I remember being really nervous as I walked into the building where I had worked for close to ten years after graduating college. I was headed for my boss’s office so I could resign from my job.
It was 2011 and I had just landed another job across town. I wasn’t nervous because of how my boss might react. I wasn’t worried that she’d call security to escort me to the door right then and there only to grab me by the collar and throw me out onto the curb followed by, “And stay out!”
I was nervous because I wanted to be remembered differently from a friend who had just quit.
Ron had been with us for five years and about four years too long. He didn’t give any notice when he left. He got frustrated, took off his badge, and threw it on his desk as he walked down the hall.
He not only left us shocked, wondering if he was coming back or if that was the last time we would see him. He also left us in a bind. We didn’t know where he left off programming the system. Nothing was documented. Nobody else was trained. He let all of us down. And he became a running joke. “Don’t go out like Ron,” people would say whenever things would heat up at work.
And I thought about all of that when it was time for me to leave.
So my last two weeks of work were and to this day still are the hardest two weeks I’ve ever worked in my life. I had worked as hard as I could up until then, but I really stepped up my game after resigning. For the next two weeks, I was the first one in the office and the last to leave at night. Not because I had to. Not because I was asked to. But because I knew that I had a personal brand.
You do, too — whether you want one or not.
When you think about brands in business, they make implicit or explicit promises to us as consumers. And if they keep their promises to us, we trust them. Because they’re consistent.
If you think about it, ‘brand’ is really just a fancy word for story. And your story is how people in your life make sense of who you are. But it’s up to you to define or redefine your personal brand.
Maybe you don’t like your brand. Maybe you’re known as the guy who always shows up five minutes late to everything. Or maybe you’re the guy that never finishes anything that he starts.
The good news is that you can change your branding — your story — but it’s going to take commitment to do things differently and it will take consistency. It’s also going to take a lot of time.
If you’ve never given much thought to what your personal brand is, that’s okay. Zig Ziglar had a name for this kind of person — a wondering generality. He’d say that most of us are wondering generalities, but we really should aim to become a meaningful specific. And if you want to have a personal brand that’s not only meaningful but also resonates with people, you need to get specific.
And if you’re not sure where to start, I’ll tell you. Care.
Care about everything. Care about the conversations that you have. Care about your job. If you don’t love it, leave it. But care about how you leave things when you decide to walk away. Care.
When should you start working on your brand? Yesterday. When is the next best time to start? Right now.
Don’t go out like Ron.