Your Work Doesn’t Count As Much As You Do

4 March, 2015

Happiness 2

By now you’ll have discovered that being good at your work isn’t enough to lead a happy, fulfilling life. Ironic isn’t it, when we’ve been told that as an entrepreneur that’s the most important thing we can do.

I’m reminded of a quote I once read that said “who you are, rather than what you do will increasingly become the source of sustainability in the world of work.” I think it should have said happiness instead of sustainability.

In my opinion, being true to who we are leads us to a satisfying and genuinely meaningful life. When we’re able to use our natural talents in a way that’s of service to others, then we discover the real joy of working.

Easier said than done, but I’d like to suggest these four things as a starting point to help you along the way:

What’s important to you?

Someone once said that you only really discover what’s meaningful to you when someone else stomps on it – or something like that. Staying with this line of thinking, list the times when you feel you’ve compromised your integrity or settled for less than your worth. What were you doing at the time? Why did you run into trouble? What held you back from achieving what was important to you?

On the flip side, write down what success means to you. What matters most to you, not necessarily as a measure of outer wealth or achievement, but individually and authentically? What inspires you now? What has inspired you in the past? What do you love to learn and read about without distraction?

Another way of finding out what’s important to you is to sit back and take a look around. What or who do you surround yourself with? Is it music, art, sports trophies, academic certificates, pictures of your family? What you have around you is a good indication of what you find valuable. Another measure is to notice what you spend your money on. You always find money for things that are valuable to you, but you never want to part with money for things that aren’t. Your choices about money tell you a lot about who you are.

Who else says so?

Figuring out what’s important to you and how you see yourself is only one half of the coin. Equally important is to find out what other people think of you. You might say that this shouldn’t matter – and maybe you’re right – but truthfully, reputation is everything. Realistically speaking, wouldn’t you like to know what people say about you when you’re not in the room?

There’s no easy way to do it. There’s no easy way to soften the blow or get real answers without sticking your neck out and asking real questions. Sometimes it helps to go through a third party, where you and the people giving their opinion of you feel a little more protected. If that’s your preferred route, then or are anonymous, and worth exploring. A coach or personal branding consultant can do this bit for you too. In fact, I’d recommend this method above all because it gives you the opportunity to talk through the results with a professional.

First thing to do is to make a list of 20 people who know you well. Have them be as varied as possible – friends, family, colleagues, clients, suppliers and so on. Ask their permission to send a short survey about you. Not only does this increase the chance of them responding, but it also gives them time to think about what they’d most like to say about you.

Here are some examples of the questions you can ask once you have their go-ahead: What are the three words they would use to best describe you? What are the three most special skills they believe you have? What is the one thing that makes you different from anyone else they know? What are the things you do best i.e. your strengths? What are your weaknesses or development areas? If you were a car, a dog, a household appliance or a breakfast cereal, which one would you be, and why? Tip: the secret is in the ‘why’.

What makes you special, different and better?

This is the cornerstone of loving your life and being brilliant at the work that you do. When you find your special gifts – the ones that only you have – and use them in a way that’s meaningful to others, your work-life satisfaction increases 100 fold.

Recently I’ve had the privilege of working with a client who is a superb networker. Not only does she know a lot of the right people, but also she knows how to introduce these people to each other – a highly valuable and sought-after skill. How does this benefit my client? She becomes the go-to person for connecting people, inspiring them and opening doors. And she loves every minute of it.

When you’re trying to find your special gift, read through the testimonials and recommendations that people have given you. What’s the one thing they all have in common? What do people get when they engage with you that they don’t get anywhere else? Why are you that particular breakfast cereal, or car, or appliance spoken about in the section above?

If this doesn’t bring the gold, then try this: write down everything it takes to be a successful ______ (what you are). Rate yourself according to those criteria and then rate others in your industry against the same ones. Where they fall short and you stand out, that’s what makes you special. This is what you need to do more of and tell your customers about.

Tell them about it

It’s no good winking in the dark. Now that you have your personal mission, you need to communicate the legacy you want to leave. You can do it like this:

Get to know your ideal customer. Ask yourself – who are the key people you need buy in from, and what are their needs? How do these needs fit with what you’re good at? What elements of your personal brand are relevant? How do you know for sure? Draw up a list of people you know who could be potential customers and then interview them. Find out their hopes, dreams, fears and aspirations, and see where your brand has a solution to their problems.

Develop your personal skillset by learning to write properly and speak publicly. Not all of us are gifted in these areas, and while we can outsource a lot of it, these two skills come in very handy when you want to contribute thought leadership and establish credibility. And this you definitely want to do.

Make sure your online profiles are up to date and relevant, and your photograph has been taken professionally. Your competitors look good and so should you. Tip: use the same photograph in all your profiles for instant recognition. Include good quality recommendations on your LinkedIn page and connect your experience to your achievements and single-minded message i.e. what you want people to be known for. Where applicable, include case studies of your successes on your website.

Always have your elevator pitch ready and share what you do well when meeting new people.

And lastly, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Build a support community of people who are ten steps ahead of you, doing work you admire in ways you respect. Have an unofficial board of directors to help mentor and guide you. Because they know you so well, they can also become your ultimate brand ambassadors.

A final word – don’t compromise yourself for fear of not earning enough money. What’s important is the impact you make on your family, your community and your customers. This is what makes your life meaningful and purposeful – not just hollowly doing what you’ve always done because someone once said you were quite good.

Robyn Young - Personal Leadership Branding for Executives

About the Author

Robyn Young

As a personal leadership branding strategist, Robyn Young helps individuals identify and articulate their unique strengths, values and goals, empowering them to build an authentic personal brand that resonates with their stakeholders.

Robyn has a keen eye for aligning personal attributes with professional aspirations, helping her clients project a powerful and compelling image in their chosen field.