Career Alert: “Your Employer Brands You. Take It or Leave It.”

by Lennon, Dawn Thursday, May 05, 2011
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Companies are credentials. Who we work for says a lot about us. Just ask any resume screener or hiring manager.

This reality adds to the job search and career building pressures that are already intense enough. No one ever said this career success thing was going to be easy.

What’s in a name?

Here’s how it happens: Organizations have their own identities. They are defined by the mission, decisions, and performance of the leadership.

The marketplace sees organizations as though they are people, judging them based on their conduct.

When an insurance company is notoriously slow paying its claims, they may be branded as insensitive, unreliable, or ineffective. That can stick to us.

When a manufacturing company is known to donate money and free up employees to volunteer for community service, we’re part of that brand whether we volunteer or not.

The old adage even applies when it comes to your employer: “You’re judged by the company you keep.”

The choice is yours.

We can choose to work for well-regarded companies or questionable ones. I know these are desperate times and finding a job is difficult.

But, each time we say, “yes” to an employer, we’re entering into a unique relationship. We agree to perform the work they want in exchange for the salary and benefits they pay.

Every company operates based on its values. That’s what drives its decision-making. Values attract certain kinds of customers and investors, suppliers and employees.

Values are words like: quality, reliability, accountability, cooperation, integrity, service, innovation, and safety.

When organizations deliver on their values, they are held in high regard. (It doesn’t matter how large or small they are.) When they don’t, they get a black eye and share it with you, their employee.

It’s easy to tell ourselves that we’ll just keep our heads down, do our work, and go home, so we don’t get tangled up in all this. But at some point, we know whether or not what’s going on around us is compatible with the person we are. Protecting our personal/professional brand is essential to our successful career.

Sit on the right shoulders

There is enormous benefit to your brand when you work for a well-respected organization, large or small. Here are a few:

No apologies required: When asked where you work, your answer is met with positive reactions to what the organization does and your part in its success.

Requests for information: People consider you a credible voice who can help them connect with the right resources and/or put their concerns or questions in perspective.

Access to influencers: Simply being employed by well-respected companies makes it easier to be heard at community meetings, gain access to politicians, and meet with other business leaders.

Invitations to represent: Good companies are sought after and need employee representatives, like you, to serve on non-profit boards, to attend local fund-raisers, and to speak to community groups.

Opportunities to grow: Everyone loves a winner. When you work for a successful company, their success rubs off on you, expanding your credentials by proximity. As more doors open to you, your brand expands. So you may find yourself asked to attend a special meeting for an executive, participate on an industry research project, or write and publish a paper.

When I asked Nichola D. Gutgold, PhD, associate professor of communications arts and sciences atPenn State University, about how she was able to gain access to so many powerful women in government, media, and the Supreme Court for her books, she told me:

“To have Penn State Universityas my employer is a huge asset. In many ways, I stand on PSU’s shoulders and that opens doors. My academic credentials also have weight.”

Give credit

The resources and the reach of our companies propel their brands. We draw on both to expand our own brands.

Our organizations aren’t perfect and neither are we, but together we can help each other to be better.

You know when you’re working for the right organization. Its shoulders give you the lift you need to reach great heights. Steady now!