Why You Should Have a Career Mantra

By Lauren McGoodwin

So there’s this largely forgotten film from 1999 called Bowfinger. Seen it? In the film, Eddie Murphy’s character, Kit Ramsey, has issues. Loads of them. But whenever he’s spiraling towards a breakdown, Kit’s therapist suggests he calm himself by repeating a personal mantra: “Keep it together. Keep it together. Keep it together.” K-I-T.

I have a point, I swear. Crafting a personal mantra has always sounded life coachy, cheesy, even cultish to me. When I imagine the sorts of people who take the time to write one, I don’t think of creative, interesting women—I think of strangely ageless dudes who do a lot of yoga in white linen.

So let me clarify: under no accounts am I about to ask you to write a personal mantra. Save that for after hours. Instead, what I’m about to suggest is that you do three simple things:

1. Start thinking of yourself as a brand. After all, that’s where the words “personal branding” come from.

2. Learn what a company mantra is.

3. Take the company mantra concept and apply it to yourself to create what we’re going to call a “career mantra.”

Easy, right? Here we go.

Step #1: Just like Apple or Coca Cola, you are a product.

If you loathe materialism, you probably don’t want to hear that. But before you can settle into writing your own mantra, you’ve got to shift your perspective — and that means learning to think like a marketer. It’s not as disturbing as it sounds — in fact, you already do it. When you’re prepping for a job interview, you’re thinking in terms of “selling yourself,” right? Exactly.

If you’re trying to build your career, start thinking of yourself as a solopreneur of sorts. You’re selling your skills and services regardless of your field. You are the product. So while it may be easier for a graphic designer to think of herself as a one-woman company or “brand,” that perspective isn’t limited to an elite crowd of creatives. You too can be your own brand, even if your ultimate goal is to work in finance.

image via sandra semburg

Step #: Mantras matter.

Now that we’re on the same page about a personal brand, let’s break down what a company mantra is. As I’ve already mentioned, it’s essential to take a step back from any stereotypes you might have in mind. A brand mantra is not a yogi mantra. Another thing it’s not: a mission statement. According to Guy Kawasaki those run long (often unnecessarily so), whereas “a mantra is 3-4 words long. Tops.”

A career mantra is simple, memorable, and highlights the brand’s core values. It’s an actionable statement, one you always refer back to whenever you’re considering taking a step forward. It keeps you honest and your brand in check.

Here’s what a mantra might look like:

Federal Express: “Peace of mind”

Apple: “Think differently”

Contently: “Be awesome.”

Huge, Inc: “Make something you love.”

For a heavier breakdown on what brand mantras are, try this, this, or this. But really, it’s pretty simple: a mantra shouldn’t make you think, and it shouldn’t require an in-depth explanation. It should make you feel. It defines a company’s values and goals in a single breath.

image via rue mag

Step #3: The grand finale

Your turn. Now that we’ve established that 1) you’re a brand and 2) what a brand mantra is, it’s time for us to 3) discuss how to actually write one for yourself, the best brand of all.

First, consider your values.

What are your strengths, and what do you value you most about your work? Is it your organization? Your integrity? Your innovation? Start by making a list of power words you associate with yourself, but also with how you’d like your career to evolve.

Ask yourself: what are you trying to solve?

In any job, what do you bring to the table? What’s the big picture problem you’d like to solve in your career? Consider ways to fold those answers into your mantra.

Then, make it actionable.

Once you write your mantra, crosscheck it. Make sure it’s an actionable statement. It should guide you. The goal here is that any time you make a big decision in your career, you refer back to your mantra to determine whether that decision fits with your core values. Considering a job offer? Does it fit with your mantra, your brand, and ultimately your beliefs and goals? Or is it just a bigger paycheck? Your mantra will help you guide you toward moving forward, but it can also give you the confidence to walk away from a bad fit.

image via the cool hour

Use those steps to guide you. To help, I asked some of the Career Contessa team (including myself!) to write our own mantras. Here’s what we all came up with:

CC Founder, Lauren:

“Clarity Comes from Engagement.”

Because there’s nothing more engaging than running an advice website.

CC’s Managing Editor, Kit:

“Keep it together.” Psych. More like: “Don’t sweat it.”

Really. My career goal is to take risks in favor of fulfilling, creative endeavors—and to not beat myself up when things go wrong.

CC’s Marketing Manager, Meghan:

Safe is unsafe.”

Because I’m honest: I stole this from my former agency, Hub San Francisco

image via that kind of woman

Now it’s time for you to create your own mantra. If you’re still feeling stumped, you can also download this free personal statement worksheet.  And don’t forget to share what your career mantra is below in the comments!

image via scout joy

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