Executives and managers hoping to navigate the turbulent economy with a minimum of disruption must develop excellent career brand management tools.

Here are nine elements to consider:

Discipline:  This is the cornerstone of effective career management.  The greatest lament of executives who suddenly find themselves out of work is that they wish they had spent more time on developing a bigger network, boosting their presence on social media, writing articles for professional journals, etc.  The second most common thing I hear is excuses – reasons why they didn’t devote more time to enhancing their career brand.

Personal Vision Statement:  Writing a vision statement is important.  This statement should define who you are, what you believe in, how would you want to be perceived, and what you want to achieve.  Like a strategic plan, this, too, will have to be updated periodically.  I strongly suggest you revisit this statement annually.  Then have the discipline to tie everything you do or say to this statement.

Know Who You Are:  Everyone has strengths and weaknesses.  A weakness will never be a strength.  Be honest with yourself.  Not everyone is destined to be a CEO or senior executive.  Use this assessment in preparing your personal vision statement and in making career choices.

Social Media:  The Internet has forever changed the landscape for career brand management.  Today we have a host of sites including LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and Google+.  Next week, next month or next year, there will be a new “latest and greatest” tool that can be used.  Learn the “dos” and “don’ts” now.  LinkedIn, the largest of the professional social media platforms, has quickly emerged as a key tool for executive recruiters to track and identify talent.  Having a page is not enough. You must add content and actively connect with others, sharing ideas and information.  Social media is vital to establishing and maintaining a relevant brand.

Build A Network:  If you do not develop and maintain a robust and focused network of professional contacts, you are making a big mistake.  Again, your efforts here should tie back to your personal vision statement.  “I am too busy” is the most common excuse I hear on this subject.  My response is that if you are not actively engaged in building the type of quality network that can add value to your career, you are limiting your potential and probably prolonging the time it will take to find a new job.

Deliver Results: Delivering positive results is the backbone of a professional career brand.  It may not guarantee you uninterrupted employment, but people with an excellent track record typically can find a new job much faster than those who have an uneven record.

Maintain Career Journal:  This is very important.  The journal should include details of each employer, each job, supervisors, compensation, dates of employment and accomplishments.  It should also include thoughts on performance – a replay of events and decisions — to determine where improvements could be made.  Regulated thinking – also known as gamefilming, a replay of events with a more detached perspective – is a vital tool for personal performance improvement.

Exit Strategy:  Always have an exit strategy.  Include your family in this plan.  A mentor once told me that there are two types of executives: “The ones who have been fired, and the ones who are going to be.”  In this new economy, the executive who can navigate an entire career without a termination or two is going to be extremely rare.  Given that 40 percent of new recruits and managers who are promoted from within quit, are fired or forced out in 24 months or less, it is foolish not to have a plan for this career certainty.

Be Flexible:  Executives who limit themselves geographically will prolong their job search.  In an industry like healthcare, where over the last two years the average executive transition has ranged between six and 14 months, limiting a job search to one city or even a region will probably extend the time it takes to find a new job by four to six months, or require a career change and probably a reduction in income.

© 2012 John Gregory Self

To invite John Self to be a speaker at your meeting or function, contact Kathleen Sullivan of The Sullivan Group in Houston.  John is an entertaining and informative speaker who talks about leadership, current events, and life’s wonderful ironies in a speech that is laced with humor and satisfying stories regarding the challenges we all face. He consistently receives high ratings for his presentations.