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Be conscious of the brand you are building

D. Murali

COMPARED to combat zones, jobs are peaceful havens. A myth. Because building a successful personal brand is not easy; nor is keeping it alive anything but a continual battle. There's no escape, so if you have to wage it, better follow the ten rules that David F. D'Alessandro lays down in Career Warfare, published by Tata McGraw-Hill ( .

"Most business books are either theoretical wastelands, pedantic drivel, or self-congratulatory tomes," writes David, right at the start. And his rules are simple: "You just have to listen and watch carefully." It is not only that your products are watched in store-shelves, but also you. "Everyone in organisational life is constantly being watched and evaluated by bosses, clients, vendors, peers, subordinates" and every interaction of yours produces some opinion in this crowd. Organisations are vertical villages and "your personal brand will determine whether you conquer" this village or get defeated by it.

First rule: "Try to look beyond your own navel." For that, a tip: "The best way to establish a brand when you are new to an organisation is by offering something that the organisation is missing." Another tip: "There are probably plenty of volunteers for every high-profile task, so sometimes the best way to be noticed by those in power is to do something humble but essential." Most important, you'd realise the need to "become a product with the right features." Such as: "Earning the organisation money; telling the truth; being discreet; keeping your promises; and making people want to work for you."

Rule two: "Like it or not, your boss is the co-author of your brand." The rule holds good even if he or she is an idiot; "the power is real, so handle him or her carefully." Do you know that bosses want three things? "Loyalty, good advice, and to have their personal brands polished." Third comes the advice: "Put your boss on the couch." But a caution is not to get too comfortable; "if you are not learning and adding to your brand at your current job, leave."

Fourth rule is to learn which one is the pickle fork because "good manners are essential to a good personal brand." However, "don't make assumptions about people you don't know. Slow down and observe them first."

The fifth rule is inspired by Kenny Rogers's song in The Gambler: "You got to know when to hold `em, know when to fold `em." So, take David's advice about not wasting years in a place "where the power structure is resistant to your brand simply by virtue of who you are." There are at least four reasons why it's hard to build a brand under an entrepreneur: "Everything is personal, and any show of independence is a betrayal; entrepreneurs are insanely controlling; they don't like to share; and they like to play Toy Soldier with their employees."

Rule six says: "It's always show time." Means? "You are always on display. When it comes to your brand, there is no such thing as a transaction that doesn't count." A helpful tip is not to develop a reputation for attacking your peers. "If you think someone is worthless, chances are that he or she will eventually self-destruct." Else, an attack will hurt your brand.

Seven, "Make the right enemies." David observes: "No matter how intelligent, hard-working, and well-meaning you are, you will make enemies in your work." Your enemies will rarely confront you directly, he says. "They will try to hurt you without leaving fingerprints." Fight back gossip and make sure you fire traitors.

Rule eight is to try not to be swallowed by the bubble. "It's dangerous to be treated like royalty." So, be sceptical of your own genius; keep the friends who remind you that you're human; have some sympathy for your victims; develop interests other than golf; and remember who feeds your family.

Ninth rule: "The higher you fly, the more you will be shot at." The higher your profile, the greater the importance of truth. So, more than a lawyer, you'd need advice from people who are realistic. The last rule: "Everybody could have been a contender; make sure you stay one." Don't throw in the towel too soon.

At the very end, David writes one line to condense his whole book: "Be conscious every day of what you are building." Great read.

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