We could’ve all used Sara Canaday‘s expertise when we were 25 years old. With over 20 years experience, Canaday has a niche of helping individuals identify their areas of personal and professional growth and achieve life-long results. The leading brand strategist is also author of the self-improvement
book, “You – According to Them” and is founder of the Austin, TX based consulting firm, Sara Canaday & Associates. Here, I chat with the leadership expert and public speaker about her brand, journey and having it all.
Iamebony.com: What prompted your involvement with the TX Conference for Women?
Sara: I was pleasantly surprised when I spoke at the TX Conference for Women in the past—normally those big events don’t appeal to me, they’re not intimate enough, I think some of the topics get diluted, and some of the expertise gets diluted; I did not at all find that to be the case with TX Conference for Women. I am very impressed with the speakers they bring in, the people who participate are very serious about their careers, and [I]was happy to be a part of it.
Iamebony.com: What does your typical client look like?
Sara: Typically, I work with women inside corporations—predominately my clientele tends to be mid-level, emerging, or senior leaders. I have worked with entrepreneurs, but since corporate is where I spent a good amount of my time, I tend to work with women who are within corporate.
Iamebony.com: In helping these women, you are not only asking them to buy-in to the corporate brand, but to also view themselves as a brand, correct?
Sara: Absolutely, we are no longer defined by the companies we work with and for. We should view ourselves as free agents inside a corporation. Because of that, we’ve got to pay very close attention to our brand.
Iamebony.com: You’re known for being a leading brand strategist. What’s your number one advice you’d give corporate women regarding professional branding?
Sara: Don’t underestimate the brand; that’s step one—many of us leave our brand to chance. My advice is to be very purposeful on managing your brand. Truly managing the concept of having the kind of impact that you want, that you are delivering the kind of experiences that you want over a period of time. The closer you can come to narrowing any gaps or avoiding any disconnects, is how you want others to view you.
Iamebony.com: At what point did you believe you were onto something and that others would believe in you (establishing your own firm)?
Sara: That’s a great question! I think in working with individuals and groups of individuals, who realized that there were subtle things that were keeping them from reaching their full potential. Whether I worked with somebody or a group who had ‘ah ha’ moments—that there were factors that may be holding them back from getting to the next level, but they weren’t sure of what those things [factors] are. The idea of getting a greater impact so that they could uncover those disconnects, gaps, or blind spots, as I like to call them. Being able to help them articulate what they suspected might be their blind spots or more importantly, even if they knew what their blind spots were, they might not have known what the unintended consequences or impact that those blind spots were having.
Iamebony.com: What would you say to someone who says, “I don’t have to be likeable in order to perform well or do the job, I have the credentials, and background to support my expertise?” What do you say to the naysayers of your philosophy?
Sara: I don’t necessarily correlate paying close attention to your brand for the idea of likeability. Your personal brand has a lot more depth and strategy than some of us may believe—in terms of what it means. Some may view personal branding as shameless self-promotion and that’s not the way I look at it at all. For the people who feel that their experience, their knowledge, and technical expertise should be enough—to them I say, I agree it should be. The reality is that behavioral science tells us, that we are animals and essentially we connect to or are influenced by and we desire to work with people who have other competencies and attributes like: good interpersonal skills, good energy levels, social fluency, and the ability to be collaborative vs. competitive; those are all various work chapters. A couple of other things I would say is—it’s not about changing who you are as a person, making someone do something that feels uncomfortable or inauthentic, it’s about adjusting their natural tendencies to better influence, engage with, and communicate with others. The reason for doing so is, it will only escalate in changing both your goals and the goals of those you work with.
Iamebony.com: What’s your best advice for women who desire to transition from the corporate world to their own business?
Sara: I started my business right before starting a business. From a pragmatic perspective, if you’re truly going to be on your own, you have to have a plan B. You’ve got to start working your plan B while you are doing working plan A. As much as I like the idea that you should love what you do and follow what you do, I am a realist. It takes a lot of hard work and a lot of time to get a business off the ground. You need to be doing things after work, after hours, to build up your business. Making connections, building a network, putting in the hours, all while being able to pay the bills. Then consider scaling back your hours and leaving your corporate job. Be extremely methodic and take a conservative approach. It depends on your tolerance for risk. Walk towards owning your own business, not run towards it. Perhaps starting off as a consultant.
Iamebony.com: I’m a lover of self-discovery and found your advice to clients and self to be rather poignant, not to mention I am a lover of Starbucks! “Be honest with yourself, never stop finding ways to improve, and – if all else fails — head to Starbucks for a Double Mocha Latte with extra whipped cream.”
What is your first recommended step for people to be honest with themselves?
Sara: It’s really this idea of self-awareness and self-reflection. As cliché as this may sound, it’s very hard for us to see the things in ourselves that others may see that we don’t. It’s the first step, reflecting and that means answering some questions. What do I think people would say who were going to work with me—work for me? How would they describe me; what kind of impact do I have on others; what kind of impact does my communication have on others; do I put people at ease or do I make them uncomfortable? What conditioning or experiences have framed who I am and how is that either serving me or limiting me?
Iamebony.com: What’s the one thing that resonates with you most about your journey?
Sara: That its been my journey! Especially the last half of my career. The first half of my career, I was following a journey that I thought I should be following. Right, I was climbing the corporate ladder, I got an MBA—the things that society says in order to successful that you do. The second half has been a career path that I followed, that I set for myself and I’ve been able to enjoy spending time on topic and people who ignite me and fire me. I also recognize that I needed to do what I did in order to be credible in what I’m doing today. There’s two sides to that, on the one hand I felt like I had to do it—not just because of society, but the credibility of what I’m doing today.
Iamebony.com: Let’s highlight one of your resources your company offers. What current tool do you offer that you’d like to share?
Sara: Definitely, I have an online Career Acceleration Academy! “If you’re looking for tools to help you reach your professional goals and move to the next level of success, The Career Acceleration Series from Sara Canaday is the hands-on, integrate-your-insight-for-results program to get you there. (www.saracanaday.com)”
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