I’ve said many times that “You are a brand, and your career is your business”. What I mean is: (1) build your professional reputation like the brand that it is – the brand of you, and (2) treat your career with intentionality and focus like a business.
I am a writer and a systems thinker. I naturally notice small details and record situations in my mind. I have always understood the power of the pen and began writing stories and letters when I was a little girl. I would write letters to my mother when I was upset about something. As I got older, I began writing professional letters. As a senior in high school, I landed an internship with an agency I discovered in the Yellow Pages (yes, I’m that old) because the Founder and Executive Director was impressed by my cover letter and resume that I sent through snail mail. I drafted both documents on my own.
I am also a professionally trained observer and recorder – a social worker. Social work students are required to write process notes. My jobs in the field of course always entailed writing case notes. I tell my students, “If it isn’t documented, it didn’t happen”, is Social Work 101. I also tell my students and staff that email is valid documentation. In short, I am the queen of cover your assets (CYA).
I take my reputation and my work very seriously. I document practically everything in some way, shape, or form – and sometimes that may include being stored in my mind until needed. My professional image reflects my core values which include integrity, loyalty, and empathy. Decades of colleagues and supervisees have had very similar experiences working with me. There have been times when someone deliberately tried to sabotage my reputation and not only did those who know me best speak up on my behalf, but my documentation also verified and validated my performance and reputation. When it comes to my career, all I have is my name. My brand is built to last, and I fiercely protect it.
All you have is your name. Be sure that the characteristics, images, and experiences attached to your name represent the professional you want to be. Don’t let anyone destroy what you’ve intentionally built.
Nicki Sanders, MSW, CEO, is a Career and Empowerment Strategist who helps high-performing women of color in management go from overworked, underpaid, and unappreciated to energized, well paid, and appreciated. Through Nicki Sanders Leadership Consulting, she also helps businesses recruit, hire, train, and retain great employees. Nicki has an extensive background in developing and managing successful programs and leading high-functioning multi-disciplinary teams. She is an accomplished professor, coach, trainer, and group facilitator who has combined her gift for authentic relationships, Master of Social Work degree, and over 20 years of diverse work experience to create a life she loves. Nicki is a lover of cupcakes, travel, and 80’s hip hop and R&B music.
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