Do you feel squeamish when people start talking about personal branding? Perhaps you think it means pretending to be something that you are not. If that is your view of personal branding, then get over it.
There is the real person of “you”, the essential person that you are. Relatedly, not exactly the same, but we are putting concentrates on an existing professional with an enviable dichotomous brand. Your professional persona should be deeply rooted in your values. However, the person you are on the job is just a piece of your whole package.
In your professional life, there should be a personal brand of you. Your personal brand is, in most of the times, different from others, when it comes to the real job execution. Even if you don’t want or like it, you do have a personal brand. It is already out there alive and influencing the way people react to you.
Understanding and shaping your personal brand distinguish you from everybody else. Originally, the word brand simply meant a name or symbol indicating the owner or producer of a product. For instance, ranchers use hot irons to brand their cattle so they could spot them among the free-roaming herds.
Today, the term brand isn’t the same as a brand name. In a branding effort, marketers try to distinguish a product, highlighting how it differs from its competitors. The modern concept of brand is even broader than that, because it encompasses not just the qualities of products but also how customers feel about those products. When we refer to a brand, we are getting at something that reaches way beyond the actual product, to include a full range of customer reactions.
Your personal brand isn’t the same as your real personal being. It’s based on their assessments of your expertise, work and character. Your brand is powerful enough to open or close career doors. However, it might be quite different from either who you are or the high achiever you try to be when you are on the job. In other words, even if you are a good person and you work hard, there is no guarantee that your brand reflects your best qualities and will bring you the career success you deserve.
There is a lesson that we should all learn. I worked with a gentleman some years ago. He was a smart, tech-savvy and collaborative subordinate, but he was turned down for promotion several times. His immediate boss asked me to help this kind gentleman to understand why he was not being taken seriously. With the gentleman’s permission, l spoke with some of his colleagues and several of them described him as a flake. Part of this gentleman’s reputation was based on his appearance.
He liked fantasy events and science fiction conventions and sometimes he allowed weird fictional characters to influence his fashion style at work. Even worse, he stultified colleagues by talking endlessly about the weekends he spent at shows related to his interest. Colleague workers liked this gentleman and found him amusing, however, they thought him that too much hobbies are deterrent to personal development.
His eccentric personal tastes had become such a big part of his brand that his co-workers overlooked his strengths. Finally, the gentleman concluded that he didn’t have to give up the things he loved to do in his free time. But he didn’t want his passion for them to hold him back at work. So he launched a three-pronged plan to rebuild his brand within the company:
(I) Manage appearances. The gentleman aimed at a more mainstream personal style, so that his co-workers reaction to his clothes and grooming wouldn’t blind them to his competence.
(ii) Build expertise and let it shine. Understand that it’s not good enough to appear more like everybody else. The gentleman wrote a brand statement that described ways that he wanted to be seen as unique. In particular, he hoped to be recognised for his technical abilities. He set the goals of becoming an expert in a hot new technology and having his expertise recognised.
(iii) Show up like a leader. He took a course that required him to start a leadership journal. As he wrote about the leaders he admired, he became more conscious of how he wanted to appear. He wrote a lot of leadership characteristics he most admired, looked at it frequently, and thought about it as he planned her participation in routine meetings. Visualising the kind of leader he wanted to be, helped him become more confident about his contributions and decisions.
He quickly changed his brand and other managers started talking about how the gentleman had finally grown up. With his new, well-chosen expertise, he became known as an innovative thinker. Later, he was assigned to a key project.
Certain people have varying strengths which have evolved as their brands. One can possess written communication skills evident in his reports, correspondences, verbal communication skills evident in presentations, dealing with customers, active listening, meeting participation and negotiation.
Others use strong work ethics as their brand. Strong work ethics include hardworking, working extra hours, completing work before time, doing more than required, maintaining high quality of work, imposing own standard of excellence and working without supervision. Some people are also boastful of organisation and planning skills.
This can be evident in time management, prioritising, using resources effectively, achieving objectives and goals and optimal use of available resources. Some workers have problem solving skills. They are able to identify and define problems, analyse problems to find causes, find possible solutions, consider possible outcomes of every solution, decide on the best solutions and implement them.
Some people also possess skills in gathering, analysing and managing information. They often use these skills to collect information efficiently from different sources, integrate information and put them together in a logical format, process them correctly, store and maintain them efficiently. Other skills used as personal brands include coaching and mentoring skills, team work skills, self-discipline skills, persuasiveness skills, initiative skills, integrity and a host of others.
To gain control of your brand, you need to start with honest assessment of the way you carry out your job, devoid of partiality. If you are ready to do some rebranding, research your current brand constructively and promote your work. It is enough to build expertise and do good work. You need to share news about what you have been doing and learning. You could give speeches, do a lot of presentations, write articles or send your progress and performance reports in time to meet deadlines.
Start now to build leadership into your brand. Lodged within your broader image is your brand as a leader. Your reputation as a potential leader may take years to fully develop, but it begins long before you manage a team or have a lofty title. Even when you are just starting out, your leadership reputation influences how much people trust you and whether they want to work with you. It starts in small ways. You look like a leader any time you spot a problem, create a plan to solve it, and then execute your plan. You act like a leader when you treat other people with respect and you leave them feeling a bit more positive.
You can become known as a leader when you accept responsibilities and follow through on what you promise. The full scope of your personal brand includes the impression other people have about you, from your clothes to your technical skills. The leadership component of your brand is particularly important because it’s close to your core values.
If you have a strong leadership brand, other people will have faith in your ability to deliver at a high level. Beyond that, when you are clear about the kind of leader you want to be, your own standards will help you to make decisions. Once you decide on how you want to be known, it will be easier to focus on your highest priorities.