The Fast Company issue from August 31, 1997, had a cover story by noted Management Guru Tom Peters call “The Brand Called You” (http://www.fastcompany.com/28905/brand-called-you) where he encouraged people to think of themselves as a brand and to manage their brand “You are a brand. You are in charge of your brand. There is no single path to success. And there is no one right way to create the brand called You. Except this: Start today.”
I had done a presentation on “The Product Called You” at the Product Camp in NYC back in 2012, and when I saw my friend (and Product Management guru) Steve Johnson was giving a similar presentation at Product Camp Boston this year I decided to think about the concept and share those thoughts with you.
First and foremost when you start thinking about how to manage The Product Called You and I would offer that this concept is more important now than I was when Tom Peter’s article was first published almost 19 years ago.
Here is why →
Lifetime employment at a single company is a thing of the past. My aunt worked for one company, GE, her whole career, as did my uncle, IBM, but now the average tenure of a US worker in their Job is 4.4 years.
Research shows that the average College Graduate in the US will hold 10 jobs if they work until 65, 14+ if they are in California. Job stints of less than 2 or 3 years used to be red flags and even outright disqualifiers, not anymore.
Source: Jobvite.com and BLS.gov
So what does this mean to you?
In this Blog, I will share my perspective based on my experience, share some Best Practices, and hopefully get you some good ideas on how to start managing the Product Called YOU.
Let me share a story with you about my first employer out of grad school – GE. I mentioned my aunt worked for GE for her entire career. GE is well known for their professional and career development expertise and as an employee of GE, I knew I was in good hands.
As soon as I left GE I realized that I had to take ownership of my career and that is when I started to manage the Product Called ME.
I would suggest this – we have all built some great skills that enable us to successfully be successful at work, why don’t we leverage these skills for our careers?
To do this, let me throughout this product management analogy. If your product is you, looking at the life of your career is like looking at the lifecycle of a product.
As our experience grows our success tends to grow and in time our responsibility grows.
For some people, their success and responsibility will plateau and even for some, it may regress. Simple point – careers have a lifecycle.
For other people, they successfully leverage their success into new opportunities and they continue to grow and climb the ladder. They potentially have a sustainable growth strategy.
How can you manage the Product Called You to increase your chances of successful growth? Let me share some of the key skills I have used, and I have seen others use, to successfully manage their careers.
As you manage the Product Called You, one of the most important things you can do is to continually be in the market learning. Take every chance you have to talk with people in the market. Customers, competitor’s customers, peers, executives, anyone you can meet and talk to.
Doing this will help in two key areas: Building your Network and Building you Knowledge Base.
Another important thing to do is to do an honest analysis of your own capabilities and differentiation. What skills do you not have that would help you in the market? What skills do you have that are becoming outdated?
Is there a different job you want and if so what skills and experience do you need to get there?
A third thing to think about is how are you establishing yourself in the market as a Thought Leader? With LinkedIn, Twitter and all of social media, you have a great opportunity to establish yourself as a Thought Leader.
If as companies we can use white papers, blogs, and social media to help establish our company and product credentials, why don’t we use the same for our career?
Take the time to establish your Thought Leadership, not just your product or company’s Thought Leadership.
Are you an expert on your market? Could you establish your thought leadership in that market? How about a specific role or activity? There are a lot of examples of people who have may have full-time jobs, but have used blogging and social media to establish their personal position as a thought leader.
Next, let’s talk about having a strategy for our Product (us). I mentioned that when I left GE I realized I needed to manage my own career and to do that I created a career (or product for that matter) strategy.
I decided where I wanted to go – VP of Strategy and Business Development was the title from GE I was targeting. I started looking at the backgrounds the people in this role had and realized I needed three key skill sets. Market Research and Analysis, which I had, Business Development and Alliances, and Product Management.
So as I made decisions on jobs in my career I had a mental checklist I used to validate what other skills I needed to add to get me “qualified.”
These are just some of the traditional Product Management skills I have seen used to successfully manage my career over the long haul. What other Product Management skills have you used? We would love to hear your feedback and we will share them in our Blog to benefit everyone.
Now that we have looked at how you can leverage your skills to manage your career, let’s look at how you can leverage these skills to help you in the short-term for a job search.
To do this, let me throw out another product management analogy If your product is you, looking at job search is like building your growth strategy.
Do you have a Market Development Strategy for changing companies or industries (the markets of your career)? Do you have a Product Development Strategy building out your experience in new roles (the product functions of your career)?
Maybe you have a Market Penetration Strategy, focusing on being the best at what you do and seeing growth there? Or perhaps you are looking to Diversify?
What skills can you leverage to do this?
As I talk with recruiters, one of the biggest mistakes they tell me they see is that candidates are trying to be all things to all people. Much like great product are build for target market segments, you need to target market segments in your job search. How many people just sent resumes to any job and any industry, and then complain about no success?
You need to target.
Maybe it is an industry, maybe it is a specific skill set or role, focus on where you have skills, knowledge, and experience and spend your efforts focusing on specific segments that will value what you bring to the table, rather than just being another me-too applicant that is not a great fit for the role.
These ideas are just a start, there are many other Product Management skills we can leverage to Manage the Product Called You, but while it was top of mind, I wanted to share some of these thoughts. If this is of value, look for another round of these thoughts in the future.