People keep telling me that as I look to move forward and up in my career, that I need to develop my personal brand. I know you have written on this before and talk about it. Please can you give me some tips for what I need to focus on? Thanks.
Melanie, Investment Banking.
You’re right, I do talk about this and I have a whole chapter in my book dedicated to it, because it matters. As we know, many of us think that if we just keep our head down and do the work, that all else will take care of itself regarding our careers. But as many of us also know, that’s often just not true.
One of the key aspects of our career that really matters is your personal brand – which is essentially how you choose to present yourself. Everyone has one. Many people don’t know what their personal brand says about them; and few do something positive to build it, enhance it, and leverage it to support their career success. I am still surprised by how many people think they don’t even have one.
So what does your brand say about you? What do you want it to say? Building a successful personal brand starts with knowing yourself. Here are my top five tips for creating your personal brand and enhancing it so you can achieve your dream level of success (whatever that looks like for you).
1. Be authentic
Many branding experts will tell you how to shape and craft your personal image to within an inch or your life. Think about politicians who are melded and moulded until they are exactly what they believe their constituents want them to be. This may work in politics (a point no doubt we could argue on) but I have rarely seen this work as a sustainable career strategy – or certainly not for anyone who actually wants to be happy at work. You need to develop your personal brand in light of who you actually are. Look at your strengths, your likes, where you shine, how you like to dress etc. When you strip away the mask, who are you really, and how can you show up in a way that allows your true authentic self to show through? That is the essence of your personal brand, and the only essence that you want to build on. Fake it till you make it is not something you want to project when we are talking about your brand.
2. Make sure you can ‘be you’ where you work
Once you have worked out who you really are and therefore what your personal brand should be, the next step is how you bring your full and authentic self to work everyday in a way you can flourish. If you feel confined, constrained and like you just don’t fit with how you are expected to show up in your work, then here is a hint – you may be in the wrong job. So have a think about your passion, purpose and reason for being, and see where it leads you. You may need to make a change to truly thrive at work.
3. Be known for something
To really shine, you need be clear on who you are, what you want, and you need to harness and build your skills and knowledge. The key is to not only build them, but to become known for them, in a way that differentiates you from everyone else. It’s not just enough that you know what you know – others have to know that you know it. This is how you become a thought leader or an expert. And remember to be specific. If you think you can be known for everything, you run the risk of being known for nothing at all. Get clarity, build your deep expertise, and then you can become known for it.
4. Get your behaviour in check
Many of the things that are critical to building your brand are not about knowledge, they aren’t about how you look, and they aren’t about how firm your handshake is (but yes, firm is always best). A huge chunk of being well regarded is actually about behaviours. I cannot stress this strongly enough. What you are known for is as much about how you do what you do, as it is about what you actually do. So think about things like being kind, being respectful, showing up on time, listening to others and not being a gossip. Behaviours matter – big time. So focus on mastering yours.
5. Build and own your personal brand online
How you show up online is just as important (or maybe even more important these days) than how you show up in person. It can literally make or break you, in terms of others’ perception and your reputation. If you haven’t done a Google search on yourself recently, then you need to do one. Knowing what is out there on the web when people are looking for you, whether it is a future employer, a new manager or a client, is critical to managing your brand. Think about your social media presence, your personal website or blog, how and where you comment online, then look at what you are saying and how people are responding.
You have a personal brand whether you like it or not. Think about how you show up, how others perceive you, what you know and who knows it, and what your online profile says about you. With all that in mind, you will have gone a long way in building a brand that works for you.