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Daddy Diaries

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I woke up this morning and felt my baby kick for the second time. The feeling is hard to explain. It is unlike any other and I don’t think it will ever get old. While my wife has been pregnant for almost six months now, I have not been able to feel him like she has. This moment made it more real that I am becoming a dear old “Dad”.

It was a “Cats in the Cradle” moment for me. I thought about how growing up I wanted to be just like my dad in every way. I played the sports he liked to play, I watched the TV shows he liked to watch and I played music just like him. Dad taught me a lot about life. He formulated my personal brand into what it is today. He showed me how to fix just about everything around the house, he showed me how to act in public and private, he taught me how to keep my word, he showed me the finer things in life and taught me the meaning of being a good man. How do I teach my son all of this? Where do I begin?

These thoughts poured through my mind. I started to over think it. The fact is I have already begun. I just have to be myself. I have to continue to stay level-headed, calm and thoughtful. This is the biggest change my life may ever endure. When I think back to other big changes in my life I think about getting married, losing my grandparents, Dad being in the hospital, getting a new job, losing friends and gaining new ones. Throughout each of these situations, it was best to simply be myself in the end.

Do I know if my son will prefer to listen to Otis Redding or Kanye West? No, no I don’t. What I do know is that I will always be my best self and bring him up the only way I know how. I will embrace the little man he is and the grown man he will become – just like my dad did for me. I will always put forth my best effort because that is what he deserves. After all, he could be President one day, you never know.

It is How You Finish

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moneyball-posterMoneyball. Have you seen it? The 2011 baseball movie with Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill was quite an amazing true story. IMDB describes it as “Oakland A’s general manager Billy Beane’s successful attempt to assemble a baseball team on a lean budget by employing computer-generated analysis to acquire new players.” While watching this on a plane to Rome, one key phrase that Pitt’s character Billy Beane said was “All they care about is if you win the last game.”

In taking the time to think about this, one thing became evident. This statement is true in every facet of life, no matter how much hard work you put in.

Promotions will happen early to those who performed well on the last big project, whether or not they are ready for the leadership role. Other executives will perform well their entire career, make one bad decision and pull it all out from under themselves.

Hindsight, as they say, is 20/20. Billy Beane is a great example of preparation and determination for career success. He has developed his personal brand with thoughtful resourcing, innovative uses of technology and open-mindedness. Beane is leaving people with something significant. There is no reason why me or you should know Beane unless we were entrenched in the baseball world, but he is leaving his career with something significant.

It is okay to lose games in life as long as you learn from each of them. Take the sum of the losing games and build yourself up to one big winning game. Beane’s quote challenges you to leave them with something significant. Leave them with something significant in every possible thing you do. “Them” is anyone and everyone in life because you never know who you are talking to or who is listening. “Something significant” are the tangible and intangible things that leave a positive impact. If you died tomorrow, what is the last thing you have done and what would that person say about you? Are you happy or would you change it? Now is the time to start.

Start the New Year Off Right

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timeLast year I wrote a blog article on making the ultimate new year’s resolution. I started my year off with my own advice – do not put off until tomorrow what you can do today. I took that advice and shortened it saying “The time is now!” I wrote the saying everywhere. I kept it in my mind. I repeated it to my friends when they asked for my advice. I told it to multiple audiences in professional presentations I gave. I told it to strangers.

A new year’s resolution is a way of making yourself better. It is about being able to continue it, not only this year but, for years to come. I followed my own advice and many great things happened as a direct result, as follows:

  1. I attained a new dream job at Airfoil Tech Marcom and PR
  2. I was asked to sit on the Board of Directors for Michigan Parkinson Foundation
  3. I was accepted to teach professional development courses on social media at my alma mater, Madonna University
  4. I achieved my one year blog goals
  5. I was asked to sit on the Madonna University Alumni Advisory Board
  6. I’m going to be a Dad (the best one of all)

By telling myself a simple line – the time is now – in all situations, I was able to elevate myself to a level of success that I did not expect. The world will not wait for you. You will never be as young, good-looking or healthy as you are today. So, why wait? Through this next year, challenge yourself. Now is the time:

  • To make sure you are happy
  • To help someone
  • To help yourself
  • To push yourself for that promotion
  • To write that email
  • To make that phone call
  • To try something new
  • To ask that question

Give it a shot and tell me how it is going for you. I may feature you in a blog article. For me, now is the time to finish writing my book this year. I’ll update you throughout the year on the progress.

What was your resolution last year? How long did you follow through on it? What is your resolution this new year?

17 Personal Branding Tips to Become an Indispensable Employee!

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7k0a0032The moment you hand in your two weeks notice, the company offers you a blank check and an open job description. Sounds nice, doesn’t it? It is a true story and it can happen to you. To do so you need to make yourself an indispensable employee. Being indispensable is defined as not subject to being set aside or neglected and absolutely necessary. There are thousands of articles on how to go about becoming an indispensable employee at work.

This blog article has 17 quick tips that if followed diligently can nearly guarantee your rise to the top of the pack. Do you want to be indispensable to your company? If so, keep reading.

  1. Always look your best.
  2. “Yes, and…” More popularly used by improvisational comics, the “yes, and” approach can do wonders for your career. To illustrate this concept in an example, if you were asked to find a venue for a company holiday party, you would not just look for one place. You would find 3 potential venues, their pricing, potential food, and entertainment. The “and” takes you and your career to another level.
  3. Being early to everything and with every project.
  4. Bring solutions, not just complaints or ideas.
  5. De-stress before your fire off that email. You know which email I am talking about.
  6. Allow yourself the ability to understand both sides.
  7. Be nice.
  8. Remember that everyone, including your boss, is your customer.
  9. Take every opportunity you can to present your work and solutions. If there are not many opportunities, make them.
  10. Talk with others like they are human, because they are. Do not talk down to those below you and do not be afraid to talk to those above you.
  11. Make it a point to have lunch or coffee with many different types of people inside your company and out. Do not out yourself in one clique. The thoughts and feelings of and towards that group can affect you both positively and negatively.
  12. Stay neutral if high stress topics like religion and politics arise. Everyone has the right to an opinion.
  13. Watch your language. This may seem a little outdated but it still holds true with many working professionals. They will appreciate your ability to stay cool and laugh it off.
  14. Do not procrastinate.
  15. Show your appreciation. Whether it is bringing in coffee and bagels after the conclusion of a stressful project or sending a simple thank you email, it makes a difference.
  16. Find your ability to make change in the business. Everyone has the power.
  17. Smile.

Nobody is perfect, but with a little drive and determination you can implement a majority of these 17 quick tips. You could be filling out that blank check one day, maybe even while sitting in the corner office. The power is within you to change your personal brand. Which tip will you start with first?

5 Personal Branding Tips in Discovering Opportunity

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knocking-featureKnock, knock. Who’s there? Opportunity. Opportunity, who?

If you get to “Opportunity, Who?” you have lost. When opportunity knocks, it is your duty to yourself and others around you to look into the opportunity more. Doing your due diligence with every opportunity that comes down your path is key to a successful person. Sometimes you must take a leap of faith, but in general every opportunity has its risks and rewards.

This article is to help students, professionals and everyone in between know how to discover opportunities to build their personal brand. Below is a list of five key areas in which opportunity can be made a reality.

  1. Being open to opportunities (i.e. Being nice): First you must allow yourself the ability to be open to opportunities. This means being nice to those you come in contact with. With each community, no matter if you are in real estate, advertising, construction, politics or public relations, the community is tight-knit. The longer you stay in the industry, the more you realize that everybody knows everybody. Shutting off one person because of an annoying trait or because they are not attractive could be the cause for many lost opportunities. It is interesting to note that many opportunities come at the most unexpected times, such as in bars, at parties or on your way to Italy, for example. Once you meet someone and leave a great first impression with them they will remember it. Not to mention, if you are lucky, they will come to you when they need you.
  2. Trying the angles. Opportunities come in all shapes and sizes. A few small opportunities could even work out much better than one large opportunity. Trying the angles really means finding your specific sticking point. What specific impact do you want to make that sets you apart from all the rest? For example, say you want to start your own business. if you were starting a cleaning company, do you just want to clean homes or do you want to clean with all home-made natural products and leave fresh flowers behind? if you were starting a marketing communications firm, do you just want to develop  logos and brochures or do you want to connect business with the socially engaged customer through human interactions? You get the idea. There will always be someone better than you in a specific field, but if you help form a new angle in that field, opportunity will always knock.
  3. Knowing when to turn an opportunity down. This is always a tough one. In the second paragraph I mention the term due diligence. When reviewing an opportunity you need to consider all the factors. Are you excited about the opportunity because it will look good on a resume or are you excited because it is the right thing, right now? For example, I was offered the opportunity to sit on the board of a local professional group. The year prior I had tried and failed to get on the board, so it was very exciting to me to be asked straight away this time. Over that period of time some things had occurred in my family life and I had taken up other endeavors from a philanthropic standpoint. I turned the opportunity down and the decision has suited me well. It has allowed me to more closely look at other opportunities I have had that i may have not had time for otherwise. Also I can spend more time where i find it necessary. Turning an opportunity down is never easy. Be careful to thoughtfully decline without shutting the door completely.
  4. Making opportunities for others. Zig Ziglar said, “You can get everything in life you want, if you help enough other people get what they want.” Nothing could be more true than that. When you open an opportunity to someone, or find a way to make them happy, they will never forget it. Similarly, they will also never forget who was behind that happiness. Always think about who you can help, no matter the situation. Of course, you should not expect anything in return, but good favors are usually returned tenfold in other ways.
  5. Making opportunities for yourself. This is one of the important changes you may have to make to your mindset. Opportunities exist, but there is great competition. So, how do you make opportunities happen for yourself? First, you need to allow yourself to seek out the opportunity. This means not discounting yourself or the idea before you start and remaining confident. Second, you need to self-reflect and understand what it is you truly want to do. Third, you must go out and do it. Networking is a good start. If you get lost in the path to finding your opportunity go right to the source. I wanted to interview a celebrity costumer designer for my blog but I had never performed an interview before. I was confused on what to do and where to go. One night when i got home from work I said to myself, “The time is now.” Twenty minutes later I was talking to her publicist and I interviewed her the next week.

Some opportunities are clear and some are vague. Some opportunities will keep you up at night. Some opportunities will drive you crazy. Some opportunities will make you the happiest person alive. My advice to you? Never stop looking.

What opportunity are you looking for? Maybe I can help.

Persistence

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rubiks_cubeSome may call the persistent one a dream chaser. That they may be. However, Is life not made out of dreams? As children we had dreams of grandeur. Do you remember yours? Things like wanting to play basketball alongside Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls was attainable as a child.

So what happened since then? A little something that certain people call reality set in. The reality of bills and responsibilities – these things are inescapable. The persistent one does not let this hold him or her down. I would aim to bet that if I asked Michael Jordan today what his dreams were as a child he would say to play basketball alongside Dr. J or Wilt Chamberlain. His grades were not the best. He was told he was not tall enough. His other siblings out-shined him in everyday life. With many things going against him, it was his persistence, and a little encouraging from his parents, that allowed him to attain his dream.

For some, dreams like this are still attainable. Dreams make the world a better place. Dreams do not die because you get another year older and have more responsibility. They only get hidden and lost in the dark shadows and cobwebs of your mind. What was your dream growing up? Have you thought about it lately? Not every one of us can be Michael Jordan, an astronaut or the next President. However, we all have a potential that you may not completely understand.

Persistence is unpopular because it is really easy to feel defeated. Defeat has many friends and they are all happy to grab a beer with you. Rejection probes the feeling of defeat. Some people give into it faster than others. Most give up on the dream to quickly, In my world, giving up is not a choice. On one walk with my Dad growing up I remember that he told me that a good person never quits. He reiterated the saying popularized by W. E. Hickson “if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.” Now I admit, I have tried to fall to a defeatist attitude at one point or another, but nothing can stop me from remembering that simple talk with Dad.

Being in competition and getting knocked down is a very real part of life. Very few people succeed the first time they try something, let alone the 800th time. When Thomas Edison created the first light bulb he did not complain about how long it took him. He simply said, “I haven’t failed. I’ve found 1,000 ways how not to make a light bulb.”

Our Scottish and Polish ancestors did not come to America by boat for me to say I cannot do something. That is the whole point of America. America was and is built on persistence. Those who have it can change the world. Those who do not, work for them.

Which will you choose?

Burning the Candle or Burnt Candle? Personal Brand Lessons

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fireIn the midst of a conversation the other day I was posed with the question, “How are things going? Busy?” The question made me think heavily about the term busy and how it is used so lightly. Everyone is busy. In the same respect, every person has a different definition of what it means to be busy. To the question I simply replied, “I am no longer burning the candle at both ends; The whole candle is on fire!” Uproarious laughter ensued.

In my post Busyness or Business, I touched on the shortcomings of saying the much overused phrase “I’m busy.” This post goes a little further to discuss the source of being busy and what you can do about it. When the burning candle that is your life is no longer just burning at the ends, you should ponder these next few thoughts:

  1. Self-reflection: Harvard graduate and executive consultant Dr. Robert Pasick describes self-reflection as one of the most difficult things for business people to do. “Self reflection is merely spending time asking ourselves important questions which others ask of us but we fail to ask ourselves,” say Dr. Pasick. Being self-reflective will not only allow us to change things that we may not always see that is wrong with us but it may also help us understand where we are letting things slip in work and life. This will teach us what things we can let go and what things we need to pay more attention to. It will ultimately allow us to realign one of the most precious aspects of our life – time.
  2. Minimalism: Some people, myself included most days, try to be all things to all people. This does not work for long periods of time. It is important to minimize your lifestyle. What is the excess? What does not matter as much anymore? What matters more? These are the things we must consider. Minimalism is not just for the people who go through life with little or no possessions. It is also a mindset for the “busy” individual who needs to refocus their personal brand.
  3. Healthy balance: Many of us have work, home life, friends, volunteer activities, church, hobbies, and the like going on every week. Not to mention trying to find time to hit the gym, clean your house and spend time with kids or family. It is important to find a healthy balance. Thousands of articles will tell you to find a balance and give you all the ways to make it easy on you, which it is not. As long as you know you need a healthy balance it is easier to focus on it. Once you know you want it just do it. Delegate tasks. Plan more from the beginning. Let lower priorities wait longer. Tomorrow, it will still be there waiting for you.
  4. Letting go: Some perfectionists, like myself, have a difficult time of letting certain things go. Whether it is a nagging work project, mowing your lawn, cleaning your house, and the like, it is okay to ask for help. It is okay to assign a project to someone who may not be completely versed in what to do. These tasks all take away precious hours of your week that could be better spent elsewhere. It may not be easy to let go of some things, but it is necessary.

Read the article again. Understand why these four points are needed in life to strengthen your personal brand. I can already see the flames off your candle dying down. What is the fifth thought you would add to this list?

You Never Know Unless You Ask

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no1Have you ever thought of something or had a great idea and said “they’ll never listen.” Maybe you were burned in the past. Maybe you grew up learning to keep your mouth shut. The fact is everyone is a critic. They will tell you why something should not work or why it will not work. The question remains. Should you listen to them?

When I was 5 years old, I went on a walk with my Dad around Penn Vassar Park in Dearborn, Michigan. That is where we would have our ‘man talks’ as Dad called them. I specifically remember portions of this talk because it opened my eyes to all kinds of opportunities. I forgot the exact context why we were talking about this, but the main idea he wanted me to take away was that if you do not ask, nothing will happen. You cannot go. You cannot play. You cannot win. You cannot lose. You cannot, you cannot, you cannot.

To this day I always ask. I always say “Why not?” My father’s exact words were “The worst they can say is no,” – that, however, was in reference to asking a girl out for the first time.

Think of how many times you may not question something or not start with a new idea because someone may hate it. They may say it is stupid. One of my favorite shows is Mad Men and I love the fashion designs by Janie Bryant. I thought she would be perfect to interview for Advertorious.  One night while I was sitting at home after work I referred back to my new years resolution and I said to myself  “what is the worst that could happen?”

The worst did not happen. Within 20 minutes I had made it through the phone to her publicist and booked the interview of Janie Bryant for later that week. That interview led to another one with Julie Deane of Cambridge Satchel Company. I had never held an interview before. Without prior experience I relied on my business ability and the tenacity for bettering myself to move forward.

I have used this thinking in all areas of my life, not just business. Not all of them panned out. You may also need to become a little hard of hearing the first time you get a ‘no.’ In one of his books, Zig Ziglar taught me that a ‘no’ can be a ‘yes’ in disguise. Striking gold takes time. The important thing is trying. When you think you have a good idea or want to try something, go ahead. After all, what is the worst they can say?

Demystifying the C-Suite

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c-suiteOver the last five years I have been fortunate to work with Director, Vice President, and C-Suite level colleagues very closely. This has taught me a great deal about the ins and outs of how a business is truly run and how expectations are managed. For those that are not fortunate enough to work as closely with this set often, it may be very intimidating.

If you are intimidated enough, they may see you as a less than great performer. If you are intimidated enough, they may not get the correct message from your work. If you are intimidated enough, you will avoid them and let someone else take credit. So let us stop all that before it starts.

  1. They are human and make mistakes. Yes, it is true. You may want to think they landed in Roswell, New Mexico in 1947 and are stranded here only to make your life a mess. Lucky for you, they are not. All humans make mistakes. What differentiates the C-Suite from others is that they learn and apply mistakes of theirs and those reporting to them.
  2. They don’t know everything. They should not know everything either. they hire and cultivate those below them to make the right decisions based on the overall company vision. If the CEO is a finance person they do not know everything about marketing, and vice versa. They surround themselves with experts of industry. Who knows? you may be that expert.
  3. They want to see your hard work not hear about it. Bring them ideas when afforded the opportunity. If the opportunity does not present itself, find a need, and make a pitch to present it to them. Start solving their problems. Walk the walk as they say.
  4. They are busy. They don’t just sit around all day like some may think. This level is juggling many different initiatives. When trying to get a hold of them on an issue or pertinent project you may have to try a few means to get a hold of them. Email does not always cut it.
  5. They will go to bat for you. If you make yourself visible to the C-Suite they will stand up for you when needed. They are very protective of their top performers. If you repeatedly take initiative and always keep the company’s best interests in mind, they will recognize it. You may not even realize how much they like you. Find ways to get them talking about you without you in the room, you may not even know it for months or years.

Taking all these things into consideration, they can fire you as well. Tread lightly. However, as long as you always put forth your best effort and are sincere about it, you have nothing to worry about.

Have you noticed anything else about the C-Suite?

Life is Too Short

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I will do it tomorrow. I will get to it eventually. I will stop by someday soon. I will get back to you.  We say these things daily. In the wake of events such as the Boston marathon bombings and Sandy Hook Elementary shootings we are reminded why life is much too short to wait. Putting something off until tomorrow is another day lost, and what if tomorrow never comes? For some, as in the bombings or shootings, it did not.

Emails go unanswered and life goes on. Phone calls go answered and life goes on. You can either choose to let everyone have 24/7 access to you via smart phone technology and move at the speed of sound, or you can take a step back. If you choose to take a step back maybe you will have a chance to give back to your community, church, or family. By this, I am not saying to quit work and devote your life to others. What I am saying is that there are things more important than work. Things such as a loved one’s smile, helping someone less fortunate, or taking time out of your workday to help a charity that is close to your heart, remind you that there is good in the world.

You are part of that good. Sometimes it is easy to forget that. It is easy to rush off to work without kissing your spouse goodbye for the day. It is easy to get upset because the older lady in front to you is taking too long checking out at the grocery store. It is easy to not help a family member move into their new apartment. Did you ever think it might be the last kiss you give your spouse? Did you ever think this might be the only person this older lady talks to all day long, or that she needs help loading groceries into her car? Did you ever think that it may not be easy for a family member to ask for help?

Sometimes it is the simplest things in life that we miss out on. We forget how lucky we are. Celebrate life. Step back and enjoy what is around you. Help others in the simplest ways. And, don’t forget to smile.