How to Become an Entrepreneur Within Your Organization

Entrepreneurship is a mindset. An entrepreneur is someone who embraces critical thinking, innovation, and change rather than waiting to adapt to changes as they occur. Entrepreneurs who operate within an organization are looking to add value; they are open to advice from mentors and managers and proactively seek innovative solutions. They take full control of their career paths. Strong business leaders understand that human capital is the most valuable asset they have, even though it often does not show on the balance sheet, and that the best employees are the ones who are proactive, not reactive. These are the people who make the clients and customers happy.    

The entrepreneurial spirit is not inherently at odds with an established organizational structure, but new ideas, by definition, shake up the status quo. Even though organizations across industries are calling for innovative, out of the box thinking from employees, would-be entrepreneurs do face a certain set of risks. How can entrepreneurial-minded employees working from the inside act on their initiative while minimizing risk to themselves and their organizations? 

It is not enough to simply have a good idea; you must also have drive. Without this startup energy, you will not feel sufficiently motivated to venture into the unknown. Curiosity and problem solving skills will get you halfway, but if you do not personally care about the outcome then the risk factor will overshadow the possibilities.   

The next step is establishing what you are willing to invest to take this step and, beyond that, what you can afford to lose if things do not pan out as you hoped. Traditional risk calculations would otherwise nip conceptual exploration in the bud. With an uncertain expected return, investment is less than prudent. But, as they say, “nothing ventured, nothing gained.” You have to readjust your mindset to embrace uncertainty before you even begin. 

The landscape looks very different for external entrepreneurs. While they calculate time and money risks, internal entrepreneurs are wagering their ambition against the social capital already accrued within their organization. The most significant risk criteria to consider is their relationship capital and social standing and these risks must be addressed in much the same way as traditional entrepreneurs manage financial risk and investments. 

Now that you have embraced your entrepreneurial spirit and calculated the risks, you need to look around and figure out who you want by your side. Internal entrepreneurs benefit greatly from employee partnerships and supportive bosses, or at least indulgently passive superiors. Your evolving ideas require emotional, physical, and sometimes political support as well as a potential marketplace for your efforts.  

Once you’ve given yourself the green light and internal network to pursue your passion, it is time to act. Remain flexible and always learn from the outcomes of your actions, readjusting before taking your next step. Learn how to proceed with relatively low-risk steps, using your available network as a support and sounding board. In this way, you can bring energy and continuous improvement to your organization, thereby establishing yourself as an invaluable resource and entrepreneur, all while remaining within the supportive structure of your organization.

How Technology Changed Branding

The word “branding” literally refers to burning insignia, initials, or a logo onto a product. The term has been used for cattle, pottery in ancient times, and now it indicates the indelible mark you personally make on the products and services you are marketing. 

The idea of branding, as it more closely relates to industry, arose in the 1800’s when manufacturers, who had been personally selling goods within their own communities, began shipping products to sell elsewhere. The products had to fend for themselves without the manufacturer there to explain or promote it. 19th century manufacturers developed the ideas of publicity and advertising in their efforts to build name consciousness and product loyalty. 

The concept of self-positioning we now call “personal branding” was introduced in 1937 in a book by Napoleon Hill called Think and Grow Rich and further developed in 1981 by Al Ries and Jack Trout in their book Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind. The idea gained traction and was popularized by Tom Peters. 

In today’s iteration, brands constitute promises that peers, consumers, and potential employers believe; think of your personal brand as reputation capital and marketing as reputation management. In other words, you aren’t selling just goods or services, you are selling you.

What are your unique attributes, your skills, passions, and strengths? What sets you apart from your competitors? Now brand that reputation onto your wares with a highly recognizable logo and consistent style across platforms and mediums.

If you work for a corporation or a nonprofit, your “wares” might consist entirely of your skills, experience, attitude, and reputation. Nevertheless, consistency is key; cultivating a trustworthy product is the only way to grow your brand. A strong brand is a combination of trust, attention, reputation and execution. 

With the age of the internet, branding has reached a new level of relevance and consequence. Managing your reputation is a full-scale operation, spanning the far corners of the virtual world. Despite the fact that social media is technically online, its effects in the real world are both real and far-reaching.

Social media allows you to curate and market an online identity; this isn’t just a tool, it has become an expectation. If you want to secure preference in the mind of the consumer, you must first earn their trust. Your professional reputation is equally built on brand consistency.

Employers are increasingly cognizant of social media as a way to vet applicants before offering the first round of interviews. This may involve everything from scanning the applicant’s Twitter or Facebook feed, finding their personal blog or profile on LinkedIn, or conducting a more extensive background check using search engines and other tools.

Job seekers know that to be a competitor, they must foster a strong online identity, cultivate a following, and provide potential employers with access to their personal brand assets. Such efforts will greatly improve your chances of creating a perception of your qualities and capabilities that will distinguish you from the competition.  
 

Is Professorial Branding for You? Yes, It Is

I asked the personal-branding expert Talaya Waller what she recommends and finds of value for personal (i.e. professional) branding. Here is what she said: "As a newly published researcher, I’ve encouraged my colleagues to make sure they create an account and complete a profile on Google Scholar. You can connect with other researchers and see where your work has been cited. You can network with other scholars as well. In addition, every professor should think about having a professional landing page online outside of their university. They can use their site to publish their unpublished and published work, solicit other thought leaders in their field, and have a method of contact for researchers to ask them about their work."

How to Rebrand When Transitioning Industries

Personal reinvention is necessary for many reasons. Maybe you’re looking to take on a new challenge or find more meaningful work. Maybe you’re hoping to shake limiting perceptions of you that hinder your career growth. Rebranding can be a major shift, such as a retail manager moving into a marketing analyst position, or it can be a subtle transition from a manager role to a leadership position within the same industry. Whatever changes you’re hoping to manifest, taking control of your personal brand is a necessary part of the journey and can mean the difference between a lackluster position and a rewarding career. One of the trickiest steps in this path is persuading others to embrace your rebranding efforts. 

There are techniques you can use to facilitate a smooth industry transition. Recognizing your strengths, defining your destination, and marrying the one to the other should be your first objective. You have skills. Once you have determined your destination, you will be able to figure out which skills apply and how. Remove the industry-specific labels and reframe your skill-set with the lens of whatever position you want to be in. Research keywords in your target industry and reword your skills to match. Use this new language in your resume, LinkedIn profile, and interviews.

Recognize the distinct “you-ness” that will be inherently part of your personal brand regardless of industry and find a way to embrace it. Leverage your points of difference, whether that be previous experience that distinctively colors your new brand or distinguishing personality traits that you can use to your advantage. Shrewdly leverage anything that makes you stand out whether or not these attributes are strictly relevant to your work. 

Perhaps the most crucial part of successfully rebranding yourself when you transition industries involves crafting your narrative. Your personal story of why you chose to transition to a different career should communicate to prospective employers what this move means to you and where exactly you want to go. Though it is perfectly natural for human beings to be curious and want to develop new interests, employers are liable to view this as erratic behavior unless you provide another explanation. In order to protect your personal brand, it is therefore necessary to formulate a coherent narrative to explain precisely how your past experience fits into your present goal. 

You may have changed directions in a big way, but you cannot expect the people in your vague but expansive social and professional network to know this unless you deliberately and strategically reintroduce yourself. These are the same people who will, hopefully, be your buyers, leads, and promoters in the future.  Update your social media content: Facebook, LinkedIn, website, etc. Make sure your information is consistent and up-to-date. 

Do not underestimate the importance of having a strong LinkedIn profile. Regardless of industry, the most critical foundational element of your career marketing effort is your LinkedIn profile. To make your profile more compelling, integrate multimedia elements that showcase your expertise. An easy way to use LinkedIn is to share articles relevant to your target market on your homepage. You can also participate in the platform’s special interest groups.

Waller & Company is a one-stop-shop consultancy that implements online presence strategy, public relations, and crisis communications to help leaders and businesses manage their brand. Very few companies offer a full-complement of personal branding services necessary to guide leaders through all stages of their professional life-cycle. Our goal is to help clients use personal branding to increase visibility, leverage expertise, and attract new opportunities. Due to the very diverse needs of our clientele, our services range from individual consultations to training workshops for corporations and nonprofit organizations. 

How Can Personal Branding Be Used Against Stereotype Threat?

The term stereotype threat refers to situations in which individuals are, or feel themselves to be, at risk of confirming negative stereotypes about their social group. It’s a well-documented phenomenon, particularly in academic and corporate environments. Studies show that these situations result in increased heart rate and decreased concentrations. Ironically, the fear of confirming the negative stereotype leads individuals to perform badly, thereby fulfilling the stereotype due to fear of fulfilling the stereotype.

There are subtle organizational mechanisms that create obstacles for women and people of color in the corporate and nonprofit sectors. Personal and institutional bias favors people in the dominant group, giving them the benefit of the doubt, often without realizing it. At the same time, those who are not members of the dominant group have to repeatedly prove themselves. One of the most insidious factors pushing women and people of color out of professional leadership positions is the near constant anxiety caused by stereotype threat. 

Don’t let yourself be defined by other’s perceptions of you; there is a way to take control of your image. You can use your personal brand to help you overcome stereotype threat. Start by identifying the stereotypes that others are likely to impose on you upon first meeting. For Asian Americans, that might be “meek” or “passive.” For women, that might be “pushover” or “flaky.” Now, figure out how you can turn those unflattering, and untrue, assumptions about you into an image that is true and works for you. For example, women are often dismissed professionally because their compassion is seen as a weakness when, in fact, having good people skills, such as compassion, is an invaluable strength. Know your value and lean in

Rewire your thinking from a fixed identity mindset to a growth mindset. People often get stuck thinking that they must simply play the hand they’re dealt. Rather than thinking about your identity and your situation as the result of circumstance and genetics, understand that your potential is infinite. If you want to be successful, you have to believe that you can be. What does this success you look like? Picture her/him and work towards that image.

You must fine tune the resonance between your brand and your reputation. This means identifying the gap, if there is one, and deliberately working to change perceptions about you. If any of the negative assumptions about you are true, tackle them first and actively work to change them. If you are a woman who is submissive at work, work on being more vocal, taking risks, and asserting yourself.

Disprove the stereotypes by showing up and being a whole person and not a label. The best way to disprove stereotypes is to replace people’s ideas of you with the real thing, with your personal brand. Speak your mind, offer unique solutions, and boldly stake out a position that works for you. You are actively redefining yourself. Make sure that you do not repeat the ideas of others. Bring something new to the discussion and, slowly but surely, perceptions of you will adjust accordingly.