In the final part in her series, Debbie Smith explains how to use your personal brand to secure that big promotion

In this wintry economic climate, organisations face some formidable challenges that make it increasingly difficult for people to target the best opportunities and to fulfil their most important objective: executive and personal success.

You may feel that the time is right to look for a promotion to your first senior management, executive or chief executive role but are unsure how to get there. So how do you achieve a successful transition? For most people, this involves a "journey of self-discovery". The start point is self-awareness of your true marketability: who you are and what you have to offer.

To convince employers that you are more than just a page on a CV and that you are a commercial expert in your field, you need to learn to brand yourself, to improve how you perceive yourself and the way others perceive you.

With a defined personal brand, you will stand out and gain an advantage over other promotion candidates.

To become distinctive, you need to define your personal brand identity. The model below outlines my four-step process.

Step one involves defining and formulating your personal ambition. It encompasses your vision, main roles and goals. Your individual brand needs to be aligned with your goals, which give your brand direction. Documenting and regularly reviewing them is critical to building a winning formula.

Step two is to define and formulate that personal brand - helping you to become distinctive from the inside out. To do so you have to discover who you are and what differentiates you.

State your essence This second phase is achieved by discovering your core values and functional assets. In this phase you will perform a personal SWOT analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) - the result of this analysis is the definition of your personal lifestyle.

Your personal brand statement says who you are and what you are capable of, the essence of your achievements and your specialism.

Step three moves on to developing a balanced action plan based on your personal ambition and personal brand.

Your plan becomes an effective tool that helps you to keep track of your progress, record key brand information, define new career paths, build a network of contacts, quantify and report your key achievements.

Step four is to plan, implement, review and challenge your personal brand. Once you launch your personal brand, remember to maintain it. You need to continually refine it, assessing which parts work and which need improvement, making adjustments as you go.

The more you strengthen, maintain, protect and cultivate your brand, the more successful you will be.


John: ready for a chief executive role?

My first impression of John was that he was a dynamic, charismatic executive with excellent interpersonal skills. He also possessed good listening and communication skills and was passionate about his work.

Although John had a strong proven track record in the health service at director level and was keen to become a chief executive of a primary care trust, he had yet to get an offer, even after attending two interviews.

At the time, there was a newly advertised chief executive vacancy. However, John was concerned that he was perhaps falling down in certain areas, particularly in ensuring that he was putting the right message across during the interview process.

Following research and detailed discussion with him, it was evident that his personal brand development needed addressing to ensure that he "looked" the part and created a powerful, authentic first impression. His brand needed to inspire loyalty, innovation and respect and to establish him as an expert in his chosen field.

After a thorough personal brand assessment, an action plan was agreed to improve John's personal image and impact. Key occasions in the interview process were identified where he needed to achieve a positive first impression and consistency of brand.

He bought a new suit and a selection of pastel coloured shirts with strong contrasting coloured ties and then added accessories to complete the "look" - that of an individual who was ready for the new challenge, based on his performance, but who also looked like someone already achieving success in the role.

The mind was set and the level of confidence raised.

Guidance was also given around positive body language, clarity around style of language and delivery of presentation.

After more interviews John was successfully appointed to the role of chief executive.

David: "nobody takes me seriously"

David was at a crossroads in his career and getting increasingly disillusioned with his employer.

He was stuck in a rut and was getting increasingly frustrated, which was having an impact on his work and personal life.

Embarking on a programme of career and branding development with David made it clear why he was not having any success.

First, in no way did his CV reflect him as a person, his skills or achievements, so it was hardly surprising that he was not getting interviews.

I worked with him through a mix of workshop based programmes and one-to-one coaching.

We developed a winning CV and helped him to change his perception of himself through developing his personal brand.

We also explored his core values, alongside his career values and needs - these highlighted how he was applying for the wrong jobs and aiming too high.

It was at this point that he admitted he had real difficulty in networking to advance his career, as he felt he was not being taken seriously. He had a reputation for being the "joker".

Following the four-step process and with his new- found focus and self-belief, he started to be true to himself and make some headway.

Within three months, he landed an excellent job with a significant salary increase and massive potential to grow to director level.

Paul: programme of preparation

Paul wanted a new challenge and felt he could add value and experience to more demanding roles. But in previous job interviews he had been unsuccessful, mainly due to lack of confidence and inability to display his passion and show himself as a dynamic person.

Encouragingly, he had been shortlisted for another chief executive position and wanted to enhance his chances of securing the job.

I and a highly trained voice trainer coached him in how to develop his confidence, overcome nerves, speak with passion, convey effective body language and achieve strong visual impact.

After a detailed programme, Paul felt he had "never been so fully prepared for an interview". His confidence improved hugely and his presentation had impact and conveyed a clear vision for the organisation.

His answers to the panel were engaging, passionate and dynamic and his body language and visual impact were effective. He got the job and has now begun the challenging role as the new chief executive.

More in this series

Personal branding - core values

Personal branding: arm yourself with the right image

Personal branding: how to get staff to follow your lead