For years, Larry Linne and I ran “Rookie Training Camp”. This was a live course developed for Millennial sales people new to the business world – specifically Insurance. Most participants were still in their first 6 months with their agency; we even had one guy who said, “I don’t even know where my desk is yet!”. Yes, they were green… The course focused on business basics to help them hit the ground running with their new job. We taught things like presentation skills, how to network, appropriate dress and manners, and all the professional skills they would need early on.
One of the big fears the participants had was overcoming youth. They were unsure of how to be taken seriously as a 20-something with no experience. This was a legitimate concern, but one that we helped them overcome. We helped them realize that they could manage the market’s perception of them and focus on their strengths and natural talents to actually show more value than their older competitors.
The following story, told by Larry in Brand Aid, is a perfect example of how you as a Millennial can ensure that your reputation precedes you; and how some seasoned professionals see the world today.
I spoke at a large business executive conference about personal branding. During the speech I asked how often people felt they were looked up on the Internet both professionally and personally. With a request for showing hands at different frequencies, some raised their hands at 1-5 times per month, a few more at 6-10 times per month, and most felt like they were looked up at least 11-20 times a month.
I also asked the participants to raise their hand if they thought it would increase over time. One hundred percent of the people in the room raised their hand in agreement that more and more people will be researching personal and professional relationships on the Internet prior to first meetings.
When the speech ended, a gentleman who looked to be in his mid 50’s came directly to the stage to meet me. I had been aware of this man during the speech because he had a look of doubt and resistance to the message. I expected that the man was not going to praise the brilliance of my speech. I assumed he would inform me of his experience and why I was wrong. He didn’t disappoint!
The gentleman was very well dressed and gave a look of confidence as he began to speak. “Mr. Linne! I would like to introduce myself….” (I wont use his name). “I completely agree with the comments and points you made in your speech. However, when you were talking about how often people will look us up online, I thought of something you haven’t thought about!”
His bait intrigued me. I asked him to “please enlighten me.”
He said, “I laughed when you were speaking because I though ‘if someone looks me up online, they won’t find anything!’ I guess my brand is pretty safe. I don’t do any social media, online pictures or videos, no web page, nothing. So, (chest out a bit now) what do you think of that?”
I was in a hurry to leave the event so I decided to respond to this gentleman in a way that would make my point quickly but leave him speechless.
“Sir, I am impressed.” I began. “I have a game I like to play with individuals in my audiences. Would you mind if I played it with you?”
He showed a bit of fear in his face, but responded positively. “Ok, sure.”
I continued, “I would like to take a shot at defining your brand.”
He stood up tall and had that smirky, salesman, ‘I know it all’ look. He said, “Take your best shot.”
“Ok, here it goes. You are a salesman near the end of your career. You used to be successful but have not experienced the same level of success you enjoyed early in your career. You are not technology savvy and would not be able to react or be proactive in working with a client if technology were required. You are seen and known as “old school” and would struggle in selling to a modern buyer. You are a nice guy but a large number of people probably feel sorry for you, that you have stopped learning and growing. “ I paused… then I said, “How’d I do?”
He looked at me stunned, with a frown, and said, “ You’re probably right.”
I responded, “So, if others look you up on the Internet and can’t find you, it helps to identify your brand?”
“Touché!” He said as he simulated a knife going into his gut. “I guess you got me there. I better get busy on my brand.”
He gave me a handgun shot and a wink. Again, his brand defined even more, as he walked away.
To stereotype, you have a far greater mastery of technology and Millennials are naturally better at defining their brand, values and what they stand for. Allow this to shine through with a professional platform online and know that you will show up in front of your future employer, client, etc. before most seasoned professionals will. This can, and should, be a huge part of your success moving forward.
You have the unique opportunity to take control of your reputation before everyone else does. You can proactively tell the world who you are and what you stand for, or you can act like the seasoned pro in the story and stick your head in the sand. I bet I can guess the path you’ll take.