you know, there's infinite possibilities there for showing. How does this work specifically in a certain industry? What's the same? What's different? Right? So again, it's really think about it from your audience's point of view and what will help them. One thing I talk about a lot is that everybody has what I call an automatic audience and what that audience is is the people in the exact same career path as you that are three or more years behind you. So what I mean by that is if you're in like let's say the fifth year of your career, you know, you're already starting to hit your stride, right?

You've learned you'd got out of college, you're in your career, maybe you've done a bunch of projects or had a couple of assignments so far you've learned a lot of lessons on what it's like to work inside of that particular career path. Your automatic audience is the people just getting out of college or the people that just started their job yesterday. If you're further into your career like I am now, you know, kind of a senior resource move to the top of the pyramid is an individual contributor. Then moved into the management track. I have an automatic audience of the people that are just below, you know, let's say that senior individual contributor that are wondering, okay, what does it take to get to that, that top level, what does it take to transition into management if that's what you'd want to do. And I can do a ton of content on my experiences and what I've learned, you know, going through that process.

So again, there's a lot of different places where you can provide that value. That again, builds up your expertise in there. But just remember, if you're not quite sure what that might be, think about your automatic audience to doing the same thing as you that are just a little bit more junior than you that you might be able to help out. That's a great way to start building that external or internal personal brand is helping out those type of people. So we've talked about some of the more entry level or easier ways to provide value, answering people's questions, writing those blog posts or doing demos and tutorials. Basically it's a content type of strategy, publishing things that help other people. The next thing you can do that goes even deeper that then builds even more influence with folks is actually giving one on one assistance, being a mentor for people, you know, doing some larger things like, you know, consulting for folks.

Okay. So that's something I've done a lot of and I have a lot of peers that do as well. A lot of mentoring of other resources. Yeah. As an example, maybe when you are answering somebody's email in a distribution list or on a, on a, you know, LinkedIn group somewhere, something like that. Maybe they say, Hey, I'm still a little bit confused. Is there anybody, you know, you get some more information on that offer to call me and say, yeah man, let's, let's hop on a call. Let's do a video conference or something like that. Get that one on one interaction. That's a way to help people out that it doesn't scale, but the impact and the influence of that are huge because of the, you know, the value that that's providing to somebody. So remember the influence and the expertise that you generate is kind of proportional to how much value you're providing to somebody else.

And just because it doesn't scale, it doesn't mean you shouldn't do it because those people then are going to become really big fans of you and they're going to promote you throughout their own network. Like, Hey, Joe really helped me out. He took an hour out of his day even though we already worked 80 hours that week and he really helped me get over some kind of technical issue, you know, just as one example. Okay, so don't get down on something even if you don't think it can scale, because remember, it's going to be a proportional to how much value you provide. So you know what I guide people on and and what we coach is to do all of those aspects. A baseline level of scalable things like creating content, answering questions and things like that. Answer once lots of people see it, those are great.

But we also say balance that with the deeper one-on-one interactions with people as well because that's going to build that network of people that are really become your super fans because of how much you know value and information and help that you've provided them. So again, as I like to say, the key here to expert personal branding is that it's all about providing, instead of promoting, if it feels like you're talking too much about yourself, then that's where you want to take a step back for a minute. So even in the course of this episode, I've used a lot of personal examples. You know, normally I wouldn't be all about, Oh look at all these different things that I did. I'm putting that in there just so you can show what this looks like in action in real life in the a, you know, a case that has turned out successfully.

Okay. When you look at my content, a lot of it is trying to help you get from point a to point B, learn a particular topic, provide that type of value there. So it's okay to use personal examples. It's just not necessarily, you don't want to be in people's face of look how great I am. It's more like, yeah, Hey, I was the ranger. Right? Or I was the trailblazer and here's what I learned. Okay. It's not about, Hey look at how awesome I am. It's more about, Hey, here's what I learned and here's how you could get to the same place faster. Okay? That's the between self promotion and providing value. When you're self promoting, you're actually trying to separate yourself from everybody else and say, look how great I am when you're providing value. It's like, no, Hey I was able to figure this out and here's a shortcut you can take to get there.

That's where you know, using personal examples and things like that is perfectly fine. It's just all about how you present them and package those up. So after you do a lot of these techniques and you're building that internal and external personal brand consistently over you know, months or, or a year or two, well you'll usually start to find is opportunities start coming in because you are the one that's out there. When somebody thinks about, Oh a I have a new speaking opportunity or you know, I have had publishers reach out to me because it's like, well, Hey, we've seen you all over the place and we know you know your stuff on virtualization. Hey, ever thought about writing a book on that. Right? So the opportunities start coming to you when you do this type of branding effort consistently and right. So again, for me it did lead to, you know, I got some book opportunities that came in.

So I was able to publish a couple of books related to virtualization. Some big things internally was when we started thinking about building new services and new offerings and new ways of, you know, going to our customer and delivering services. I was asked to help, you know, lead some of those efforts. Those are things that really led to the massive career impact because we were doing work on things that led to tens and eventually hundreds of millions of dollars worth of services business to the, you know, to the part of the organization that I was working on. So in addition to just being known as kind of a technical expert or guru, it was also starting to lead to things that were really having a material impact on the overall success of the business. And that's when your expertise starts getting noticed by people beyond just your technical peers, right?

It could be business leaders and VPs and executives within your organization, and then that's a whole different level. Once you have that type of awareness, because imagine when you go up for a promotion or a bonus or a raise or something like that. If the only person that knows you is peers or maybe your direct manager, not very likely that you're going to get a the high end rewards there. But if every person in the leadership chain all the way up to you know, your VP or whatever you know is toward the top of your org structure is if they know your name and the first thing that pops into their mind is that person's competent, they're an expert. I know they've had good results, then your chances of accelerating that promotion or that raise or that bonus are that much better. And that's really where the ROI of this whole branding topic starts to come in is you know, opening up those doors and then accelerating some of those career milestones.

And again, you know, last a personal example here is for me during that five years, six year period where virtualization was like the hottest technology being known as somebody on the forefront of that wave led to multiple promotions, multiple, you know, substantial raises and all of that kind of stuff. So again, the idea of this whole episode is not a lot of self promotion, it's just to show you there are ways to get there faster. Okay. So if you think about the things that I've talked about so far in this episode, building up that internal brand by helping people, building up that external brand by publishing content and being consistent about it, and then offering up your one-on-one help freely and a, you know, as often you can. Those are the things that start opening those doors and the difference between people that do that and the people that just kind of do normal day to day.

You know, heads down, I work on my project is huge. A lot of times I mentor people and they asked me, it's like, well how do the people that really have accelerated fast, how do they, how did they get there and what did they do different? Are they smarter than me or they, you know, do they work 150 hours a week, you know, and all this kind of stuff a week. And the answer is no. Usually the difference is in addition to great work and being an expert, they also did this type of branding activity, especially the providing value part and that was the key differentiator. Okay. That's what I want to try and get across. It's usually not that those people are that much smarter or they're an even bigger technical Guber or any of that kind of stuff is that they did both things in parallel.

They probably took time out of their own schedule to go the extra mile to write in, publish the blog post, you know, on a Saturday when, you know, maybe they would've, you know, necessarily wanted to do something else. But they do it, they do it consistently. And that's what leads to the longterm results. So again, that's why we're laying this out in this episode is this is the way to accelerate the career growth. So if you've sat there and thought about, well, why am I not getting promoted? Why am I not advancing? Why does nobody know about what I'm doing? Or, you know, seem to care? These are the reasons and the ways that you can help fix that situation and then start accelerating that career path. So that is the power of an expert personal brand. It's the power to really dramatically accelerate the path and the direction of your career.

So the most important thing that you can do is start building your expert personal brand. Now, if you already have some elements in place, maybe you have a blog, maybe you do a little bit of professional, you know, social media posting, you know about your profession. That's great. You know, if you already have some of those elements, good finish out the rest. Okay. When we talk about a robust expert personal brand, there's a bunch of different elements in there. Okay. So there are things like a blog, a podcast, a YouTube channel, you know, that you could create. There's all the different social media channels, you know, activity on LinkedIn, you know, Facebook pages and groups, you know, Instagram and things like that. Thinking about all those social networks and how you could present yourself on them as a professional on that side of things, that's something that not a lot of people do or not a lot of people do across all of those channels.

So there's always more that you can do to set up that foundation. And then once you have those foundational elements and those channels in place, it's all about being consistent, figuring out the type of value that you can provide your audience. And then doing that day in, day out and you know with daily, weekly and monthly activities in there. So if you want to learn more about building an expert personal brand, if you want to learn how you can actually share the marketing and technical team that I use to run my personal brand, then I would like to help you show you how you can build your own world class expert personal brand. So I want you to head over to expert brand for a free video that outlines our whole system. So we've got a nine step system that takes you from nothing if that's where your ad all the way up to a robust world-class personal brand and we provide end to end support for doing that.

Okay. Everything I've talked about here, it takes time, takes effort. If you've got a really busy and high profile day job, you may not have, you know, the 20 or 30 extra hours to do everything that I've talked about here. But here's the secret. You don't have to, okay? Providing value is something that you would do as an expert, but all the other stuff, technical, set up, editing content and posting stuff, you know, comments, managing the whole end to end cycle, all of that stuff can be outsourced. That's what my agency does. So if you want to find out more about that, again, I've got that free training video [email protected] So I'd encourage you to head over there, check it out and see what the art of the possible is. And then, um, I appreciate you taking the time today. If you want to learn more about how you can share my team of technology and marketing folks to help you build your expert personal brand and run it on a day to day, week to week basis, head over to expert brand for a free training video that I have over there that shows your entire system, the end to end services that we provide and how you can leverage those to go from zero to your own expert personal brand in as little as eight weeks.

So I hope you check out that training. I'm sure you'll find it valuable and I look forward to talking with you in a future episode.

Success requires taking action and definitive steps toward your goals every day. This is the difference between success and failure. I challenge you to take action today on the things you learned in this episode and join us on the path to success.

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