The idea of branding yourself is all the rage—and for good reason. We are all free agents in a workplace full of free agents. Branding ourselves is important to standing out and being recognized. But I’ll go farther than saying you just have to brand yourself—you have to “brand your passion.”
The first step in “branding your passion” is finding the intersection of what you like to do and what you’re good at. Katharine Graham, the first female CEO of a Fortune 500 company, The Washington Post, once said, “To love what you do and feel that it matters—how could anything be more fun?” The problem is, a lot of us in the workforce do not love what we do and we often question whether it matters. I didn’t find my passion until I was 50 years old because I always followed the money. Whether it was upon graduation from college or business school or simply switching jobs, I usually took positions where I would make the most money. My resume looked fantastic but I wasn’t happy. I chose work that I was good at but not passionate about. I never stopped to think about what I really wanted to do in life. So Step One of branding your passion? Figure out what you like to do. It sounds easier than it really is—many of us have never thought of work this way. An easier way to get started is to make a list of what you do in your leisure time. Now you’re on your way.
Step Two? Combine what you like to do with what you’re good at doing. You may like to play tennis but you’re probably not going to make money playing on the pro tour if you didn’t pick up a racket until you were 25 years old. That doesn’t mean you can’t have a career that involves the sport. Your strengths may be in sales, management or one of the myriad other functional areas that support the business aspect of tennis. So go ahead—make another list but this time include not only those things that you like to do but also those that you are good at doing. The intersection of the two holds great possibilities.
Step Three in your branding methodology is to become your own personal PR manager. This is something most men do well: letting others—at work and in their personal lives—know what they have to offer and what they’re all about. If you’re passionate about what you’re selling, it’s a lot easier than to sell yourself than if you’re not.
And just because you are doing what you like to do does not mean you have to sacrifice financially. If you like what you do, you will probably put more time into it. You will become an expert faster and you will have an easier time branding yourself. So don’t wait until you’re over 50 to follow your passion. Start right now. Here is my acid test: if you won the lottery tomorrow, would you quit your job? I would not. I have “branded” my passion – work doesn’t feel like work anymore. That’s a much better way to live than just following the money.