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Don’t Play the Weather Girl if You Want to Be the VP

Young woman shaking hands in a business meeting

A woman gets into an elevator. She’s a hard-working executive who comes to the office early every day. One day, the CEO gets into the elevator with her. She freezes, afraid to talk and afraid not to talk. So, she chats about the weather.

Another day, she’s riding the elevator when the CEO steps in again. But this time, a male colleague also gets in, shakes the CEO’s hand, introduces himself and says: “We just had a great meeting with a new client we were pitching the other day. And, I think we’re going to get the business.” The CEO looks at him and says, “You just made my day.”

The woman, realizing her mistake, reflects: Her colleague was branding himself as the next VP while she was branding herself as the weather girl.

It sounds like a joke but it is a true story shared by Catherine Kaputa, a personal branding expert and author who helped lead the award-winning “I Love New York” campaign and runs SelfBrand, a New York City-based personal branding company.

“Personal branding is particularly important for us women to think about because research studies show that we’re not as good as men are in terms of personal branding and self-promotion,” says Kaputa, author of You Are a Brand! and Women Who Brand. Research shows we tend to downplay our accomplishments, she notes.

But if you are going to advance beyond the middle level in business, you need branding power, Kaputa advises, and that means considering things like your image, your reputation, your network, your communications ability and looking the part. “It’s all of these things that make such a big difference in success today,” she says.

And, if that doesn’t convince you, she adds: “If you don’t brand yourself, other people will. And, I can guarantee you they’re not going to brand you in the way that you want to be branded.”

Here are three of Kaputa’s tips:

  1. Curate your experience. Eliminate or downplay the things you don’t want people to focus on and emphasize things that are important to where you want to go. For example, when Kaputa wanted to transition from academia to marketing, she simply eliminated a lot of her academic background in her resume and pitch and emphasized her marketing experience.
  2. Pitch yourself in a sentence. Kaputa’s example: “I’m a marketer for difficult products.”
  3. Focus on the “outside in.” That is, think about the language that the person you are approaching speaks and use it to connect.

Kaputa spoke about branding at the 2018 Pennsylvania Conference for Women with panelists Kailei Carr, branding expert and CEO, The Asbury Group; April Schneider, deposits and Merrill Edge product executive, Bank of America; and Sarah Swammy, SVP and COO, portfolio solutions, global market, State Street. Listen to the full session here.

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