How to Brand Yourself as a SQL Server Professional
As the competitive landscape internally and externally continues to get tougher, it's becoming more and more important to focus on differentiating yourself. This is especially important if you're applying for an internal promotion, or starting to look externally to the organization for new opportunities. Intentional branding can be beneficial in these instances. But what exactly is branding and how can the act of intentional branding really benefit you? Also, how do you go about successfully branding yourself?
We recommend considering branding as an intentional marketing strategy to gain a competitive advantage when it comes to advancing your skills and career, both for internal advancement opportunities and when you start to explore jobs outside your organization. It can help you identify and achieve certain goals, through the creation of professional development materials like a ‘Brand Development Plan.’ It can also aid in career growth, increase personal satisfaction, positively influence your reputation, and help you stand out from your peers and other applicants.
The Four Step Process for Intentional Branding
Here is the four step process we recommend when engaging in intentional branding:
- Brand Identification – The first step in determining your Brand is
to understand how people perceive you. What traits and characteristics are you
associated with? What are your major strengths and differentiators? What do
your managers, clients, and peers appreciate about working with you? If you
are unsure, there are a few avenues to uncover your ‘Perceived Brand'. In addition
to completing a social media check, you can ask co-workers / friends / mentors
/ others in your network along with requesting a regular or 360 performance
review at work.
- Brand Determination - Now that you have a better grasp of how you’re
viewed, spend some time thinking about the traits and characteristics you want
to be identified with. While step 1 focuses on how you’re currently perceived,
this step identifies how you want to be perceived. For example, how would you
want your Manager to describe you as an employee to their Manager? For instance,
you may want to be associated with the following: very solution-oriented, proactively
helpful, strong initiative, always knowledgeable around the latest version of
SQL Server, on top of technology trends, or someone who’s committed to making
others better. Once you’ve determined these traits, you want to ask yourself
“How closely does your ‘Perceived Brand’ align with the ‘Desired Brand’ you’re
- Brand Development and Communication – At this point you know what traits and characteristics you want to be associated with. Much like you would develop a professional development plan at work, you want to create a ‘Brand Development Plan’ so you can effectively achieve the ‘Desired Brand’ you’ve laid out.
Example Branding Development Plan
|Desired Traits and Skills||Action(s)||Time line|
|Proactively Helpful||Schedule 1 on 1 with Manager to determine 1-2 immediate ways I can further support and add value for my team and clients or end users.||Schedule 1 on 1 within a week; schedule bi-monthly meetings to follow up.|
|Become more active in community||Research local user groups, join 1 and attend a meeting.||Identify group and attend meeting within next 30 days.|
|Become a contributor in the community||Consult with a local community leader to identify ways I can give back to my technical community, and provide value on a reoccurring basis.||Meet with community leader within 60 days, and provide value to desired community 2+ times throughout the year.|
|Knowledgeable around Tech Trends||Identify 2+ resources for staying up-to-date with new technologies, approaches, etc… and sign up for them. Find a local SQL Server conference.||Sign up for 2 resources, such as a Thoughtworks Technology Radar or Gartner, within 30 days. Attend conference within 6 months.|
Once you have your development plan in place, it’s time to take action to communicate your ‘Desired Brand!’ We’ll expand on brand development planning and brand communication channels in a later tip, but it’s important to note that communication avenues include all verbal and written communication and every social media channel.
- Brand Maintenance – You’ve spent time and energy developing and creating your brand, so how do you go about maintaining it? The best way to ensure your brand is maintained over time is to continuously re-visit your ‘Brand Development Plan,’ stay in turn with any performance reviews, and be proactive and keep a constant pulse of how your online image is reflecting you. Staying active on social media, keeping your LinkedIn profile up to date with new skills, recommendations, etc., and attending / contributing to local technical meetings and events are great examples of brand maintenance activities.
Simply put the 4 steps we outlined above into action!
- Create a short list of people in your professional network that can provide insight into your current or perceived brand, taking a consultative approach to really get a grasp of the traits people associate you with.
- Determine your ‘Desired Brand.’ Include traits and skills you want to be associated with.
- Put together your own ‘Branding Development Plan,’ focusing on specific actions you can take to achieve your ‘Desired Brand.’ Make sure your Plan is SMART – specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timely.
- Re-visit your Plan on a monthly or quarterly basis, ensuring you’re following through on the goals and action items you’ve mapped out.
For more information, watch our ‘Developing your Brand as a SQL Server Professional’ webcast which is a more in-depth review of branding and branding strategies.
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