Create Your Professional Brand

Episode 229 - Is Your Professional Brand Aligned With Your Career Goals? 4 Questions to Help You Find Out, with Mark Mears

Guest: Mark Mears

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In this episode of The Job Hunting Podcast, I had the pleasure of speaking with Mark Mears, a renowned branding expert with extensive experience working with major brands like McDonald’s and Frito-Lay. Mark shared invaluable insights from his corporate experience that we can adapt to develop our professional brand and leadership style. We also discuss one of Mark’s great passions: The significance of creating a fulfilling workplace.

The Epiphany Behind Purposeful Growth

Mark’s journey into branding was serendipitous. Initially set on a path to law school, his journey pivoted towards marketing communications, eventually leading him to Northwestern University for a master’s in integrated marketing communications. This shift sparked his interest in brand building integrating strategic and thoughtful practices.

On a spring day in Southern California, Mark had an epiphany that led to his LEAF model – Leadership, Engagement, Accountability, and Fulfillment. This model aligns with his belief in purposeful growth, emphasising the importance of each element in creating a thriving workplace.

Personal Branding: A Necessary Step for Career Advancement

Mark stressed the importance of personal branding for career advancement. He explained that good branding is essentially storytelling, and having a compelling narrative about oneself is crucial for job seekers. He encouraged our listeners to be introspective and understand their unique stories.

Here are the questions Mark suggests we ask to develop a multi-dimensional approach to professional branding:

  • Personal Brand: “Who am I?”
  • Internal Brand: “What do we stand for?”
  • External Brand: “What value is exchanged here?”
  • Employer Brand: “Do I belong here?”

Mark believes that a sense of belonging is vital for personal and professional success. His focus on the employer brand is particularly pertinent in today’s job market, where job seekers are increasingly looking for workplaces that align with their values and offer a sense of community.

Embracing a Purposeful Career

The pandemic and its subsequent events have refined Mark’s thoughts. His realization that many were (and still are) quitting their jobs due to toxic work environments led him to emphasise the importance of a positive, fulfilling workplace culture in his work as a speaker and author.

We discussed the concept of purposeful growth in job searches. Mark believes finding purpose in any job can make work more inspiring and fulfilling. He shared a powerful story about someone who found purpose in her mundane job by understanding its impact on a larger scale.

Listening to this episode with Mark Mears will provide insights for anyone looking to understand the depths of professional branding and the importance of a purposeful career. Mark left us with a profound thought as we wrapped up: “We each have 24 hours in a day. How you use those hours is up to you.”

About Our Guest, Mark Mears

Mark A. Mears is a nº1 Best Selling author, keynote speaker, consultant, and business leader. He has a significant track record of building stakeholder value—driving innovation and profitable growth among world-class, high-profile brands such as PepsiCo/Pizza Hut, McDonald’s, Frito-Lay, JCPenney, NBCUniversal, and The Cheesecake Factory. Today, Mark serves as Founder and Chief Growth Officer for LEAF Growth Ventures, LLC—a consulting firm inspiring individuals, teams, and organizations to find purpose in fulfilling their true growth potential while making a positive, lasting difference in the world. Mark has just released his new book titled, The Purposeful Growth Revolution: 4 Ways to Grow from Leader to Legacy Builder. Mark is also a member of the Senior Leader Network within Conscious Capitalism, Inc., a global organization whose mission he shares: Elevating Humanity Through Business.
Renata Bernarde

About the Host, Renata Bernarde

Hello, I’m Renata Bernarde, the Host of The Job Hunting Podcast. I’m also an executive coach, job hunting expert, and career strategist. I teach professionals (corporate, non-profit, and public) the steps and frameworks to help them find great jobs, change, and advance their careers with confidence and less stress.

 

If you are an ambitious professional who is keen to develop a robust career plan, if you are looking to find your next job or promotion, or if you want to keep a finger on the pulse of the job market so that when you are ready, and an opportunity arises, you can hit the ground running, then this podcast is for you.

 

In addition to The Job Hunting Podcast, on my website, I have developed a range of courses and services for professionals in career or job transition. And, of course, I also coach private clients

What are the four types of branding?

The four types of branding are: Personal brand: “Who am I?” Internal brand: “What do we stand for?” External brand: “What value is exchanged here?” Employer brand: “Do I belong here?”

How can one transition from executive roles to advocating and writing books?

Transitioning from executive roles to advocating and writing books can begin with a significant realization or epiphany. Developing a structured model or framework based on personal experiences can help turn those insights into a book and a consulting business.

What is the LEAF model, and what does each component represent?

The LEAF model stands for: Leadership: Strong foundation and alignment (roots). Engagement: Nourishment and growth (trunk and branches). Accountability: Achievement and purpose (leaves and fruit). Fulfillment: Supportive environment (ecosystem).

Why is belonging crucial in today's work environment?

Belonging is essential because it ensures that employees feel valued and connected, moving beyond diversity, equity, and inclusion. This sense of belonging fosters a more engaged and productive workforce.

How can one overcome the fear of personal branding?

Understanding and telling one’s story is key to overcoming the fear of personal branding. Using the four P’s of the marketing mix, redefined as Problem, Packaging, Performance, and Promotion, helps articulate and enhance one’s personal brand.

What advice is offered for dealing with Fear, Uncertainty, Doubt, and Delay (FUD)?

To overcome FUD, one should use faith, hope, belief, and purposeful action. These elements help individuals move forward with their goals despite fears and doubts.

How can one integrate purpose into their job search?

Finding purpose in any job is possible and essential. Reflecting on the impact of one’s work and connecting it to a broader, meaningful context can make job searches more effective and fulfilling.

What tools and resources are recommended for developing leadership skills?

For developing leadership skills, it is recommended to use professional networking platforms, follow thought leaders, take online courses, and use self-assessment tools to benchmark and align one’s work with their purpose.

Timestamps to Guide Your Listening

  • 01:40 Mark Mears Story From Law School Aspirations to Marketing Maven

  • 04:00 The Epiphany: A New Direction in Branding

  • 06:20 The LEAF Model: Leadership, Engagement, Accountability, and Fulfilment

  • 08:56 Navigating the New World of Work: Purpose and Belonging

  • 11:16 The Purposeful Growth Revolution: Changing the Workplace Paradigm

  • 18:41 Personal Branding: Overcoming Myths and Embracing Growth

  • 26:58 Finding Purpose in Every Job: A New Perspective

  • 31:17 Overcoming Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt

  • 34:53 Embracing Courage Over Confidence

  • 35:35 Strategies for Successful Career Transitions

  • 40:20 Navigating Senior Level Interviews

  • 43:32 Building a Strong Personal Brand

  • 49:20 The Purposeful Growth Revolution

  • 51:34 Creating a Living Legacy in the Workplace

  • 55:36 Conclusion: The Importance of Purposeful Leadership

Renata: Brand has always been your cup of tea, right?

Mark: Yes, it has. I’m a big branding guy. I hesitate to use the word ‘expert’ because it sounds pompous, but I’ve had the good fortune of working with some pretty big brands, as well as with some major agencies on big brands. For instance, I’ve worked with Leo Burnett on McDonald’s and DDB on Frito-Lay. So, I’ve seen it from both sides, and it’s truly a passion of mine.

I love building teams, and in that order, building brands.

Renata: Yeah, and you’ve done that for so long with so many well-known brands. Tell me about that career. What got you started in the beginning? I’d love to know.

Mark: Well, I originally went to undergrad with the intention of going to law school.

Renata: Oh, wow.

Mark: And I was fortunate to have a professor who, when I asked how to prepare for law school, said, “You’ll do a lot of reading, writing, research, critical thinking, and presentations.”

I said, “Yes.” She suggested, “You should consider the school of journalism, as you’ll be doing many of those things there too.” So, I got into the school of journalism, specifically marketing communications, thinking I would learn all those skills. And I did. What I didn’t realize was how much I would enjoy it.

That same professor asked, “Are you sure you want to go to law school? Have you thought about graduate school instead?” I hadn’t, as I was quite set on law school until I started interviewing people—fraternity brothers in law school or those who had been for a while, and even those with their names on the door.

A common denominator was that nobody seemed happy or encouraging. So, I thought, “Why would I pursue that?” Consequently, I went to graduate school at Northwestern and earned a master’s in integrated marketing communications. That experience kickstarted my interest in brand building, done in an integrated, strategic, and thoughtful manner. It included considering not just the external customer-facing brand, but also the internal brand.

Now, I’ve developed a model with four types of branding. The personal brand answers the question, “Who am I?” The internal brand is the collective ‘we’ and answers, “What do we stand for?” The external brand, which most people think of, answers, “What value is exchanged here?” And finally, increasingly important today, is the employer brand, addressing the question, “Do I belong here?” Belonging is a crucial component of personal and professional success, I’ve found.

Renata: Mark, when did you start thinking about branding in this framework? When did this idea come to you? Was it recent, or did it develop while you were working with the brands? I’m curious about the process of your transition from executive roles to advocating and writing books. When did that shift occur?

Mark: Ironically, the epiphany came to me almost ten years ago, on February 21st, 2013. I was at The Cheesecake Factory and was recruited to turn around a half-billion-dollar casual dining restaurant concept. I was tasked with reversing the brand’s double-digit negative sales and establishing a new, more relevant and contemporary brand positioning. This new positioning would then allow a fresh concept to build upon this foundation, attracting capital from our parent company. My team and I accomplished this, and quite swiftly. Within a couple of years, the CEO approached me to say that, despite our success, the board had decided to move in a different direction.

Mark: “We’re going to seek strategic alternatives, but don’t worry, you’ll still be leading the charge. And, you know, whoever buys us—if someone does—I’m sure they will want to keep you on their team because you guys have done such a brilliant job. Long story short, the deal closes on a Friday. On Monday morning, at eight o’clock, I’m called into this conference room to meet with the new CEO. The whole idea was that we were going to plan our new future together.

But, I’m out the door. They’ve decided to move in a different direction. This was, you know, during what would be the first signs of spring in Southern California, where I lived at the time. They were starting to emerge. After a fitful night of sleep, I get up the next morning. And, Renata, as God is my witness, I go outside to take the dog out.

As the sun was coming up over the wall in our backyard, it shone on this fig tree that was barren from the six or seven weeks of winter we do get in Southern California. But there, on the end of one branch, was this tiny little green sprig of a leaf, just starting to emerge. And it was there that I had this epiphany: that leaf is a symbol of growth and rebirth. I took the dog inside and started kind of banging out a treatment on my computer for this whole idea that all growth happens through the leaf of a plant or a tree. Then, I, who believe in what is called the rule of threes, realized something.

If you focus on three things, you’ll be able to get more done, be more productive, and have greater results. My three things were leadership, engagement, and accountability. That was my mantra, and I led with that every week in emails. Back in the day, we used to do broadcast voicemails. I would use them as part of recognition and reward programs.

Renata is doing a wonderful job of leading her team, or she’s engaging people on a deeper level, or maybe she’s holding them accountable. But when I looked at that leaf idea, I felt like there was actually a fourth element. The LEAF model now stands for Leadership, Engagement, Accountability, and Fulfillment. What we were missing was a sense of fulfillment. And so, that turned into a four-circle Venn diagram that all revolves around purposeful growth. That fig tree in my backyard only knows how to be a fig tree. Right? So that’s its purpose. And it also goes through its seasons, where leadership stands for the seed and root system—you have to have strong leadership to get alignment.

Engagement represents the trunk, the branches, and the system of nourishment, which, in Spanish, ‘sabia,’ translates to English as ‘lifeblood.’ What’s the lifeblood of any organization? It’s its people. And you need to engage them with their heart, head, hands, and habits to where it leads to empowerment. And then you have the leaf and the fruit, which is the achievement of that particular plant or tree and, in a business organization, what we’re in business to do. Then finally, you have fulfillment, which represents the ecosystem—the sun, the soil, the rain—that allows for a nurturing environment so photosynthesis can occur and growth can happen. In our world, we would call that culture. And so, that kind of four-circle Venn diagram model has served as the foundation for a lot of my thesis.

So before, I used to think of a brand in a kind of two-circle Venn diagram: internal and external. And we were taught that. And most people in marketing were really taught the external, but I was someone who believed that if you don’t have the internal brand aligned with what you’re saying, you’re making promises that your operations or training teams can’t keep.

And so, I always felt it was important to have those two together. Well, now, we’re more comfortable with people having more diversity and having a personal brand that they can bring to the table. And then you put that in there. Well, then, finally, the fourth brand I’ve come up with is the employer brand.”

Mark: “So, it’s designed to attract and retain. When I pose the question, ‘Do I belong here?’ it highlights how important belonging is in today’s world of work. We don’t have the same appetite for command-and-control styles of management that some of us put up with over the years. Now, millennials and Gen Z — and I have 26-year-old twin daughters — I can guarantee you their desire for command-and-control style management is zero. Their expectations in this new world of work are so much different from what we put up with back in the day. So, the word ‘belonging’ is incredibly important. When you think about diversity, equity, and inclusion, diversity just gets us in the door — that’s great. Equity gives us an equal voice — better yet. Inclusion gets us a seat at the table — hooray. But if we don’t feel we belong, we’re likely not going to be vulnerable enough to give our very best. We don’t want to rock the boat, or say something that might be controversial or get us sent out of the room, right? We worked so hard to get here. And so, that word ‘belonging’ is so important. Now, I don’t know what the job market is like in Australia, but it’s pretty good in the U.S., where young people today basically have their choice, and they’re saying, ‘I want to work for a company that’s purposeful. I don’t want to just go work somewhere where I feel like I’m just an employee. I want to feel like a team member.’ And, with my journalism background, words matter, right? The idea of building not just a culture, but a community, is crucial. Now, culture is not a bad word, but I think it’s often misunderstood and overused. A culture, to me, is a place where someone feels they merely are a part of — not bad. But a community is a place where they feel they belong. See the difference? When you feel like you belong, like a member of a team, you’re going to want to do better. You’re not going to want to quietly quit or be part of this great resignation, where you feel like you have to chase something else. You’re going to be in an environment where you’re allowed to be all you’re capable of being and feel like a true member of a team.”

Renata: “Mark, your ideas are so on point for 2024. Were they this well thought through in 2013, or has the pandemic and subsequent events influenced them?”

Mark: “You’re dead on. The epiphany that led to the writing of this book, which I never thought would become a book, by the way, started as a kind of cathartic hobby as I licked my wounds after what happened until I got my next opportunity. I started talking to some friends and people I admired about it. They were like, ‘Oh my gosh, this is really good.’ So, I kept working on it. It evolved from a presentation to prose, which led to a chapter, an outline, and eventually, a complete book. All of this revolved around a purpose statement I came up with a few years ago: ‘I don’t want to just make money and retire; I want to make a difference and inspire.’ This means making a difference in the lives of others and inspiring them to want to do likewise. I realized that most of my career, I had been doing that in a way, but I hadn’t articulated it or thought through it that way. I wasn’t maybe ready for it. Much like COVID gave us all a bit of a timeout to deeply reflect on not only what but who matters most in our lives. When we did that, we said, ‘I don’t think when we go back to work, I want to do the same thing.’ And I’m not the only one saying that. The Sloan School of Management at MIT, here in the U.S., did a survey of 34 million people who left the workplace during COVID and asked them a simple question: Why? The number one answer, Renata, by over ten times more than the second most given answer, was a toxic work environment.”

Mark: “It’s as if people said, ‘I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take it anymore.’ Life is short, and none of us know when our last day might be. Whether we got sick ourselves, had a loved one who was hospitalized, or God forbid, knew someone who died as a result. We were sheltered in place, living in fear of the unknown. This wasn’t just a U.S. issue; it was global. It didn’t discriminate based on skin color, age, gender. It was really scary. And I think that made a lot of people really double down and say, ‘I want to be more purposeful with whatever time I have,’ not just in the third of my time that I’m awake, not sleeping or working, but also in the time that I’m working. ‘Why can’t I live and work with purpose?’ and feel a deeper sense of satisfaction and, I’ll say, fulfillment. But it came to me over several years, and I’m telling you, if I had gotten that book written and out there before COVID, it wouldn’t have landed the way it’s landed now. It would have been too soon, and the world wouldn’t have been ready for it. Whereas today, I believe people are now more ready than ever before.”

Renata: “And talking about being ready for it, you mentioned your kids, and I feel like younger generations can articulate the need for purpose and fulfillment much better than people our age. You know, my clients are in their 40s to 60s, and for them, coping with toxic environments is just what work has always been. I mean, I grew up with a father who was an executive in the 80s; of course, I know what a toxic environment is. I had that white-collar experience of watching my dad go through some very tough times in a ruthless corporate environment. And I myself experienced that throughout my executive career. For us, it seems like such a privilege, doesn’t it? To embrace purpose and fulfillment. How did you transition in your mind, from both an ego perspective and also from a hierarchy of needs perspective, to embrace this new way of thinking?”

Mark: “Well, for me, it came from a spiritual source. And so, I would like to think that I’ve been leading in this manner for a long time because it’s the right thing to do, right? It’s the old, you know, treat others the way you’d like to be treated, the golden rule, right? But I found it was more effective, and I found I was having more fun by building relationships. And as we were talking, two of my passions are building teams and building brands, in that order. I love building teams, and to do that, having been on many sports teams and other teams throughout my life and career, there are some common denominators. There’s a sense of duty, a sense of trust, all building into a relationship. So instead of, and I used the word ‘management’ before on purpose, is most of us who went to business school were taught how to manage. We went to a school of management. We took management classes, right? And so, you’re managing people, resources, budgets, projects, timelines, results, metrics, all those things, right? And those are foundational, and you have to have them, but now they’re really just transactional. So, take it to the next step. We go from manager, because we’re maybe a good doer, but no one taught us how to lead. So now you become a leader. And so, my passion is to now give back and I call it ‘paying it backwards.’ And I’ll tell you why in a minute. It’s to pay it backward to help others become better leaders. Because I know what it’s like to serve a leader who I want to follow. But now, take it a step further than that, and that’s relational. So, take it a step further than that, and now I want to create legacy builders. And those are the leaders you not just want to follow, but you want to emulate. And you want to be like them. So now you’re creating more pods of leadership and more other legacy builders, and you’re now over time going to change this tired old command-and-control paradigm, which will soon go the way of the dodo bird.”

Mark: “I believe that as younger people get older and now have more opportunities for positions of influence within a company, they’re the ones who will make this change happen. That’s why I call it the ‘purposeful growth revolution.’ Revolutions often start from the people who are dissatisfied with the status quo and want change. So, it’s unlikely to come from the top down; it’s going to come from the bottom up. That’s really why I’ve been blessed to have been given this epiphany to use my background and my experiences, all written about in the book, as well as observations of those I admire. Research that supports my thesis, some of which just came out two days ago from Deloitte, is now in my LinkedIn newsletter. It goes further to substantiate this idea of my goal to put the human back in human resources. Especially in this day and age, with robotics, machine learning, ChatGPT, and artificial intelligence taking the human out of us, I want to make sure we put it back in, in the right way. I have a whole model that I’ve developed. It’s not in the book, but it’s in the bonus section of an interview I did for the audiobook that’s going to come out next week, which is late February for those of you listening, depending on when this airs.”

Renata: “We can put a link in the show notes for that. One thing that I think is interesting, with everything you’re saying being so spot-on for 2024 and how people are thinking about their careers, is that a lot of people still have a big issue with branding. They tend to turn their noses up at personal branding. I wanted to discuss this with you, as the brand expert you are. How do you overcome that myth and the weird feeling people have about building their own brand for career advancement?”

Mark: “Yeah, and the truth is, we all have a personal brand. Those who want to look away, or like an ostrich put their head in the sand, will do so at their own peril. Because we all have a personal brand, whether we know it or not. It’s important that we get introspective to understand it. Because all good branding is storytelling. Think about it; all the best brands tell stories. And so, if we’re interviewing or aspiring to get promoted, there’s a story we need to tell. To me, it’s woven between the four P’s of the marketing mix, only I’ve slightly changed the P’s. I remember in school it was product, price, place, promotion. Okay, well now it’s problem and packaging. There are ways to go about problem-solving, right? Anyone who is hiring is looking to solve a problem. So, what problem can you uniquely solve, and how do you articulate that in a story? Then you package yourself in how you look, how you speak, and how you act, and that becomes your packaging. So we go to a shelf and we see all these shampoos. We read the label, right? We look at the ingredients. We look at what it’s going to do for us. All of them are going to clean hair, but who’s going to do it in a way that uniquely attracts me to pick that particular brand off the shelf? And then, think about performance. Obviously, we’ve got to live up to our promise. So, you’ve got to demonstrate how you’re going to live up to the story you’re telling and have proof points to give someone a sense of confidence that you’re going to perform. How many of us have been seduced by a great TV ad or product on a shelf and said, ‘Wow, it says it can do all these things, it looks attractive, I’m going to buy it,’ and then didn’t like it? Or we go to a restaurant where the food looks so good on TV, and then it’s served and it’s not as good, or the service wasn’t good. So the performance didn’t live up to the storytelling. And then you get into promotion. Now, how do you package all that? I use the term ‘Brand You.’ So your personal brand – in the book, I call it Brand You – because every one of us has a unique personal brand that gets after who we are, what we stand for, what problem we solve. And then how do we package ourselves to be the right best candidate that actually gets selected for the position we seek? And it’s that hard and that simple.”

Renata: “Yes, that’s great advice. I often do the same with my clients. We follow a protocol similar to a 360-degree review, so I completely agree. One thing I struggle with when talking to clients – it happened just yesterday – is explaining the importance of purposeful growth. I’m passionate about purpose and finding fulfillment at work. But sometimes, someone will say to me, ‘Oh, I don’t have the luxury of thinking about purpose. I just need a job.’ I understand that mindset; I’ve been there. I know what it feels like to be in survival mode.

But in hindsight, what I know now – and what my client from yesterday doesn’t – is that having a purpose behind your job search can actually make it easier to find employment. Without that purpose and sense of direction, it’s harder to convince an employer to hire you. How do you, in your own words, explain that missing this element can be a setback, and how do you communicate its importance to them?”

Mark: “That’s a great question, Renata. I recently spoke with someone who works for a global business services company. She was feeling a bit down about her work, so we discussed infusing purpose into her role. When I asked about her clients, she mentioned Pfizer, who were instrumental in the COVID vaccine development. I pointed out that her team’s work in supporting Pfizer was contributing to saving lives. She hadn’t considered her impact in this light. I believe there’s a purpose to be found in any job, and once you find it, your work becomes more inspiring. Instead of just working for the paycheck, you find meaning and a deeper sense of ownership in what you do daily.”

Renata: “That’s a very good point. Even those who challenge my coaching approach, saying they only need a job, often have a tremendous amount of purpose in their work. They’re just not tapping into it because they’re looking at it from a very narrow perspective.”

Mark: “Absolutely. I remember starting as an age group swimmer and eventually becoming a lifeguard, swim coach, and then manager of a public pool. I learned about safety, hospitality, and creating fulfilling experiences for people. This theme of creating experiences continued through my career – from marketing at Cheesecake Factory to senior leadership positions in retail and restaurant concepts. The common thread for me, which started in my teenage years, didn’t fully blossom until years later.”

Renata: Interesting. When you decided to, I’m assuming, start what you have now as your own business, right?

Mark: Yes, it’s called Leaf Growth Ventures.

Renata: Tell me about the decision-making process you went through. From thinking, “Okay, I don’t want another full-time role. I don’t want another senior executive role. I’m going to try my hand at being an entrepreneur and have my own business.” How did that play out for you, both personally and for those around you? Because many of my clients go through that crossroads where they can opt for one thing or another. They often feel a sense of sunk cost mentality, thinking, “I’ve invested so much already in this.”

Another issue they face is the backlash from their network. Questions like, “What are you telling me? You’re not going to find another job? What are you thinking?” How did that play out for you?

Mark: Well, I would tell them the same thing I had to tell myself: Get the FUD out. FUD stands for Fear, Uncertainty, Doubt, and Delay. There’s a reason why it took 10 years for this epiphany to turn itself into a book that now has become my business. Fear of failure, worrying about what others will think, questioning if it’s any good.

Uncertainty about giving up a well-paying C-level position for something I feel called to do, and then the doubt that creeps in, those background voices that become prominent, making you feel insignificant and questioning why someone would want to learn from you.

That leads to delay. After facing all those three things, who wants to do anything? So, I put this off because I had to get out of my own way and get the FUD out.

I’ve overcome FUD with an antidote. Do you want to hear it?

Renata: Yes, I do, of course.

Mark: Faith overcomes fear. Faith in yourself, in a higher power if you wish, in a concept you strongly believe in. Hope overcomes uncertainty—the hope you have in a richly imagined future, in doing your own thing, and what that means for your family, friends, community, and whoever you’re employing.

Belief overcomes doubt. Believing in a higher power is great, but believing in yourself, believing that you have what it takes to be successful, is key to removing those doubts. Finally, action, specifically purposeful action, overcomes the paralysis of delay. You’ve got to keep moving forward.

So, I had to go through FUD and use this antidote so I could get my book done, set up my website, establish my business, update my self-assessment and LinkedIn profile, start a LinkedIn newsletter, and all these fundamental things. I knew I had to establish these as a foundation to keep moving forward. And give yourself grace when things aren’t moving as fast. As a type A plus personality, a serial achiever, and a still recovering perfectionist, I thought everything had to be perfect before I could take the next step. Now, I understand that it’s more about progress than perfection, because you’ll never be perfect.

Renata: You know, you and I are very similar. We have similar trajectories out of executive roles into our own businesses. I love what you’ve explained, the faith, hope, and belief—I love that. It’s very much in my zone of coaching as well. But, I have another thing I want to share with you that I think is really beneficial. It might be something you end up adopting, the way you explain it. Because when people want to make big career transitions and they’re working with me, they tell me they lack confidence. They say, “Oh, I need to work with you because I don’t have confidence in this idea.”

Renata: “And I’m like, ‘Of course, you don’t. What you need is courage.’”

Courage is different from confidence, right? So what you need to do something new is not confidence because confidence is incremental and you will build it over time. The first year of your business will not be as good as your second year, as your third year, as your fourth year.

The courage to springboard and to get started, you know, overcoming the perfectionism that you mentioned, that is the courage you need.

And I can give you courage, but confidence you will get yourself over time. You will gain the confidence yourself. Don’t worry about confidence. Now,

Mark: “I agree. No, I agree with you wholly. Everything you just said, as a matter of fact, I had written down some notes and I’m like, ‘I have, you know, four key elements for kind of change management: conflict, composure, change, and competence.’ And I agree with you, but you first have to have the courage enough to take the leap.

Now that doesn’t mean if you haven’t proven out your business model, you should just rush out and put a bunch of money behind something because you have a gut feeling. I’m not telling you to do that. You’ve got to validate your business model, but often people have big ideas. And they sit on it because they’re, to your point, not confident that they can pull it off.

Well, you do have to surround yourself with resources. You do have to get a coach. You do have to experience trial and error and have thick skin and be able to take some lumps, but you have to believe so deeply in what you’re doing that you’re going to get back up, dust yourself off, and get back on that horse.

And I think that’s a perfect way of saying it. Confidence will happen once courage shows itself over and over and over. And that builds layers of confidence that will allow you to weather any storm.”

Renata: “Yes. And what you said about faith and belief, that is incredibly important for the listeners of this podcast. They prepare so much for job searches and career advancement by having a great resume or wanting to have a great resume, a great cover letter, but they forget faith, they forget to believe, you know? So when you walk into an interview because you have a great resume, but your faith, belief, and courage aren’t there, then that interview is not going to go well for you. There’s something about energy that happens even in online interviews that people can sense, you know? They can sense your stress, your anxiety. It’s like a dog smelling fear, right? They can tell. And I’ve been in so many interviews on the other end of the desk and listening to people. And I do my best to be as disarming as possible and relaxed. So it’s like, let them shine. This is not for me. It’s just for them to be able to shine.”

Mark: “And the people who ooze confidence. Not cockiness, because I hate that, but confidence. Confidence is attractive, by the way. We want to be near people who are confident in themselves, in their skin, in their abilities without going past the point where it’s cockiness or narcissism. Of course, that’s not good.

But I think that whole idea of preparing mentally more than just, you know, learning about the company, learning about the job, telling your story, but it’s how you tell your story. You know, and how you project this air of confidence. And I even used a little Jedi mind trick when I was back in the day.

And I knew I was like one of two or three final candidates, and I would write certain notes back and really try to set myself apart. And one way I did that with a company was, I learned the team was very kind of avant-garde, a bit. They were, you know, they loved to have fun. They were a little quirky.”

Mark: “And so this was a few years back when David Letterman was retiring. On his last show, he had the top 10 list, right.

And I sent the senior search committee team the top 10 reasons to hire Mark Mears. Of course, most of them were about the job function. But then the last one was kind of tied to an old ‘Saturday Night Live’ skit by Stuart Smalley.

‘I’m good enough. I’m smart enough. And gosh, darn it, people like me.’

And I showed the clip of that, and they loved it. Right. And the Jedi mind trick I would use is like, I’d send a follow-up note. And in the subject line, I’d say, ‘New CMO’ or ‘New whatever, Mark Mears.’ And so it planted in their mind that as if I was already hired. Just little things like that, that I did to demonstrate confidence and yet, you know, do so in a way that didn’t come across as cocky.

So, I think there are different tricks people can use depending on your industry and what works. Doesn’t work for everybody in every situation, but those are just some examples of how to think about your skills. You’re probably as skilled as anybody else they’re looking at. What can you do to set yourself apart where you become the obvious choice?”

Renata: “Yeah, no, that is exactly right. I think especially at that senior level. So for those listening, my advice would be that at senior levels, interviews tend to be somewhat unstructured in most organizations and it’s really about trust and likability. So if you can go into a conversation as if you were already part of the team, not an outsider, then that is good for you.

You know, of course, try not to be cocky. I get it. But if you feel like you are already the new CMO, like you did, that’s perfect.”

Mark: “In the word ‘we,’ I mean, when I was there, I’d say ‘we.’ When I’m, they’re telling me some, you know, issue, I said, ‘Well, when we work on this, we’re going to,’ you know, those are just ways that you’re, again, you’re not being cocky by doing that. You’re saying, look, I want you to plant the seed in their mind that they can already see themselves working with you on that problem.”

Renata: “Yes, yeah, that’s not my advice for younger professionals. I think it’s harder to do because of the structure of the rest of the interview for early career professionals. It’s really about behavioural questions, and they want answers in a specific format.

So if you’re listening to this and you’re in your mid-twenties, even early thirties, maybe that’s not advice for you. But it’s hard to prep for senior executive interviews because they are unstructured. They’re usually conversations. I have a client going for an interview early next week, and it’s a walk around the factory with the CEO.

It’s not, you know, and he was asking me, should I prepare a document to present to him? And I’m like, ‘I don’t think so. I think you should just go around and walk around as if you were the new executive he is hiring. Right.’”

Mark: “Absolutely. I did the same thing when I went on a ride with a CEO. We went to visit four or five restaurants, and so he, a, wanted to show me what I’d be getting myself into, but b, he wanted to see me react and ask questions throughout, like, ‘What do you think of this menu board?’ Or ‘What do you think of this?’ Or ‘What do you think of that decor? What would you do differently?’ You know. You’ve got to plan to the best of your ability, but then you just have to have faith that when you open your mouth, it’s going to come out in a positive, confident way. And then sometimes you say, ‘I don’t know, I would have to study that further.’”

Mark: “That’s a great question. And I don’t want to give you an answer off the top of my head, but here’s how I would think about it, right? So, you don’t put them off. You just say, ‘Here’s how I would think about it.’ So they can see your thought process. No one can expect you to have all the answers right there, even though you prepare to the best of your ability to do so.

But they want to see how you think. People want critical thinkers. Don’t be critical, but think critically about something in a way that shows you can break down an issue more than just on a surface level.”

Renata: “Yeah, that’s perfect. I can’t fault that. Thanks, Mark. Who are your clients today?”

Mark: “Well, I’m just getting started, to be honest. I’ve been doing a little consulting here and there. One of them was a year-long project embedded in the University of Kansas Alumni Association, helping them update their brand to be more relevant to Jayhawks at all career levels. We created the Jayhawk Career Network.

It takes a mentoring foundation but builds on it, using a Match.com-like algorithmic approach where students and alumni create profiles, and then they are matched together. This allows students to spend time with an alum, learning about their career and getting advice. So, I got a chance to use everything that’s in the book. We developed vision, mission, values, and the whole LEAF model, giving it a test run. Now I have credibility when consulting elsewhere.

I’ve also helped with personal branding. I assisted a friend in getting a great job. He was qualified but didn’t know how to tell his personal brand story. I suggested creating a video and using LinkedIn. People today are searching for you everywhere, be it Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, TikTok, you name it.

So, what I would tell young people, as mentioned earlier, is to protect your personal brand. You don’t want to miss a job opportunity because of something inappropriate you posted. It’s likely to be found by an employer, so always consider if it adds value to your personal brand.”

Renata: “Well, that argument about social media and needing to be careful is what people usually bring up when they say they don’t want to engage on LinkedIn. And I know that you’re very active on LinkedIn, as am I, and we both advocate for its use.”

Mark: “Why wouldn’t you? It’s easily the number one business platform, and I don’t know of a close second. It builds credibility for your personal brand in a business environment. TikTok, we get it, it’s entertainment. Instagram is for photos and entertainment.”

Mark: “You know, Facebook is a bit different. Twitter can get political and get you into all kinds of trouble. But LinkedIn, people want to see who you follow, what you’re learning, whether you have a growth mindset or a fixed mindset, whether you’re trying to improve. And who your influences are.

I would include that as part of your brand story. For instance, ‘I follow Richard Branson because…’ or ‘I’m a big follower of so-and-so because…’ And here are the key things I’ve learned from them.”

Renata: “Yeah.”

Mark: “Who would have a problem with that?”

Renata: “Yeah, yeah, that’s the right approach. I agree. I think with Twitter, it’s a case of ‘watch this space.’ I was working, you know, it’s called X now, but…

Mark: “But I think there’s an interesting dialogue that happens at very senior levels on Twitter. If you’re a C-level professional or a high-ranking public servant, you might need to understand Twitter. It’s a challenging platform and requires caution, but for some of my clients, it’s worth engaging. If you’re very senior or if you’re young and, frankly, have nothing to lose, you can start some interesting threads there that are good.

But LinkedIn is a much safer platform to start off with if you want to become a thought leader or build your personal brand and reputation. So, yeah.”

Mark: “Plus, they have a lot of tools and courses you can take. Before, I was talking about management – we learn how to be managers, but not necessarily leaders. If you’re waiting for your company to teach you to be a better leader, good luck. There are a ton of resources out there.

I’d suggest my book, which provides a roadmap for becoming a C-level leader someday. It’s written as if I were mentoring a young Mark Mears. If I knew then what I know now, what would I have done differently? What would I have avoided? It’s for all levels, but particularly targets middle managers who feel stuck and think the clock is ticking, feeling like they’re just working for a paycheck rather than on purpose.

I talk about transitioning from leader to living legacy builder.

One thing I know, Renata, whether you’re in Australia and I’m in America, it doesn’t matter what our time zones, genders, races, creeds, colors, sexual orientations, or preferences are. We all have one thing in common – we each have 24 hours in a day.

Renata: “That’s true.”

Mark: “How you use those 24 hours is up to you. If you choose to stay in a dead-end job that isn’t satisfying just to chase a buck, that’s a choice. Maybe it’s the right choice for this season of your life. We often talk about purpose, but I believe the word is purposeful.”

Mark: “That’s why I call it the purposeful growth revolution because we may not know our purpose at this point in time. It may change over different seasons of life. That’s fine. But like I was telling you, if you think about it and are deeply introspective, there’s probably a thread woven throughout your experiences that lights you up. It provides the who you serve, the why you do it, your motivations or purpose, the how you’re uniquely gifted, which leads into the what you do. So, I take issue with the old Simon Sinek model of ‘start with why.’ I believe we should start with ‘who,’ specifically who we serve. And back to that four-circle Venn diagram, I think there are four realms of service: spiritual, relational, personal, and professional. We’re whole people, and we need to feel comfortable bringing our whole self into the workplace. In my day, it was ‘don’t bring your personal stuff into the office; leave it at home.’ You know, ‘keep your nose to the grindstone, get your job done, keep your head down.’ Today, that old command and control style is going away.

And so, I believe that to go from a leader to a legacy builder, all we need is love. And no, not the kind of love that’s going to get you a quick call from HR and an escort out of the building, but it’s a model which stands for Listen, Observe, Value, and Empower. Those are some of Maslow’s most basic hierarchy of needs he talked about years ago. But it also comes down to the golden rule of treating others the way you’d want to be treated, right? We all need to feel seen and heard. We all want to be valued and empowered to be our very best. So, listen to what people are saying and what they’re not saying. If we’re whole people, some of us may be caring for elderly parents, some of us may have a sick child ready to go into surgery, some of us may have relational issues with our spouse, or whatever it is, that might impact our productivity. So if you’re a leader and you’re listening to a team member, not an employee or a worker, you’re going to be asking questions too.

Then you’re going to want to observe them and coach and encourage them in real time. Don’t wait for the dreaded annual performance appraisal that no one does well in and no one likes, but provide real-time coaching. Value the whole person and demonstrate that value by appreciating them and showing you’re grateful for what they are and who they are, and what they do for the team. So over and above reward and recognition, give them ways to learn and grow, and then empower them to be their very best.

I don’t know about you, Renata, but when I was growing up, I remember learning to ride a trike. Then I remember the day I got a bike with training wheels because I wasn’t ready just to ride by myself. But then came that Saturday morning when it was time to take the training wheels off. I got on that bike with a sense of pride, Mom and Dad pushing me down the sidewalk, running with me for a while, and then taking their hands off. Of course, I wobbled and fell a few times, and they dusted me off and got me back on the bike. But I remember that sense of freedom when I was finally able to pedal for myself, that empowered feeling of being able to ride and the neighborhood got bigger, my world got bigger, and I felt a sense of satisfaction that I’d never felt before. Imagine being able to treat your team members like that, giving them that same sense of empowerment.

Then you wouldn’t have the great resignation, which I call the great repurposing. Then you wouldn’t have quiet quitting. You would have engaged team members who want to give their very best. And so by demonstrating love in the workplace, it helps me along my journey to kind of put the human back in human resources.”

Mark: “And I say, it’s easy. All we need is love. Listen, observe, value, and empower. So those of you who are looking to get back into the workforce, when you do, I pray you will lead differently by creating this ripple effect, which is what I mean by a living legacy. Because management is all about transactions, and we need that.

Leadership is all about building relationships, and that’s the next rung up. But the living legacy building aspect is when it’s transformational. When the people who want to follow you also want to emulate you and be leaders likewise. And that’s how we will create this purposeful growth revolution and change the paradigm from command and control to a more humanistic way of working.”

Renata: “Mark, I have to give it to you. You’re such a good storyteller.

And it’s been such a pleasure talking to you. I’m so glad we’ve had this conversation. I’ve learned so much from you. I love all your acronyms and frameworks, and the way that you explain things makes a lot of sense to me. I think the listeners will love hearing this.

A lot of people want to embrace purpose, but they don’t feel brave enough. And the purposeful career, purposeful leadership, all of what you’ve said I think is not only something that people should do, I think it’s something they need to do. I think that what you said about the Dodo Approach to, yes, some things that we have grown up with and have learned to accept, are not going to be in the workplace, and shouldn’t be in the workplace in the future.

So, thank you so much for coming on the Job Hunting Podcast to share with us all of that knowledge that you’ve been developing with your great book. I want to put a link to the book below. I want to put a link to your LinkedIn and your newsletter, as it’s a great read for those wanting little sound bites, and the…”

Mark: “Well, there’s also a self-assessment. Yes. You’ve just mentioned that at markamears dot com. And when you go there, there’s a self-assessment, a Purposeful Growth Self-Assessment, right there on the homepage. It takes about five or six minutes, but it will provide a benchmark on where you are currently on this whole concept of purposeful growth, as well as how aligned your work is with your purpose, right? And so it follows the four key sections of the book. And then once you’ve completed it, you can immediately download a PDF that has your customized report with your results. And then what I call seeds for growth from me after every question. And so it’ll be a gateway into discovery on purposeful growth, what it is, what it means to you currently, how your job is aligning currently or not. And then this whole notion of giving back and scattering your seeds for purposeful growth to help others along their journey. People have to be courageous, but they just have to search their heart, and I believe everybody deep down wants that. They just need someone to help them get there. And I’d like…”

Renata: “Yeah. Awesome. Mark, thank you so much. We couldn’t have finished in a better way. I’m so glad that you came on board and you’re now a member of our community. So keep in touch, and if you ever want to come back and speak about this topic or another topic on the podcast, you are welcome to do so. We would love to have you back.”

Mark: “My pleasure.”

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