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"Can you hear me now?"

My house sits on a telecommunications fault line so the front of my house gets better cell reception than the rest of it. This means that early in the cell phone evolution, I spent a good amount of time starting a conversation on my cell, then running to my living room to press my head (and phone) against the front room glass so I could continue the conversation. Since I am not particularly fast, most often the dialogue included Verizon's famous marketing line, "Can you hear me now?" 

This month I have been visiting my classrooms of adult students to facilitate networking opportunities and provide tips for discerning one's personal/professional brand. My goal is to have students leave my programs stating with great certainty, "I can see me now." Unfortunately, more often than not, one's view of self is dependent on one's context, such as work or family life. 

To find students' personal brand, I encourage them to do three simple things. First, pay attention to situations and stories that generate an emotional response within. Second, journal about it and anything else that comes to mind. Finally, find the patterns in the stories one chooses to write down. 

Storyteller researcher, Brene' Brown says it is through one's stories she found insights about her research topics. Interestingly, though, she indicates that when she asks about love, people tell her about heartbreak. When she asks about belonging, people tell her about being excluded. In the same way, when we think about our personal brand, we have to consider when our sense of self has been compromised. 

For me, my sense of personal/professional brand is compromised when one of two things happens: a) I spend too much time in the day to day activities and forget to focus on the future of what could be, and b) others appear to lack respect for the simple demographic of who I am - a woman (think mix of Helen Reddy and Proverbs 31!)

These days I spend far more time emailing and texting on my cell phone than actually talking to another person on it. However, as we spend more time communicating via (and sometimes hiding behind) the written word, it becomes more critical to be able to truly ask the question, "Can you hear ME now?"

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