Graduating? Don’t Look For a Job. Look for a Brand!

It’s almost that time of year again. Who will get a good offer and who will not? Who will just settle for any offer and who will go for their dream job? Who will struggle and who will transition seamlessly into the workforce? Who will go above and beyond and who will do the bare minimum? Who will be a long-term hire and who won’t last through the first month? Who will fit into the culture and who won’t?

As many graduates look to join the workforce, they think about what they want to do.  They  look at their experience, knowledge from the courses they took and any skills they can utilize on the job. They think about a career and the best way to get started within a certain trade or profession.

I challenge this way of entering the workforce. Why not think about your absolute favorite brands? The ones you know and use the most. Think about where you spend your time or where you want to spend your time. This can and should help steer your job hunt. It will make you more competitive than other candidates. And it will help you build your personal, authentic brand.

For example, before I graduated college, I had a summer job, but it wasn’t just any summer job I could find. I actually didn’t even search the posted or available jobs. The tactic I took was to think about what I loved to do. At the time, it was travel and tourism, so I thought about a potential job that would give me access to these activities. What came to mind was possibly a concierge or tour guide at the fanciest hotel in town. (I lived in Ottawa, Canada’s capital.) I decided to reach out and contact the human resources department at the top hotels to see what might be available. This approach put me in the driver’s seat, in terms of what I wanted, that matched my personality, interest and skills. I ended up (not sure if it was luck or the approach) with the perfect job at a great hotel downtown, as a concierge/tour guide.

Now my career has taken many turns and twists since then, but I have managed to focus first and foremost on what organization best matches my passions and personal brand – everything that defines me as a person. The specific job has usually fallen into place with this as my focus.

Give it a try and let me know how it goes.

(If this is your first time reading my blog, please read more about The Brandful Workforce – a workforce that genuinely promotes the brand of the organization. Also check back as I will be making a youtube graduation speech for Class of 2013! Contact me at if you would like a preview.)

How to Convince Your CEO That Employees Matter to the Brand

Human Resources Executive invited me to conduct a webinar this week on how to build and sustain a brandful workforce. If you’ve been reading my blog or following me, you’ll know that’s a workforce of “brand promoters.” (You can click here to listen to the presentation or download the slides.) After I ran through the roadmap, I got a question that is often asked: “How do I convince my CEO that employees matter to the brand?” In my book, I point out that the CEO’s people philosophy is a pre-requisite to building a brandful workforce. It’s not something that can be faked. I introduce a people pyramid, kind of like Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, but it’s a hierarchy of the importance of people to the brand of the organization. At the top, they are critical to the brand. At the bottom, they don’t matter at all. Every organization places their people somewhere on this hierarchy, whether or not they know it. Where they place their people, usually is a result of the CEO’s philosophy and his or her ability to instill that thinking in all levels of leadership.

How do you get the CEO to see employees at the top of the pyramid, not the bottom? Well, some already see employees as being critical to the brand. But what about the ones who don’t? Some CEO’s can never be convinced. If I worked in an organization like that, I’d leave, but that’s up to you. Other CEO’s respond to fear. They see someone like Eric Smith from Goldman, who did major damage, and they get scared that they might have an employee who could do similar harm to their brand. Yes, fear is one tactic and there are many examples and growing. A second strategy is the rational approach, using data: “Hey Chief, look at these numbers that support the fact that if we mobilize our employees to support our brand, it can yield us higher revenue and separate us from our competition.” You would need some good data analysts but it can be done. A third strategy would be to get an example that your CEO can appreciate – an organization like Wegmans or The Container Store and detail how they incorporate people into the success of their business. Some CEO’s respond well to seeing it in action. If all else fails, give me a call, I’ll try a fourth strategy – you’ll have to call me to find out what it is.

Thanks for reading and don’t forget to check out my other posts, and add to the discussion.

Don’t Do It For Employee Retention- Do It Because You Believe In It!

I saw an article this week entitled, 86% of Employees Not Engaged By Companies’ Sustainability Programs. You can read it here. It says that while many organizations promote sustainability, most employees are dissatisfied with their employers’ sustainability efforts. And many believe that organizations do it just for marketing and sales.

I do believe that some organizations push corporate social responsibility programs, like sustainability, as way to attract and retain employees. Most likely, an executive came up with the idea because that’s what college graduates want. And in order to attract them, that’s what you have to have. If you develop any program, not because it’s the right thing to do, but solely because it’s a means to an end, it will not help you in the long-run.  

The brandful workforce roadmap is about authenticity and passion. Keep your eye on what special product or service you deliver and how it benefits society. In this, you will find the right citizenship platform that really will propel your brand as well as your community.

One of the six channels through which employees can promote the brand of the organization is citizenship, or as I like to call it, “doing good.” When employees can get out and do something they care about, that truly makes a difference in the world, and to the organization, they want to promote that everywhere, because they are proud.

I highlight two areas that are most critical to building an authentic citizenship program:

One is alignment with the business. There should be a sensible connection between the cause and the product or service of the organization. Take Hagen Daaz. They had a big campaign to protect the honeybee. This makes perfect sense because they use honey in their ingredients. I wish all programs could be so simply connected.

Two is internal support. Employees need to be able to participate in the programs, provided time, resources and moral support.

When employee participation in your corporate social responsibility programs is low, that’s a bad sign. Employees should not be incentivized to participate. Re-think your strategy. Make sure it is integrated to your business and there is real passion behind it. You can really make a difference and so can your employees.