Amy Slater is the Vice President of Inside Sales for cybersecurity company, Palo Alto Networks, a published author, and a frequent speaker at major conferences around the topic of leadership. She has over 25 years of leadership and global sales experience, with a passion for empowering people to get extraordinary results and ultimately grow revenue. She also has a fascination with personal branding. Our three-part interview started with Amy’s insights on Why You Need a Personal Brand. Here, she shares how you can use her M.A.G.I.C. formula to create, grow, and enhance your brand to get more of what you want out of your career. It's a brilliant acronym: M.A.G.I.C. We spoke with Amy and got the rundown on her formula, and her take on branding yourself in the age of technology and social media.
MAC: You've taken this personal brand that can be super complex and overwhelming, and you've boiled it down into a brilliant acronym. It's M.A.G.I.C., M-A-G-I-C, all about building the brand of you. Walk us through how you came up with that and what the steps are to establish that personal brand.
SLATER: “The first thing I always say to people, and this is why I chose the acronym, M.A.G.I.C., is that I believe in magic in every aspect of my life, personal, professional. It's all about magic. So then when it comes to personal brand, I was challenged by someone. A young salesperson in my office just said, "Can you come to talk to us about personal brand?"
I did some additional research on branding. According to a Nielsen Consumer survey, only 33% of buyers trust messages from a brand, like a company, while 90% trust messages from an individual that they know. That means that if you're a business owner, you have a much better chance of winning people's trust if you bond with them first as a human being.So, you're asking how important your brand is? It's 90% important because that's what people are buying when you're in sales. It's your brand. Now you want to have a strong brand of a company behind you. However, they trust you because you're the one that they're buying from. When I think about this magic, how is it that we make sure that we develop our personal brand?
The first piece of this is the M, which is the MESSAGE. What is it you have to say? What's your story? Who are you? That message can be boiled down to a couple of sentences, a phrase or so that encapsulates an individual's strongest points. What is it about you? For me, one of the things I always prided myself in was always being responsive. I will always respond to an email within 24 hours, many times even if it's somebody that I don't know.So how do you figure out what your message is? Ask yourself, what is it about me that makes me stand out? What do I want for people to associate my name with? I want people to associate my name with positivity. I have their back. I'm honest, sincere. I have integrity. Think about those things.Then you say, "How else do I find it?" Ask. I always challenge people, go ask five people to give you five adjectives that they think describe you, and tell them to be brutally honest. You come up with five of your own, and then you take all of those, and there you have your brand. If it's inconsistent across different people, people you work with, family, friends, then you've got a branding issue if you don't have any words in common. If they're consistently the same, good job.
MAC: From the messaging standpoint, do you have a specific example? When you don't have experience, and you are honest and transparent and authentic and responsive, and you're good at what you do, you're passionate, you're a good worker, you want to grow, how do you message that in a way that is unique and still attention-grabbing that isn't just stating those facts?
SLATER: Our brand is who we are. If you stick to that as a new college grad, it's who you are and isn't necessarily what you've done from a performance standpoint because you haven't had that opportunity. But what are some of the things that you might have done in school? Were you involved in sports? Were you involved in any social clubs? What did you do during the summers? Did you work? Did you volunteer? How do your friends perceive? Are you a go-to person when someone's in need? Do you have empathy? Do you have compassion? Do you have a strong work ethic? That's a good thing. It shows effort.
You can still find out your brand by asking people and then asking them why. Why would you say that I'm this way or that way? Ask others to give you some examples if you don't have them yourself. However, you look at your track record, even as a young person. My children, for example, my oldest daughter was a captain of a cheerleading squad. She was engaged and involved in a sorority. She worked at a science camp over the summer. Those are the kinds of things that she did, and then she scoured LinkedIn, and she found a job.
MAC: The second part of your M.A.G.I.C. formula is AUTHENTICITY. How important is authenticity in the brand?
SLATER: When I think about being authentic, be true to who you are. If a job feels right, you're going to be successful. If a job doesn't feel right, you won't. And people can see through that. So, as you're moving through a role and being honest and transparent, and I would say positive as well, that authenticity and that sincerity will show through.
If you want to move either within the company or go on to a different job outside of the company that you're in, you can share that story. Say, if you're leaving one company to go to a next, "I didn't feel true to myself. "The role didn't feel right. "It wasn't the right position for me. "As I come to your company, these are the reasons why I can be of value to you." Often when we interview, we're saying to the company, "What are you going to do for me? "How are you going to help me grow my career?" So many times, we get tripped up on all these things that we think we haven't done. We sell ourselves short. Just because you don't have a big track record doesn't mean that you aren't a valuable asset to a company. Your mind is what companies are looking for, and your heart.”
MAC: The third piece in your M.A.G.I.C. formula is the G, and it's GROW your network. So, I am in the rat race. I've got my job. I've got my kids. How do I grow my network outside of my little bubble, and why is that so important?
SLATER: It is one of the most important pieces, I believe, in this formula because if you're living in a box, telling yourself how great you are and how authentic you are, you're in a box, and people aren't going to know it. So going back to the whole idea of authenticity and sincerity, you need to grow your community authentically. Not, “oh, I'm going to click through LinkedIn, and I'm going to connect with all these people.” You have to nurture. You nurture a community. one way is through LinkedIn. You find people that have similar ways of thinking. People belong to churches. People belong to clubs. They meet at sporting activities, if you have children, through their schools. Build your community. Talk about what it is you want.
I always tell people, if you're looking for a job, if you're looking for anything, tell somebody. I've read stories about it. Someone was looking for a job, and he mentioned it to a fellow parent on the soccer field. Two weeks later, he had an interview with this guy's company. You never know where you're going to find it. Growing your community is so important. It's not just something where you check the box and say, "I'm good at networking." I don't even call it networking. It's connecting. Jill Rowley, who's big into social-selling, always talks about the ABC's. People say, "Always be closing." She says, "Always be connecting." Always be connecting. I connect with people in the Uber ride. We exchange business cards, LinkedIn contacts. You never know. Also, you have to pay it forward. When you're growing your community, you have to pay it forward. Don't always be asking for something from somebody else.
MAC: The fourth letter is I, and it's IMPRESSIONS. Can you explain what you mean by impressions and why that's so critical?
SLATER: I ask the question, what is the impression you want to leave on others and in the marketplace that you're in? What's your impression? When you walk out the door, do you want them to say, "Wow, that guy or gal, they know their stuff," or do you want to walk out the door and they say, "Never want to see that person again?" Think about the impression.
I think about impression. I think of impact as well. What's the impact that you're making happens to be an I. And you think what problems does your customer have, or your prospect or the company you're working for? How are you going to help them solve it in a sincere and meaningful way? What kind of impression? Are you somebody that's proactive or are you always waiting for someone to come to you? An impression, it's also about image. Do you do what you say you're going to do or are you just a bunch of hot air? That's all part of the image and the impression and the impact that you're making on other people.
It's how somebody feels when you walk in the door and when you walk out. What do they think of you? Are you on time? Are you late? Do you speak in a meaningful way? Are you mindful? Do you use good language? Are you angry and negative? That's all about your impression. I hope when I walk in or out of the door; the impression that I make is that they feel inspired and that I'm a positive person. If I walk out the door and someone says, "Wow, isn't she negative," then there's something wrong. They have some misunderstanding, or I was having a bad day. So, it's essential to think about the impression because it's lasting. Think about the first 30 seconds of the impression you're making because it takes a lot to make up. You can mess things up in 30 seconds. It could take a decade to clear a wrong impression, at least more than 30 seconds.
MAC: The fifth letter in the acronym M.A.G.I.C. is C, and that stands for CONSISTENCY. Specifically, how consistent should people be in their messaging, in their connecting, in growing their network, in focusing on the first impressions that they're leaving? How important is it?
SLATER: Consistency is critical. It's about being consistent with your brand, your messaging, and your values. So, for example, are you consistent in your branding online and offline, or in the online community? For me, online, I talk all about authentic leadership and positivity and all that, and I promote that online. If in the real world, I was angry, negative, and a fake and all these things, that would be inconsistent. People would say, "But, wait a minute. "She said she was this way, but she's not."How many times do we witness that? That in an online world someone is promoting one thing, but offline, they'll go, "Oh my gosh, is this the same person?" So, I always think about how are you as a person, as a human being. Your brand is about all of you. You don't have one brand at work, one brand at home, another brand with your friends. To me, your brand is about all of who you are, not just a piece. It's consistency across communities. Do you have the same brand as a parent on the soccer field or are you yelling at the kids, or are you yelling at your child to push harder? That's not consistent with the brand you have at work. It’s really about that authentic brand across all aspects of your life.In part three of our interview with Amy Slater, we’ll get down to the bread and butter of personal branding: how to extend your personal brand on LinkedIn. For job seekers and people building careers, LinkedIn is often the first point of connection. Amy shares her best tips for expressing the M.A.G.I.C. of your personal brand through LinkedIn connections.