I’m sure you’ll have heard the phrase ‘personal branding’ bandied about a lot over the last few years. Maybe you’ve seen it in relation to thought-leaders and influencers online – and as an employee in a big law firm, perhaps you’ve assumed that the term doesn’t really have any relevance for you. Unless you’re an entrepreneur building your own business based around your personality and expertise – why would you need a personal brand?
Well, although having a personal brand isn’t strictly necessary when you’re working for someone else’s company – I’d like to show you that building one can prove highly beneficial if you’re planning on having a family at some point in the not too distant future. Balancing a successful career with a harmonious family life isn’t easy – but it’s absolutely possible with thorough prior preparation. You need to build strong foundations in your career so that it is able to withstand the inevitable pressures of adding a baby into the mix at a later stage. Creating a personal brand is an essential element of this strengthening process. Your personal brand is the tool that will make you special. It will distinguish you from other people in your workplace, establish your area of expertise, make you highly visible (on and offline) and it will build your credibility. Most of all, creating your own personal brand means that you can control how you are perceived by others – and therefore, how your career progresses.
Making yourself well-known and indispensable by building a personal brand before you go on to have a family, then, is the best way of ensuring that you will be able to negotiate for the type of work-life balance you will need when the time comes.
Here’s how to do it:
1. Identify your area of expertise
Think about your strengths and the successes you’ve had in the past. What is one thing you’re really great at? If you can, find something that not many other people do and something that would be really useful to your bosses.
2. Work on it.
When you have decided on a niche area of specialism, become the expert you want to be. Learn all you can on the subject, read, attend training, find a mentor. Keep expanding and deepening your knowledge. For other people to believe you are an expert, you have to believe that you are an expert.
3. Raise your profile.
Make yourself highly visible. The more visible you are, the more people in your industry will know who you are and the less likely your organisation is to discriminate against you in the future. How do you do this?
- Perfect your brand persona and pitch – Have a clear idea of your personality and emotional appeal. What do people like about working with you? Define and hone those characteristics. Write a statement about who you are, what you are like and what you do and practise delivering it confidently.
- Blow your own trumpet – This doesn’t mean bragging, but make sure you and your work get noticed. Take advantage of speaking opportunities – put yourself forward to give talks and presentations or run workshops. Find a way to contribute written pieces to internal communications. Get your name out there and seen by everyone in your organisation. Keep a record of your achievements and send a regular summary to the influencers in your workplace.
- Use Social Media and online platforms – Use platforms such as Linkedin and Twitter, a blog or even a podcast to promote yourself as a thought-leader in your area of specialism. Share thoughts and innovations, network with relevant influencers and build your personal brand credibility and reputation online.
4. Look the part.
We’d all like to hang out in activewear, but the way we dress in the workplace is about more than functionality and comfort. The way we choose to present ourselves reflects our professionalism, attitude and motivation. Looking smart and stylish gives an impression of someone who is effortlessly in control, businesslike and positive. Your appearance and demeanour will have an impact on your colleagues and also on yourself! If you are well groomed and look smart – you will feel more dynamic, positive and confident. All of this contributes to the perception and success of your personal brand. (For more tips on dressing for success, tune into this week’s podcast).
5. Act the part.
Experts are leaders. If you want to be seen as an expert – act like a leader. As part of your personal branding, develop habits to distinguish yourself as leadership material. Organisations want to hold on to their leaders and experts – the rest of the workforce is replaceable. As a leader you will be able to influence the decisions that affect you. Talk like a leader. Don’t use qualifiers or apologise for your opinions. Be direct and to the point. Develop a broader understanding of your organisation. What drives management decisions and what problems does it face? How can you contribute with your specialism? Learn how to delegate. Leaders don’t do everything. Be clear in your instructions and make sure you stay abreast of developments.
Creating a personal brand takes a lot of effort and dedication, but when the time comes to have a family, you will be in much stronger position if you have one. If you build an indispensable, visible persona, your career will be much more resilient to the challenges of working parenthood. Your personal brand will be with you throughout your working life and it will put you firmly in the driving seat of your own career.
You’re definitely worth it!
Tune into this week’s podcast to hear my chat with stylist Lizzie Edwards about the importance of appearance for your confidence and personal brand.