“But I don’t have a personal brand” – I hear you cry. It’s certainly true that the concept of a personal brand has only been around for about twenty years. Coined by Tom Peters in 1997, the idea of the personal brand was that in the competitive and busy modern workplace, and with the rise of technology, people increasingly needed a way of standing out from the crowd and self-managing their careers. Adopting a personal brand was the means of intentionally identifying and expressing your value to current and prospective employers or markets.
Intentionally is the operative word. Of course, we all have some sort of personal brand, whether we like it or not. Your personal brand isn’t just an empty marketing slogan. It’s merely what other people see and know about you. Even if you deliberately haven’t identified, expressed or promoted it, other people will have an idea or view about what you are like. Other people don’t know your internal complexities – people’s brains like short cuts. We remember others through obviously identifying characteristics – the smart one, the quiet one, the kooky one (it’s like an episode of Friends!!). Even if you feel a personal brand is not important because you are not an entrepreneur or self-employed, understand that other people in your workplace and beyond will have a view of you. This is your personal brand. It’s up to you whether that view helps or hinders your career.
Personal branding, then, isn’t pushy self-promotion and endless posting on social media for the sake of it. Many people shy away from it because of this perception. It’s actually about authentically clarifying and presenting yourself and your value to others around you, showing your true self in your best light, and making yourself consistent and memorable. It’s framing how other people see you to your own advantage. It’s being intentional, rather than passive.
With this in mind, have a think about the way you come across to others. Could you be harming your personal brand without realising? (even if you didn’t think you had one!).
These are some of the accidental pitfalls to look out for:
I’m not suggesting that the workplace is a fashion show of course, but being consistently and smartly turned out is a must for being in control of how other people perceive you. It makes you look professional, businesslike and organised. If you like, you can take it further by having an identifying feature about the way you present yourself (a friend of mine very successfully carries off bright red lipstick – always! It looks fabulous and is very memorable!)
I’m not talking regional accents here, but the way you communicate in the workplace has a big impact on how other people see you. Think about the language you use. Some people (more commonly women – it’s the old Imposter Syndrome rearing its head) undermine their own credibility by using weak or apologetic language. If you usually find yourself using expressions such as “Sorry, but”, “I just”, ’perhaps’, “I think”, “I feel” or “would you mind” – you are communicating a lack of confidence which may not be a true reflection of your skill and authority. Be aware of any weak language you use and replace phrases with stronger versions. “I know”, I’m confident”.
Lack of focus
You may not feel like it, but you are an expert. You will have an area of expertise in your work – something that you do really well, something that you know more about than other people. Use this to your advantage. Identify it, clarify it, and make sure you are known for it. If you spread yourself too thinly, and do not focus on your unique value – it is hard for other people to really ‘get’ what you are about. People’s brains are full of noise and information – make it easy for them to understand and remember in simple terms who you are and what you do well.
This really is the essence of the personal brand. You don’t have to be a super assertive self-promoting extrovert to have one! It’s really just about defining who you are, and presenting that consistently well. In a crowded and competitive global workplace, it will make you less vulnerable, it will add personal value, boost your confidence and open many more avenues.
For practical tips on developing your personal brand, tune into this week’s podcast, episode #40.