Career Strategy 5: Protecting your Personal Brand

Businesses often talk about protecting their brand. If you ask someone at Apple, they are very aware of how their company is perceived. There are entire teams focused solely on making their online presence clean, clear, and awesome.

I want to talk about your personal brand. If someone mentions you within your company, what comes to people’s minds? How are you perceived by your peers in your job? How does your manager, and other managers throughout the company, see you?

This is your brand; this is who you are to others.

How to create and manage your brand:

  1. Decide how you want to be perceived
  2. Develop and sell your brand
  3. Monitor your brand within your company
  4. Be willing to adapt your brand as you change and grow

Personal Perception

How do you want people to see you? I posted earlier about how to decide who you want to be. As part of the exercise, you listed the things you like and are good at. This is a good start for what you want your brand to be. You get to decide in part how others perceive you, so figure out what that is. This could also be your elevator pitch.

I’ll give you mine as an example:

“I am an expert in modeling and simulation of complex systems. My supply chain experience and technical capabilities help me to understand analytical jargon, but my confidence and understanding nature aid me in communicating complex technical problems to leaders in a way that is easy to understand. I am the go-to person for any modeling or data questions in my organization.”

Ok, I may sound a little geeky from the description. I did throw in the confidence and understanding nature to show that I have a softer side. It doesn’t take away the geekiness, but that is part of my brand. I wouldn’t be me without it.

Develop and Sell your Brand

Now that you know who you are, how do you communicate that to other people? Start with doing great work. If you want people to know you as the person they can always count on to complete your tasks quickly, do just that. People form perceptions about you quickly, but you can guide them to perceive you the way you want to be seen.

While using your actions to create your brand you can smooth things along by planting thoughts through quick conversations and one-liners. Say things like:

  • “That is what I’m best at.”
  • “Thanks for the opportunity, this is really interesting work.”
  • “Wow, how did you know that I was the right person to talk to about this.”

You can and should have a conversation with your manager to see how you are perceived and to tell them the things you are best at. People will ask them about you; they can be your best brand protector, or a fatal brand destroyer, use them for the former.

Build relationships with your peers, and leverage them to communicate your brand. If the people closest to you believe your brand, others will too.

Monitoring your Brand

Now that you have started communicating and proving your brand, you have to be aware of it at all times. Meet with people often, especially those outside your immediate team.

Once you are comfortable with people, you can ask them how you are perceived. Ask questions about what they think are your strengths and weaknesses. Most people will soften their feedback, but you can tell based on how they talk about you what their feelings are.

If it isn’t great, or it isn’t the message you want to hear, it is your job to change it. This can be difficult, but you can say something like, “That is great feedback. I’m really working on developing my (fill in the blank with the skill you are trying to communicate). Do you have any advice on how to go about it?” This does two things: first, it gets them thinking about you in terms of that skill; second, it may lead to opportunities for you to prove yourself.

Make sure to thank people for their time. It is also customary to buy people lunch or coffee when you have these conversations.

Be willing to Adapt

If you consistently hear from people that your best skill is something that isn’t in your brand. Take a deep breath and look at yourself from their perspective. Maybe you should add that skill to your brand. If it isn’t something that you like, focus your efforts at work on the areas you do want to shine through.

You may be the best note taker in the company, but if you don’t want to be stuck as the note taker, branch out and work to prove your other skills.

You have many awesome skills. Do what needs to be done to be seen.

 

What other ideas have you tried to build your brand?

 

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