I met Zachary because he read my book, Platform: The Art & Science of Personal Branding. After he read it, he reached out to me and said that he was a big advocate for personal branding, especially for employees, and that he wanted to find a way to get me out to the Walmart headquarters in Arkansas to speak about personal branding with some of the Walmart Associates. I was thrilled that he wanted to invite me. I was even more thrilled to hear that he read my book and enjoyed it, because Zachary is exactly who I had in mind when writing Platform, people with real jobs wanting to grow in their careers. Zachary understood the message and the need.
I asked him why he was so interested in personal branding and he told me a story about how it changed the direction of his career, and ultimately his life…
A few weeks later, I was at the Walmart headquarters in Arkansas being interviewed by Walmart Radio (yes, they have a radio show!) and their Associate Magazine. I also got to meet the amazing Zachary Lones in person, and was able to steal him away long enough to interview him about his life changing story involving personal branding for my blog.
What you are about to read is one of my favorite interviews of all time.
An Exclusive Interview with Walmart’s Zachary Lones
Our work defines us. It is how we identify ourselves, how we pay the bills, and how we spend the majority of our waking time. But it’s also important to remember that we define our jobs.
“It is my belief that we are more than job titles and education levels.” These are the inspiring words of Zachary Lones, Director of Walmart World magazine as well as the mega-company’s Localized Social Media guru. “To counter those cultural stigmas, personal branding is our most powerful tool.”
Every individual does her or his best to bring their own unique spin to their occupation, whether it’s the way they kick off a meeting or the manner in which they organize their spreadsheets. What you do matters, and your coworkers should recognize that.
According to some shocking statistics, 65% of employees in North America complain that they didn’t receive any recognition within the past year. Not one shout-out or commendation. Nothing. Perhaps that’s why 79% of workers list lack of appreciation as the main reason why they quit their respective jobs.
Don’t be a statistic. Rather than sitting in the shadows waiting for a compliment that may never come, it’s important to assert your personal brand now. You have the tools to brand your way to the top; just take it from Mr. Lones. “We were given a voice to share the stories of our experiences and lessons. Personal Branding isn’t just about growing your career or getting more money, it is about contributing to the world.”
So, how do you raise your aforementioned voice? Read on…
Get Social, Get Successful
Innovators and entrepreneurs alike thrive on the cutting edge. What’s new, what’s now, what’s going to bring you to your next quantum leap of your career? Great businesspeople study the proverbial landscape and identify what’s trending before concocting how they can ride this wave to success.
Case in point: how our current social media craze gave Zachary Lones a platform for his brand. “The internet and social media have shrunk the world and we are no longer competing with people just in our local area. Recognizing this, I took to LinkedIn to help the world see me for what I could contribute. The content was focused on adding value to others, and it was working.”
Lones pinpointed where the conversation was happening and then joined it full force. “My team was finding ways to achieve consistently strong results with inventory flow, sales, and customer experience. I wanted to publicly celebrate my team for what they were doing and LinkedIn was where most of my peers and leaders spent time, so I shared recognition there.”
His personal brand now had an outlet, and Zachary could broadcast a consistent message of inclusion, teamwork, and positivity. It was only a matter of time before the powers that be empowered him right back.
A Corporate Star Is Born
“My career began as a cashier in the world’s largest retailer, but I wanted more.” Ambition is an important ingredient in the success story that is Zachary Lones, but it’s just one factor in his dedication to excellence. His brand also relies heavily on curiosity and the quest for self-improvement. “I spent time reading, asking a lot of questions, experimenting with ways to improve, and then shared the lessons with everyone. As time passed, my consistency in delivering built me a reputation in my region as someone who can help a team improve their results. This reputation gave me opportunities and exposure that helped my career grow. Within a few years, I was running my own store.”
It all began on LinkedIn, but blossomed into a flurry of recognition at the highest levels of Walmart. “One day I received a hand-written note from our U.S. CEO thanking my team and I for setting the example of a good job and inspiring others to win as well. This validated that my team was being seen and my voice was being heard… Not only did this blow my mind, but it also impacted the CMO. He pulled out his phone and began looking through my LinkedIn and Instagram. He asked what I would do if I were asked to scale my efforts. A few weeks later, I received a call recommending I apply for a job on the social media team.”
In this sense, personal branding was Lones’ résumé. His philosophy was established online and his dedication was proven through word-of-mouth. “My reputation of being a thought-leader, and even a bit of a maverick, showed that I was capable of driving the change I was recommending. I wasn’t just someone pitching ideas and asking for trust, my reputation established I could be trusted for execution and results during change initiatives.”
How Zachary’s Story Applies to YOU
Zachary’s journey is the epitome of why it’s important to work your way up the ranks through hard work and interpersonal skills rather than expecting a handout due to status or educational tracts. In fact, 58% of people in managerial positions have reported that they never received formal training. Instead, they demonstrated an ability to lead and were rewarded for that skill set.
“My experience with personal branding has proven to me that my company still values the individual for who they are and what they contribute. It isn’t about job title, it’s not about the school you went to, who you know, or where you grew up.
After Hours: Going Beyond the Job
While the lessons imparted by Zachary Lones are invaluable when it comes to workplace applications, they actually apply to everyday triumphs as well. “There is no investment more worth making than the one you put into yourself. The world is changing. It is shrinking every day and people are more connected now than ever. The playing field is level. Take advantage of it and put yourself out there. Personal Branding isn’t just about you; it is about showing others how you can help. If we even change one person’s mindset to improve their life, you just changed the entire world and the rest of history for that one person. That alone makes it worth it.”
In other words, selflessness yields success. Personal branding accomplished. Thank you, Zachary.
Follow Zachary on social media and watch his interview with RISE Together for more on his perspective of marketing, personal branding, and community.