Have you ever noticed that other people don’t see all of your talents and accomplishments?
They don’t seem to recognize that you are the most qualified and deserving of the raise or hot new project, or maybe they simply don’t even congratulate you for a job well done. These aren’t people you just met in the elevator or during a job interview. These are people in your everyday life.
Mattie, a project manager from another department, came to my desk one day seeking advice. She felt as though she was ready for a promotion based on her exceptional performance, but her boss did not agree.
A key issue for Mattie was professional branding. She had neither defined nor promoted herself in ways that helped others to recognize her value.
How Professional Branding Works
You have the ability to influence how others perceive you by identifying and repeatedly communicating your professional brand. Not like a broken record, but strategically in how you position your team meeting updates, or the accomplishments you share with colleagues.
Mattie was a high performer but never proactively defined her professional brand and missed daily opportunities to promote her value to the organization.
Just like a gadget on the shelf of your local technology store, branding yourself involves multiple steps, including 1. defining who you are and why you stand out, 2. ensuring that your image appropriately reflects your message, and 3. clearly and consistently communicating this message and image.
Which Smart Phone Are You?
Take a moment to think of yourself as a smart phone. That’s right, a smart phone. Maybe you find yourself on display at the Verizon or AT&T store. You are surrounded in every direction by other smart phones, each of which has a different name, shape and operating system. Each has identified what separates itself from the others – interface design, apps, price, etc. In the same way, every one of us is surrounded by other professionals with a similar, but unique, skill set.
How will you differentiate and tout the benefits of your professional brand?
Clarify Your Brand
First, clarify your brand. Your brand is the core you: who you are and what unique combination of skills, interests and qualities you stand for. Start by asking yourself, “What do I do that adds value and that makes me beam with pride?” What do you, your coworkers, and customers believe makes you stand out? What do you want to be famous for at work? These are not statistics; they are skills and character traits. What can people always count on you for? Boil your answers down to 20 words or less.
If you are interested in upward movement, identify where your skills and interests intersect with your organizations needs. By pinpointing where your professional brand overlaps with the company’s needs, you have found one route to a fast promotion.
The answers must ring authentic. They must reflect the true you. Does the resulting description excite you? If not, keep working. If so, get trusted allies to provide feedback and add to the description.
Hone Your Packaging
Next, consider what your “packaging” says. Apple spends millions of dollars designing and packaging their products. They know that your experience of simply opening the iPhone box creates a lasting impression of, indeed relationship, with their brand. Packaging your personal brand means how you dress, the tidiness of your office space, car interior and even your briefcase.
Ninety-seven percent of communication is non-verbal. Consider how your physical presentation contributes to your professional image. Today, social media (Facebook, Twitter, websites, blogs) also add to our image. What does your image say about you?
Lastly, consider how and when to get the word out. George Bernard Shaw said, “The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”
Mattie, the high-performing project manager, knew her value and how she was different than her co-workers. She dressed and spoke with class and intelligence, and was an organized and a hard worker – ensuring her marketing sent the right message. However, Mattie’s boss was so focused on his own work that he did not notice nor have a clear image of “Mattie Inc.” Mattie’s brand was not communicated effectively.
How will you promote your brand? One of the most effective ways of marketing your brand is to report it. Tell your boss or volunteer project team what you’ve done that week, every week. Organizations, especially businesses, tend to like numbers, but you should also include “soft” wins like “resolved X conflict.” The latter isn’t squishy; it shows your true brand.
Attending professional events, self-nominating for work projects, and volunteering to speak on your subject of expertise for a community organization will also help establish you as an expert and provide a platform to communicate your brand.
Remember that branding yourself is not necessarily about being the best, but more so about knowing who you are, what you bring to the table, and communicating it clearly both visually and verbally. After all, you and I both know someone who got “the job,” or has the ear and respect of others for no apparent reason. This, my friend, is simply someone who knew and clearly advertised their brand.
You are the CEO of Yourself. While there is no right or wrong way to brand, package, and market Yourself, you are in charge of leading the project. Don’t allow others to define your brand. Brand and promote Yourself!