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Find your why: what's your purpose?

Finding Your Why: How to Discover Your Professional Purpose

Before you can create the perfect personal brand you have to understand who you are. Why do you do what you do? What’s your professional purpose? Some call it their “manifesto,” others call it their “mission statement,” but what I’m talking about is what drives your need to do what you do beyond earning a paycheck.

What helps us get out of bed in the morning? What helps you be better at what you do? What is it that separates your job from your career? How do you want to feel about your impact on the world down the road?

If you’re building a business, I’ll bet you’re working beyond the typical 40-hour week. You could tell me this -- and I might be impressed -- but if I knew why you were doing it, it would make you and your brand more compelling for me, both as a colleague and maybe as a future customer.

Once you find your personal purpose, you’ll be able to create the personal brand.

Finding Your Why: How to Discover Your Professional Purpose

The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.

- Mark Twain

How I discovered my professional purpose

My story started back in school when I realized I had a talent for acting, singing, and writing. First, it was school plays, music festivals and talent shows, where I poured my heart and soul into something I knew I was good at. Next I took drama classes at university, and then the bright lights of the London theater, television and film called to me after three years of honing my craft.

Unfortunately, the acting jobs came few and far between, and I spent six years selling teddy bears at the Harrods department store. Finally, at the ripe old age of 29, I knew I needed a new career. The Internet was pretty new, so I did a course in HTML and managed to find an editor role at the search engine directory LookSmart.

My duties included writing 55 website reviews every day – short and sweet descriptions of what users might find if they clicked on a link. After that, I was promoted to traffic manager helping our European sales people get display ads live across the LookSmart network.

When LookSmart folded in 2003, I spent some time at a digital advertising agency before Microsoft came calling, and I spent the next seven years of my career working in an evangelism role. This translated into writing, speaking, video creation, and other ways to communicate to an audience looking to be informed and inspired.

It was during those years I discovered what truly made me tick.

My desire to act and write had little to do with being famous or earning loads and loads of money. What I really enjoyed – what got me out of bed in the morning – was the love of communicating, inspiring and educating people and businesses to do their very best work. So, if we parcel this out, my purpose had these elements:

I wanted people to have a great experience.

I wanted to help people.

I wanted others to be successful.

And soon my professional purpose was born, which reads:

To inspire and educate people and their businesses to be successful by applying digital marketing strategies that focus on social media, digital PR and personal branding both online and in-person.

That’s it. Short, sweet, but true.

Rediscover your roots: your past carries hints of your professional purpose

Past signposts define your future path

Now, it’s your turn. What’s been important to you throughout your life is often a gateway to finding your current professional purpose. Sometimes it helps to go back to your childhood to see what made you tick. For instance, have you always loved sports, drama, movies, music, sci-fi, comic books, video games, or riding horses?

Picking out the qualities that have always been important to you is great way to identify the things that make you tick now.

Ask yourself some questions

We should take a step back and ask ourselves some questions. You can start by asking yourself a few of these:

Why is it that you do what you do?

▪ What thrills you about your current job role or career?

What does a great day look like?

What does success look like beyond the paycheck?

What does real success feel like for you?

How do you want to feel about your impact on the world when you retire?

You could also ask yourself these follow-up questions:

What do you hate about your current job role or career?

Why don’t you do something else?

What does a bad day look like?

What is it you don’t enjoy about your job and why?

What does failure look like beyond the paycheck?

What does real failure feel like for you?

Once again, it’s essential that you know your professional purpose before you tackle your personal brand.

If you don’t take control of your brand image and who you are, someone else will.

Often, the simple process of taking a step back and taking stock of where you are at and where you want to go can answer a raft of questions that can point your professional career in a more meaningful and satisfying direction.

Find your why and the rest will follow.

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