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Advice From a Branding Expert:
Listen, Learn, Define.
Being a social media fan, I follow some amazing people online – Steve Ehrlich is one of them! I’ve admired Steve for a long time and have since been lucky enough to have spoken on the same stage.
I choose Steve as my December interview as I admire his ability to define what he wants and go after it. We hold a similar passion in defining success for ourselves, helping others define their plan, and connecting talented people to cool companies. In his role as Global VP, Client Development for TMP Worldwide Advertising & Communications, Steve helps build employment branding campaigns for big brands around the world.
Steve is someone I consider a mentor. I hope you find motivation in his words of advice below.
Chelsea Newton & Steven Ehrlich
How did you get into employment branding?
Funnily enough, I got into employment branding by accident. In the early part of my career, I ran two successful businesses that focused on college admissions. I was trying to figure out what I was going to do next and I started having conversations with TMP Worldwide, which at that time owned Monster.com.
I became fascinated with the idea of how you motivate people to become part of a professional culture. Over the years I’ve learned so much more about employment branding having spent lots of time talking to experts within the agency – including Rob O’Keefe, David Richardson, and Richard Mosley (who helped to invent the discipline).
How does it fuel your passion?
I’ve always been very interested in helping people make connections that will improve their lives and motivating them to help themselves. It was a big driver when I was working with college admissions – I loved helping kids figure out where they wanted to go to college and how to get in college. It is the same with employment branding.
Helping businesses articulate their values and cultures to candidates and facilitating the best match between companies and top talent energizes me. I feel like I help people connect to their careers.
I also am extremely interested in innovation and figuring out the most creative ways of using new mediums and technologies in our work. I get to play with new tools and technologies (for instance Google Glass) to see how we can leverage these devices to drive an understanding of, and engagement with, our clients’ brands.
What has been your biggest career success so far?
Having run a successful business was a great experience. But what I really love is working with our teams, and helping them to be successful. One of the best elements of my current role is that I get to work with our offices all around the world, helping to connect the dots between our many teams so we can achieve our clients’ goals. Helping the agency and our clients succeed is the most satisfying part of my job.
What are your biggest motivators?
I like to win and I hate to lose. So my natural competitiveness is a big motivator. But more than that, I find problem-solving to be really satisfying.
In particular, I really like finding innovative solutions to our clients’ challenges. Awards are nice, but it’s the self-satisfaction of successfully solving a client’s problem that is my biggest motivator. I like to devise new ways to tackle challenges that make people sit up and say ‘wow.’
What was the biggest challenge you encountered and how did you overcome it?
When I was younger I often thought I knew more than I really did. It took some hard lessons to teach me that listening is the most important skill one can have in business and in life.
Now, I try to learn something new every day and I make sure to ask people I meet lots of questions about their backgrounds and experiences. It’s amazing how powerful a different perspective can be. I rely on the diversity of experience that my team has to provide a different lens through which to view ideas, challenges, and opportunities.
How do you create balance in your life?
My wife provides the balance in my life. She is amazingly supportive and is a great listener. I work in a global role so I have conference calls at weird hours, I travel extensively, and I am always checking email and my social media profiles. My wife puts up with all of this and she helps me put boundaries in place so that there is time for us to relax and unwind. She is a major factor in my success.
What role have mentors played in your career?
Mentors have played a significant role in my career. The best ones have provided me with insight into myself and my professional skill set.
Sometimes they have seen things in me that I hadn’t recognized myself and they put me in positions where I could develop those skills. Our current CEO is an important mentor. She gives me clear and constructive feedback – positive and negative – that I find very valuable.
The best mentors also act as a sounding board.
What’s the best advice you’ve received? How have you put it to practice?
In business, there are official channels and then there’s the informal network through which things get done. The best advice I’ve gotten is to make friends, learn the informal network, and be part of the team.
What advice do you have for a student/recent grad just starting out in their career?
Always ask other people how you can help them. Don’t leave the office for the day without checking in with a colleague to see if there is anything they need. You’ll be seen as a team player.
It builds your personal brand and will earn you the respect of your coworkers. Plus, you get to work on things that you might not have been able to in the course of your normal day.
What are your favourite business books and why are they must reads for the Talent Formula community?
Anything by Malcom Gladwell. I like the way he looks at the world. I also like “Freakonomics,”“Socialnomics,” and “Groundswell.” I don’t always agree with the writers, but I like the creative ways in which they look at the world, challenging accepted wisdom and digging into the underlying drivers of trends.
But for me, it’s not really about books – I learn the most by listening and talking to people. My advice is to keep your eyes and ears open. Life is the best learning experience.
What’s the next challenge you have your sights on?
My next challenge is to help our business continue to expand in Europe and across the globe. I am the luckiest guy in the world. I have a great life, a great wife, and I love my job!
Follow Steve on Twitter @99gr81