Fordham Law’s Alumni Attorneys of Color Affinity Group (AAC) has launched a new webinar series, titled “A Series for AAC by AAC: How to Survive and Advance During Challenging Times,” focused on how attorneys of color have succeeded in their careers and overcome professional challenges. The first meeting, led by AAC Chair Brenda L. Gill ’95, took place on June 11 over Zoom. It featured William Min ’90, who talked with the group about how to develop and market one’s professional brand.
Min, a Korean immigrant who grew up on Long Island, shared that his graduating high school class of 645 students only had two students of color, including himself. He said that his experience had propelled him indirectly—and perhaps subconsciously—to chart a career that would answer two key questions: “What do I want the world to know about Bill Min and what does Bill Min stand for?”
“If you don’t write the story, someone else is going to write the story for you,” Min reflected. “Eighty percent of the time, the story that someone else tells is not going to be the story that you want people to know about you,” he continued. “This is something that’s really important to take control of.”
Differentiate Based on Your Values
The first step in developing a unique brand, according to Min, is to determine your strengths and weaknesses. Additionally, he said it’s imperative to identify and express to others your professional passions. “I think that a lot of what I’m passionate about at this point in my career is actually on career development opportunities and really helping develop other people to succeed in their career,” Min said. “That is part of my brand, my reputation. That’s why I love doing programs like this—that’s one of my passions.”
Another piece of advice Min gave is to have your brand reflect who you are and what you stand for. He said a strong and effective personal brand will ultimately be derived from the values you embrace, the way that you want to outwardly express those values, and the way you want to tell your story.
Be Engaging and Network
In order to nurture your brand, you must network to make sure that your message is being clearly communicated, shared Min. “Your brand’s meaningless unless you actually bring it out to the sunlight and give it the ability to get fresh air and exposure to the other elements. If you don’t do this and keep it all to yourself, it’s not really growing and cultivating the way that you need it to,” he said. “It takes practice, and the more opportunities that you find to make connections, that’s where you’re going to find more value on how to get your message out there.”
With that in mind, Min said being a social media influencer may not necessarily mean you have succeeded at brand recognition—especially when considering today’s emphasis on metrics and statistics. Min, who does not have Facebook or Twitter accounts, said those platforms don’t resonate with his particular brand goals. Rather, he goes through a more traditional route—engaging with other people at work, helping them, and volunteering for projects to assert himself as a leader. “These are not things that you can just sit back and wait for someone to deliver to you,” Min continued. “These are all things that need to be the ingredients in that recipe of how you create your brand.”
Adding to the conversation, AAC Steering Committee Member and Global Chief Compliance Officer of Ryan Specialty Group Michael Blackshear ’99 advised his fellow alums to take part in public speaking opportunities or even be involved in news articles and podcasts. Posting links to those episodes or articles onto your social media platforms, in turn, can reinforce your brand, he said.
Reevaluate Your Goals and Brand
As your goals and objectives change over time, your brand can also evolve. With that in mind, it is important to create a roadmap of who and where you professionally want to be. Blackshear, for example, shared that he reassesses his brand every three to five years given the ever-changing professional landscape. “You really look at things that you’ve been successful in and things that you failed in, and you don’t become fearful of failure,” he said. “Grow and learn from that failure. How do you take those failures as teachable moments and truly define yourself?”
If and when you need to rebrand or recover your brand after a setback, both Blackshear and Min advised taking complete ownership of mistakes and tackling those mistakes head-on. Blackshear said ownership and honesty shapes and defines your character. Similarly, Min added, owning your failures ultimately leads to a more positive self-image. “You have to own that responsibility and that actually turns into part of your brand. You’ve taken a bad situation and you’ve actually spun it in a way that people say, ‘Wow this person’s going to own it,'” he observed.
The next event in the series will take place on June 25, focusing on ethics and compliance as career options for lawyers. It will feature guest speakers Blackshear, former Vice President and Chief Compliance Officer at Google Andy Hinton ’89, and Special Counsel for Ethics, Risk and Compliance for the NYS Department of Financial Services Benson Martin ’00.