I recently sat down with Lida Citroën, Personal Branding and Reputation Management expert, at her home in Denver. We chatted about personal branding -- what it is and isn’t, about the veteran transition to the private sector, and about her new book, “Engaging with Veteran Talent,” which she wrote as a guidebook for anyone in a company interested in understanding how to hire and grow veteran talent, or a company which already has a veteran initiative they want to take to the next level. Here’s a snippet of our conversation:Me: Lida, I know that when I left government service I had no idea about personal branding. Can you explain what it is and why it matters?Lida: Personal branding is giving each person who interacts with others the ability to influence the way they are perceived. We’ve all heard it said that perception is reality, and, like it or not, that is accurate. Instead of leaving it to chance that others will see you as you want to be seen, I teach my clients to make sure their actions, behavior, and online presence match up with the person they want to be. Me: Then what is reputation management? It sounds a lot like damage control to me.Lida: That’s a common misconception. However, reputation management is actually a part of your personal branding strategy. Your reputation is the part of your personal brand that precedes you -- it’s not simply how others experience you, but what they tell others about you. Managing your personal brand, therefore, extends to managing your reputation. Me: Excellent! Now that we have that clear, let’s talk about personal branding for veterans in transition. First, I know that you are a civilian and don’t have immediate family members who have served. What led you to write a book on personal branding for veterans?Lida: During a Denver Broncos game halftime, I learned of the challenges veterans face getting jobs in the private sector. I recognized that personal branding could help solve that problem and I had knowledge I could share with those who have served our nation to ensure my freedom. This is my way of giving back and saying, “thank you” to them for that service.Me: What is one of the challenges you see for veterans applying for private sector jobs?Lida: It’s the “I versus we” challenge. Veterans don’t know how to articulate their individual value proposition because their entire military history they’ve been taught that success is not an individual accomplishment. They’ve learned to pass credit to those who serve with them. This becomes a problem when sitting in front of a civilian hiring manager. The hiring managers need veterans to sell themselves. But veterans feel that if they sell themselves they are being disloyal to those they served with. My goal is to teach veterans how to articulate what makes them valuable to their interviewers.
Me: You know I recommend “Your Next Mission” to every veteran I meet because it’s packed with great information, but I want to shift gears to talk about your most recent book, “Engaging with Veteran Talent.” Who is this book written for?Lida: This book is for anyone in a company interested in understanding how to hire and grow veteran talent, or a company which already has a veteran initiative they want to take to the next level. We’re seeing these initiatives come in through multiple channels -- marketing, the C-suite, or Human Resources. My message for the person in charge of creating a program is to look at veteran hiring as a business driver, not just a patriotic duty. It’s good to say, “thank you’” but sustainability and scalability come when you attach this kind of hiring to business drivers. Ask, “How does hiring vets make us a stronger, better more adaptable organization?” Veterans are not charity, they are truly an exceptional workforce. Companies that embrace a veteran hiring initiative clearly tied to business drivers are the ones seeing the most tangible results.Me: What is a common stereotype you hope to dispel with this book?Lida: There is a perception that getting veterans on board requires a lot of heavy lifting. People worry that it will be time-consuming, they will need a new system or require special training. Veteran hiring doesn’t have to be an expensive initiative, but it does require understanding a few things about this community of Americans who have done something different with their lives.In the book, I've gathered best practices, one of which is to set clear expectations with veteran candidates -- help them understand what it takes to get from job to job, what the career path looks like. The military job process has a very defined structure, which is different than what we see in the civilian world. Managing expectations helps the service member understand exactly how they can contribute to your organization by telling them what actions add value. I’ve even added a glossary at the end of the book as an easy-to-access reference of military-specific terms. This is something I would have loved to have at my desk when I was first learning about veterans, but couldn’t find, so I built it for myself and others.
Me: We need to wrap up. What is a final piece of advice you’d share with employers building a veteran talent program?Lida: I would want employers and recruiters to remember that you can teach skills, but you can’t teach character. If you interview a veteran with closely aligned skills or training, but no certification, you can train that. What you can’t teach someone is to be loyal, to have integrity, to operate with an exemplary work ethic. Me: Thank you, Lida. Your dedication to reintegrating our nation’s warriors into our communities is appreciated by all.Pick up Lida’s book, “Engaging with Veteran Talent.” on her website or wherever you buy books online.