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Why Professional Development Is Key to Your Success

Focusing on improving your individual skills is essential to moving forward in your career. Although some people don’t push for it as much as others, that doesn’t mean it isn’t important. If you’re someone who’s on the fence about it for yourself, then you’ve come to the right place.

You won’t get very far doing what you’ve always done. You and your company will suffer from you not advancing your skills. It’s worth setting aside extra time to work on yourself and improve your foundation. There’s never a downside to increasing your knowledgebase. See why professional development is key to your success.

Knowledge & Education

For starters, you’ll learn new knowledge when you participate in professional development courses and activities. You’re going to get smarter and that’s a positive outcome. You can use your new knowledge and apply it to your career and personal life. It’ll get you a leg up on your competition and chances are you’ll move quicker toward that next promotion. You aren’t going to get too far relying on the information you once brought to the table from college. Always be learning and growing if you want to thrive.

Confidence

Your confidence will grow the more you invest in yourself. You’ll have the self-assurance to suggest changes and updates at work without having the fear of being turned down. For example, if you believe your company’s in need of a more modern website to sell your products, you’ll do the research and suggest a solid option like Eventige to help you out. You can express how the intuitive and simple design will guide customers to your products seamlessly. This confidence will stem from you taking your professional development opportunities seriously.

Challenges You

It’s healthy to be challenged once in a while. Being bored at work isn’t doing much for you and will only leave you feeling drained and tiresome. Participating in professional development activities puts your mind to the test and forces you out of your comfort zone. It’s also a great way to meet other people at face-to-face events and build relationships. Going through your same routine each day isn’t stretching you and helping to shape your full potential. There’s nothing wrong with feeling like you don’t know a subject matter well and having to ask questions to learn more.

People Skills

Professional development opportunities help you brush up on your people skills. This is great for anyone doing business with others or someone having to converse a lot with others in the office. It’s also good to be able to speak in front of groups and communicate your ideas clearly with people. Your reading, writing and socializing skills are ones that can always be improved upon, no matter who you are. It’ll bring you out of your shell and you’ll become less nervous as you practice.

Conclusion

Knowing it all isn’t anything to brag about. What’s worth boasting about is learning new information on a constant basis. This is why professional development is key to your success.

Ines Temple

Ten Serious Career Networking Myths & Mistakes

Human connection and communication make the world go ’round – especially in business and the corporate environment. It’s impossible to have a successful business and career without the help and support of your coworkers, clients and community. Networking is an essential activity but it must be done conscientiously and with skill in order to be effective. Unfortunately, all too often people make the mistake of thinking networking isn’t worth their while or even worse, network with only their own interests in mind. The following ten statements are some of the most common misconceptions about networking and why they are so damaging. Do any of these sound familiar?

  1. “I don’t like to make contacts.” Making contacts is “the conscious and voluntary activity of establishing and maintaining genuine and long-term relationships with persons who we appreciate and respect.” It’s a part of living and interacting within a community and we do it every day!
  2. “Contacts are useful only to find work.” It’s a fact that 9 out of 10 jobs are landed, whether directly or indirectly, through contacts. But networking is about making those relationships worthwhile, renewing the bond and mutually redefining our identity, image and reputation with each interaction!
  3. “I network only when it’s convenient for me.” This is tantamount to saying “I remember you only when I need you.” Networking solely for your own benefit is self-centered and may be even manipulative. It’s the perfect way to destroy a relationship. People can smell manipulation miles away!
  4. “I’m too busy.” Although nothing beats face-to-face interactions to build relationships of trust and affection, digital alternatives are an effective way to prevent us from vanishing from the face of the earth, a deadly sin in the professional world.
  5. “It distracts me from serious work.” Networking takes time and energy but it is key to employability: it is the “sales force” of our image and reputation. Without contacts, our accomplishments and progress remain unknown and our personal brand ends up being worthless.
  6. “I don’t like to go to social events.” The professional world also provides alternatives to interact with new and diverse people, and expand your thinking patterns. Hanging out with the same people every day shows disregard for others and we may end up left behind.
  7. “You didn’t hear this from me but…” Using the contact network to harm reputations or to gossip destroys our credibility and our own reputation as serious or loyal individuals, even if we only become involved by listening. Is it worth it? You never know when gossip will come back to haunt you.
  8. “I can only afford to build relationships with important contacts.” It’s a serious mistake to think that only high-level contacts are valuable and look down on others or be arrogant. All people are worthy regardless of what they work on. There’s no such thing as a small contact!
  9. “I have very few contacts.” As adults, we usually have 500 to 1,000 friends and acquaintances between school and college classmates, work colleagues and former colleagues, people we know from our club, gym, the neighborhood, church, from our business, and the relatives and acquaintances of all of the above. Suppliers and clients, former suppliers and clients. Parents of our children’s friends… Make your list and protect it – ideally, in the cloud.
  10. “I must impress my contacts.” The essence of every good relationship is trust, not impressing others. Acting appropriately, and being genuinely warm and authentic opens the doors to trust and credibility. Being polite to everyone and listening to them with a real interest benefits your personal and professional image and reputation. The secret is to inspire others and always leave something valuable for them in every interaction!

Networking isn’t so much about making as many connections as possible, it’s about strengthening the connections you have, ensuring they become more meaningful and authentic. When you ditch the myths and avoid the above networking mistakes, not only will the connections your forge flourish but so will your personal brand and your career.


About the Author

Ines TempleInternationally-regarded, award-winning career success pundit, consultant and speaker Ines Temple is President of LHH – DBM Peru and LHH Chile—companies that are leading career transition and executive coaching organizations in their respective countries. She is also Chairman of the Board of CARE Peru, a leading non-profit humanitarian organization fighting the injustice of poverty with a special focus on disadvantaged girls. Temple is also a speaker at conferences and universities around the world due to her keen perspectives and insights, also making her a valued media expert source. She may be reached online at www.InesTemple.com.

Karen Leland

6 Personal Branding Lessons Every Working Professional Can Learn from Trump and Clinton

Despite having the two highest unfavorable ratings of any major presidential candidates in history, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton have outlasted their competitors—and one of them is going to become the leader of the free world.

What does success in the face of such highly unfavorable ratings teach us about personal branding? And what can working professionals at every level learn from it?

6 Personal Branding Lessons Every Working Professional Can Learn from Trump and ClintonBelow is an examination of both candidates’ personal branding successes, challenges and resulting lessons for us all in six specific areas. The success of any brand — in business, politics or otherwise — boils down to how the brand performs across these six key dimensions. Each dimension, including exactly how each candidate fared therein as well as the correlated Personal Brand Takeaways, can help other enterprising professionals achieve in kind.

1. Develop Your Brand by Design, Not Default. Know precisely where you are so you can discern where you need to go.

Trump: The Donald has clearly defined himself as the billionaire Maverick, owing no one anything. Trump has carefully crafted his image as the anti-establishment candidate proudly going against the grain. As a general strategy, it has allowed him to get away with more than the typical business leader or politician normally would.

Clinton: Despite her best efforts to promote herself as “the qualified candidate,” many Americans have by default stamped Clinton with the brand of Matron—part of the old guard of Washington politics. Recently she has begun to pivot and is trying to find her way to a brand by design based on straight-talking thoughtfulness.

Personal Brand Takeaway: Every business person, from secretary to CEO, needs to start by assessing the personal brand they currently have and be truthful about the degree to which it exists by design—or default. Then they need to take stock of the impact that current brand is having. Is your brand producing the reputation you desire? Is it creating the environment and responses you are looking for? If not, a pivot to a more powerful personal brand may be needed.

The Brand Mapping Strategy: Design, Build, and Accelerate Your Brand2. Anchor Statement. What is the go-to description of who you are and what you do? This is sometimes referred to as an elevator pitch.

Clinton: To date, Mrs. Clinton has made her marketing bottom line “I’m the woman candidate,” but that has not played well with Sanders supporters and younger voters in general. While Clinton’s status as the first woman Presidential nominee is certainly history-making and a proud moment, as an elevator pitch, it’s flawed. She would be better served by focusing on another message (consider Obama’s focus on messages of hope and change, as opposed to his race) that resonates with a wider slice of democrats and the population at large.

Trump: Four words—“Make America Great Again.” This single sentence has become Trump’s signature call to arms, his reason why voters should check the box next to his name come November. The issue Trump will face as the election gets closer is how he will translate this general idea into specific policies.

Personal Brand Takeaway: All business people need to be able to present their brand in less than a minute. For example: When at a cocktail party you are asked the standard, “What do you do?” can you answer in a few short sentences that pique the listener’s interest? If not, your anchor statement needs some work. In addition, it’s important to pay attention to how your anchor statement is resonating and landing with your desired audience.

3. Unique Branding Proposition. What is it about what you do, or how you do it, that makes you unique, distinct and special? What sets you apart?

Trump: The presumed Republican nominee, Trump has taken a two-pronged approach to differentiating himself. First off, he is keen to point out (at every possible opportunity) that he is a businessman, as opposed to a career politician. Secondly, his message of “I’m willing to go it alone,” whether it relates to raising money to fund his campaign or being supported by the Republican party, is at the heart of his “why I’m unique” message.

Clinton: Hillary’s strongest point of differentiation to date has been “I’m the woman candidate.” The problem is that too much of her messaging has focused on this, and the voters don’t really seem to care.

Personal Brand Takeaway: Positioning yourself by specifically articulating how your brand speaks to the needs of your audience, and the unique way you address those needs, is critical to creating an effective personal brand. And the more specific you can be, the better.

4. Brand Tone and Temperament. What is the consistent mood, tenor, quality, character and manner you bring to all your interactions?

Clinton: Clinton’s tone has consistently been one of a serious Implementer. The tonal subtexts to her speeches ring with “I’m experienced, I know what I’m doing and I can get the job done.” Her demeanor, while dignified, is missing an accessibility (and even friendliness) that voters need to see in order to wholeheartedly embrace her as their Presidential candidate. However, given the alternative, it may be enough to win her the highest office in the land.

Trump: Trump is always Trump. To some, his brash pronouncements play with a tone of rugged individualism. For others, (even some members of his own party) his demeanor shows up as angry, and even childish in cases. So much so that the question of his temperamental suitability to be President has become a Democratic rallying cry. Likewise, Trump’s tone has some Republicans begrudgingly supporting him for the sole “anyone but Hillary” reason. Not exactly the inspiring message you would want your personal brand to create.

Personal Brand Takeaway: What you say has power, but the way you say it — your tone — has just as much impact. Every businessperson needs to be aware of how their brand tone is coming across (online and off) and adjust where necessary. In addition, taking any tone to an extreme will always backfire: Too serious or too snarky both harm a brand in the long run.

5. Signature Story. Why do you do what you do? What’s the essential story that brought you to this place?

Trump: Rather than focus on a narrative based on how his past has informed his bid for the Presidency, Trump is pointing to the present problems America faces as his reason for seeking office. But by doing so, he is missing the opportunity to tie his brand to a bigger, more historical reason for running.

Clinton: After her win in California on Super Tuesday, Hillary Clinton spoke about her mother, the influence she had on her life and how the way she grew up set her on a path to public service. Clinton has skillfully integrated her history into her narrative and connected the dots from how what she learned there has brought her to here.

Personal Brand Takeaway: Never underestimate the power of a good story. A strong (and truthful) narrative about where you came from and what has influenced you to do the work you now do can connect you with your customers, employees and colleagues at a deeper level. Your brand needs to be more than a single sound bite or pithy elevator pitch. Otherwise, you run the risk of damaging your brand when things don’t go exactly as you planned. The best brands feature multiple, complementary messages that weave together to form an accessibly complex and in-depth communication.

6. Signature Services. What are your core competencies?

Clinton: At the heart of Hillary Clinton’s brand is her varied and deep experience in government — and her proven ability to get things done in a political system that makes this challenging at best. Her particular expertise in foreign relations — especially at this time in American’s history—gives her a powerful place to stand as the candidate of choice. She is able and willing to talk about the “how” of the why.

Trump: In almost direct opposition to Clinton, Donald Trump’s brand is rooted in being “not” a government insider — but a business one. Continually providing tough talk about his corporate success, negotiation expertise and business acumen, Trump is presenting voters with the idea of a president who would function more like the CEO of a company than the head of state. While this “non-establishment” message is resonating with many people, the downside is Trump’s lack of specifics and seemingly naïve understanding of how things actually work in Washington and the protocols that keep the wheels turning—thus causing a questioning of his suitability for the job.

Personal Brand Takeaway: Know exactly what your brand brings to the table and how it stacks up against your competitors, and craft a powerful way to talk about it that inspires confidence in others. The fulcrum of your brand needs to rest on the material ingredients of your values and commitments.

A standout style (be it a brash Trump or competent Clinton) is a plus, but it will only take you so far. At some point going beyond taking a stand for what you believe in and specifically letting people know how you plan to get there will become a central issue. Think about one area where your personal brand is being expressed more in talk than displayed in action and focus on aligning the two.


About the Author

Karen LelandKaren Leland is CEO of Sterling Marketing Group, a branding and marketing strategy and implementation firm helping CEO’s, businesses and teams develop stronger personal and business brands. Clients include AT&T, American Express, Marriott Hotels, Apple Computer, LinkedIn and Twitter. She is the best-selling author of 9 books, including her most recent title, The Brand Mapping Strategy: Design, Build, and Accelerate Your Brand, which details proven strategies, best practices and anecdotes from real life brand-building successes to help readers design, build and accelerate a successful brand. Learn more online at www.KarenLeland.com.

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Hi there! This article is available to StrategyDriven Personal Business Advisor Remote Access and Dedicated Advisor clients and those who subscribe to one of the article's related categories. If you're already a Remote Access or Dedicated Advisor client or a related category subscriber, please log in to read this article. Not a client? We'd love to have you on board. Check out our StrategyDriven Personal Business Advisor service options.