How to build your brand (and be taken seriously) as a young professional

March 5, 2019 | by

This is an article, Haley Saalsaa, formerly a Commercial Client Executive at AVID Risk. She is now our Agency Relations coordinator who’s role is to engage our brand in the community and help our team develop their own brand, in which she refers in the article below. You can see from this article she wrote two years ago (before we had a blog) she was meant for this role and didn’t even know it yet! What she wrote is still so important today. Happy to have you on the team Haley!

I was recently at a fundraising event for the UW Carbone Center. I was approached by one of my fellow Rotarians who told me. “Haley, you are everywhere!” I replied with a quick response: “Isn’t that how it’s supposed to be?”

My boss told me the other day that he is proud of what I am doing and the brand I am building in the community. Now, am I meeting my sales goal? The answer is “yes”. Am I blowing it out of the water? I have to admit one can ALWAYS do better. As a young professional one needs to focus on building your own brand. If done well, this will also help you to be taken seriously and benefit your career long term. The more active you are, whether it be volunteering of golfing, the more people you will meet. It’s very powerful and even builds your confidence when you can walk into a room and see familiar faces. My goal as a young professional is to meet as many people as possible and learn something from every single one of them.

At 26 years old a key priority of mine is building and knowing my brand. I recognize that I need to assure people that I know what I want, I know how to get it, and most importantly that I know myself and am committed to making a difference. One can’t build a brand without knowing oneself and where you want your career to go. It will help when it comes time to make that cold or warm call that the person on the other end will already have a good idea of who they are speaking with. So the questions now are a) what steps am I taking and b)how do you build your brand at the onset of your career? (and get people to take you seriously)?

  1. Be passionate: While I can be passionate about 100 different things, for me there are only a few things where the passion will stick with me through time. In order to be happy in your career you need to find a way to incorporate these passions into your career. For example—I love food so I try to help local restaurant, franchise, manufacturers with their insurance. I am passionate about their products and want them to succeed. I am passionate about community—so I make sure I find time to do such things as Rotary, or be active in Madison4Kids. If I make time for these things early in my career, I won’t be one of those people who later “doesn’t have time” to attend a committee meeting or join a new club or organization. Plus participating in those sorts of activities builds invaluable relationships. It gives one a sense of comradery. The person you meet might not always be a candidate to become a direct sale, but I bet a large percentage or people you meet can either connect you to someone, invite you somewhere, or introduce you to something that will help your career. So stay passionate.
  2. Be Genuine: This comes hand in hand with being passionate. If you follow your passions you’ll ultimately end up being genuine in your transactions and relationships. You have to stay genuine to yourself while you build your brand or else your brand will become lost. Surround yourself with genuine people and not the schmucks of the business world. We all can point out that person from a mile away. If you’re not genuine to others, they will be able to tell your heart isn’t in the sale. Most likely this person is going to be someone who sells on price and adds no value—so preach and practice being genuine!
  3. Be Everywhere: Opening line of this post. BE EVERYWHERE. The best place to find events to go to are through people you know. I can’t tell you how many times I have called up my acquaintances and asked them what fun events they have to go to this month where I can meet people. Other ways I find events/networking is: Event Brite, IB Madison, Dream Bank (for professional development activities), Madison Club and Middleton Chamber. I LOVE the Madison Club. If you are a young professional, definitely check out the specials they have for professionals under 40. They offer many great events and clients will always leave impressed.
  4. Be Nervous: The point I am getting at here is to encourage you to go outside your comfort zone. If you are nervous that means you are pushing your limits and testing yourself. We have to continuously test ourselves or else we will never see progress. If you see someone you want to meet, go up and say hi. One of the things that differentiates me amongst others is that I will go up to anyone and introduce myself. Oh Hey! You’re the CEO of X Company! My name is Haley, nice to meet you! Most of the time the person will appreciate your courage (In order to be courageous you must start with discomfort otherwise what is there to be courageous about!) and will not think you’re a pest—unless you’re that schmuck business person I referred to in point 2.
  5. Don’t be the “yes” person: This is just something that I am starting to learn in my career. If you say yes to too many people, you will spread yourself too thin. Stick to what you are passionate about and say yes to as many things that you are able to keep organized with-out ruining your value and what you can bring to the table. This seems like a ‘yeah duh’ point but it’s something I have to make apparent in my own mind to not over commit myself—especially when I am young and need to focus on growing my book.

What is my brand? My brand is wanting to be someone of VALUE. Someone who interacts in a community that has given so much to me all of my life. I want to be able to be known as a resource for making connections, educating my clients, being pleasantly persistent (a term many clients have coined for me) and doing good in the community. My brand is about my passions showing through and making sure people know that I genuinely want to help their business. What do you want people to think about you when you walk away? What do you want them to tell others? Your answers should reveal what makes your brand. Your brand is ultimately your reputation. Evaluate what actions you need to take to have others recognize your brand.

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