No, I don’t mean this as a legacy, after death type of question.

Rather, I mean it as a current, present day one.

What do you want to be known for?

If you’ve ever given yourself permission to take the time to answer this question, then you know that these eight “simple” words, when woven together, really represent a profound question. Mostly because your answer not only has an affect on the choices you make, but also on the choices others make regarding you. Especially when it comes to your career.

Everybody has a message

As it turns out, your answer to the question is fundamentally the bedrock of your message.

Despite what local and cable news may tempt you into believing, having a message crafted around what you want to be known for isn’t just for politicians, Fortune type CEOs, and high-profile entertainers and entrepreneurs. It is for anyone with a mission and something to sell, which means it is for everybody! Whether you’re selling an idea to a boss, investor or board of directors; or, selling a product or service to a client or customer.

Your message (or what you want to be known for) is really the anchor that positions you in the marketplace, otherwise known as “in the minds of others.” It is what helps you stand out so that you aren’t viewed as a commodity.

The problem, however, is that I don’t see enough “regular” folk paying as much attention to their message as I believe they should. They either don’t have one, or haven’t updated it to reflect how they and what they do have evolved.

If I’ve described you, let’s change that!

Because if you’re contemplating a career move that includes changing jobs, changing companies, starting a business, or taking the one you have to the next level, your message will be one of your key tools for bringing about the change you want.

To get your juices flowing, here are a few things to consider as you work to develop (or refine) your message…

Start with you

At the risk of stating the obvious, to create your message you have to start with you.

  • What do you do, how, and why?
  • What’s the difference you make?
  • What are your goals and your values?

After you’ve answered the above, how can you convert your answers into a single sentence that expresses your strengths and what you want people to know about you; your company, if relevant; your project, if relevant; and/or your expertise?

As for me, I want to be known as the person who focuses on the human side of money by helping people prioritize their behavior, choices and emotions with money – over the math of money.

In the minds of others

When it comes to your message, there is someone on the other end. That’s why it is beneficial to view your message as a conversation with this purpose: to connect.

And more than likely, your message needs to connect with multiple audiences. So…

  • Who are your audiences?
  • What does each audience want from you?
  • What do you know (or are assuming) about your audiences’ interests and needs?
  • Where and how does your message vis a vis what you’re offering intersect with the solution they want?

For each audience, you need to tailor your message in a way that causes them to take notice.

As an example, let’s use someone I know who is looking for a new job in her current company:

  • Her audiences are her current boss, potential new boss, in-house and external mentors, to name a few.
  • The current and potential new boss likely want to understand her vision for how her new role will help the company achieve its overall goals; her in-house mentor wants to understand her message and who/what might be the potential roadblocks to getting buy-in from her current and future boss; her external mentors need to understand her vision in order to be an effective thought partner to help her strategize throughout the formal and informal interview process.
  • The interests and need of the current boss probably center around how her leaving might impact the performance of the unit and affect the team; for the future boss, adding a new member (even from inside) changes the team’s dynamics. Her pitch has to convince the future boss that her vision and execution plan are worth the risk.

Bringing your message to life

To make your message less abstract and more accessible, you need to create images that your different audiences can connect with. Enter storytelling and social statistics: these help to humanize your message.

For example, in February, when I sat on a panel hosted by SiriusXM about “Black Economic Empowerment in the Era of 45,” I shared a statistic about the number of employees employed by Fortune 500 companies (approx. 28 million people). I asked the live studio and online audiences to think of the S&P 500 (something they probably hear referenced daily) and how the represented companies employ approx. 17% of the nation’s workforce – or the population of the state of Texas. I then said how U.S. small businesses employ approx. 57 million people. Yet, tax and healthcare reform is done with the smaller percentage of people in mind. This was one of many tactics that helped me to create imagery with an emotional hook – especially since part of my message was to encourage voting for representatives that support small businesses.

The benefits of having a message

One of the benefits of having a succinct message is that it can be easily used by the people in the room making a decision about you when you aren’t in the room. (Which is how most key decisions about whether to hire (or work with) you are made, anyway. So make the job of the person who has to sell you to others an easier one to do.)

Another is that it helps to increase or solidify your reputation in your company and/or industry.

Third, it helps you craft and communicate different “sub” messages that are pertinent to different channels, e.g., short-form (like TV and some radio); long-form (like print and podcast).

Fourth, when you keep your message front and center, it helps you to spend your time more wisely (are your daily and weekly activities in support of your message?), and it helps you to create healthy boundaries (in other words, what are you saying “yes” or “no” to?).

Finally, you are always being interviewed – whether you realize it or not. So having a message helps you to stay, well, on message in a confident and poised manner.

Fundamentally, your message signals the value you create and for whom, along with the outcomes you deliver. And while it may not be the only thing for which you’re known, it serves as a filter that helps you ensure there is always alignment between what you say, do and think.

Plus, I happen to believe your message is a tool that helps you to live more deliberately! And, that is always a good a thing.

So…what do you want to be known for?

p.s. After reading this, have you determined that working on your message is something that might amplify your next career move? If yes, then I invite you to join us at the table on Monday, May 21st for the next Comfort Circle™ dinner. Click here to read more about it and to RSVP.

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