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5 Free Ways to Strengthen Your Brand and Your Competitive Edge

“Those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.”

― George Bernard Shaw

Progression of any kind cannot occur without change of some kind. I constantly coach clients who have stalled in their career or simply crave a change to find their motivation again. When reaching the breaking point, many react radically - they quit their job, cut off all their hair, move towns, or switch industries - all changes I have encountered. However, when making rash, drastic, or desperate changes, your brand also changes - sometimes dramatically - and it can be hard to recover the quality and strength it once had.

Here are 5 free less dramatic brand changes that will not only enhance your brand to new levels, but also increase your competitive edge in the market. Consider picking one or more to strengthen your brand in anticipation of a greater change or to progress to a new level in your current position.

#1 Learn or Strengthen a Skill -

Never before have there been so many free ways to learn and acquire new skills. YouTube videos, SlideShare presentations, and online classes are a few of the places you can find free ways to learn or strengthen a skill. The only question you need to ask yourself is: where to start?

One place to begin is Linkedin. A lesser-known secret of LinkedIn is the ability to help you manage and acquire skills. When viewing your profile, (to do this click the blue “view profile as” button from the edit profile screen) your skills in the skills and endorsement section become hyperlinks. Click on any of these links to explore multiple ways to strengthen each skill. These skills will appear in many places, including other people’s profiles and job postings. You can always click on them to learn more or add a skill to your profile.

Places I love that offer free quality courses are: universities such as the University of Utah: Free Online courses, Coursera, Alison, Udemy, Futurelearn, and many more

#2 Minimize Your Brand -

We all know that monotony brings boredom. If you are looking for progression, however, sometimes looking for new things is the wrong way to go. Moving things off of your plate, particularly things that you do not love, will allow you to focus on what you love or do best and make it better. Think of it like Johnny Lee, “Lookin’ for love in all the wrong places….” Minimizing your brand is all about looking in the right place and owning it. Taking time to master something brings new life lessons, perspective, and confidence that can be found in no other way.

#3 Explore New Arenas to Showcase Your Brand -

We are only limited by our own imaginations. Finding ways to showcase your brand in a new arena can stretch your mind to new possibilities. A great example is this story of a piano teacher who combines love of teaching and technology to unlock freedom of location and time. Sometimes making even one simple switch can prove to be very rewarding and lucrative. One toy collector started a YouTube channel, DC Toy Collector, where she records herself opening toys and putting them together. It is estimated that in 2014 she made close to $5 million on her YouTube videos alone.

Some arenas are technology based, others can be face-to-face. For instance, toastmasters is a great place to boost your confidence and enhance presentation and soft skills like listening and quick thinking. It is also a good place to practice telling others about your brand. Participating in a local improv group can also help in much the same way. Many face-to-face opportunities can be found through sites like Meetup and Eventbrite.

#4 Blog or Journal about Your Experiences -

The blogging craze motivated many people to start writing to earn cash, even if they were not passionate about it. What they didn’t realize is writing is more for you, the author, than anyone else. Maud Pucell describes: “The act of writing accesses your left brain, which is analytical and rational. While your left brain is occupied, your right brain is free to create, intuit and feel. In sum, writing removes mental blocks and allows you to use all of your brainpower to better understand yourself, others and the world around you.”

Have you ever worked with someone that speaks in circles and never reaches a point? Writing and evaluating text is a great way to help strengthen the art of communication. Writing about your experiences and then reviewing and editing them requires you to process the steps involved, identify main points, and cut out minutiae. As you capture details, you begin to more fully understand why you love something. You can also bring to your understanding how to do something better and in turn begin to feel mastery over the topic. Blogging/journaling is a way to explore thought. It’s also a way to increase your understanding and enhance your image as an “expert” on a topic

#5 Network with ELYs (Experts Like You) -

Fear of competition is normal. It takes guts to look at what others do successfully and avoid feeling either jealous or envious. Jealousy can lead to copying, which is the death of a brand. However, this point cannot be discredited. I work with job seekers all the time who want to connect solely with hiring managers and recruiters. Connecting with other ELYs (Experts Like You), even if they are not hiring managers, is essential to brand assessment and building. Here are a few things you can discover from ELYs:

  • How common or rare are your skills?

  • What passions do you share that are related to your field? Are particular hobbies common in your industry?

  • How do you differ? What is unique about you?

I previously had a client who was an engineer. From his LinkedIn profile and resume it was obvious that he had a strong technical understanding of processes with over 20 years experience. As we spoke one-on-one, it became obvious that he had a passion for data mining as well. When I asked him more about his data mining and why he didn’t emphasize this skill, he commented that he didn’t think it was rare for his field. However, unbeknownst to him, at that same time, I was in conversations with a small engineering consulting company that was struggling to find talent with that exact skillset - technical engineer with a passion for data mining.

It may feel like a stretch to get started with these ideas, but once you do, you will feel motivation rise and hopefully find a love for living again. Have you tried any of these changes before? What was the result? If you have a different brand strengthening tip I did not mention, let me know in the comments below!

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