How To Develop Your Personal Brand At Work
Personal branding is a term used more recently in the last decade to refer to the image we develop for ourselves. Just like the branding of a major company, your personal brand becomes recognizable to your employer and colleagues.
The rise in popularity of social media has made it almost impossible for one not to create a personal brand, whether they were trying to or not. It’s important to understand how to manage your personal brand and how to develop it at work.
If it’s done well, the idea is that your branding is a benefit to you and helps you grow in your career. Choosing to ignore your personal brand or assume you have none may prevent you from making the next step you’ve been planning for.
Find Your Strengths
Take the opportunity to evaluate yourself and the areas you feel you excel in. Talk to your co-workers about what they think you do well. Look at feedback you’ve received in reviews or emails to identify areas of strength that you might not have noticed about yourself.
Once you’ve determined your areas of strength, develop those strengths even more. Become an expert about specific topics or functions so you become the “go to” person. Consider writing social media content about your areas of expertise to reach a wider audience. Offer your expertise to other colleagues or work groups when it’s needed.
No personal brand will develop and thrive if it’s kept in a dark corner. Make sure people at work see you and what you do. Speak up during meetings, offer suggestions when appropriate, brainstorm how to improve procedures, etc.
Brand yourself as someone who is active and engaged in their work and their organization. Volunteer to be part of cross-functional teams in order to get acquainted with more people in your organization. Make sure people know your name and what you do. If you have a specific expertise that is helpful to others, consider holding brown bag lunches or other informal gatherings where colleagues feel comfortable stopping by for advice/information.
Clarify Your Image
Decide how you want to be seen. If you’re too aggressive in your approach, your branding may suffer. On the other hand, if you’re too timid, your brand will reflect that image.
Part of the image you’re projecting is affected by how you dress. Dressing too casually or comfortably can come at a price. Many organizations are turning towards a more “business casual” approach to office wear. Consider stepping it up a notch to a business professional approach to your work attire. It’s not often you see someone sitting in a boardroom or on an executive team wearing a sweatshirt.
Make sure your workplace behaviors also fit into the image you’re trying to project. If you’re branding yourself as the “go to” expert in a certain area, it doesn’t help if you show up late every day. Reliability goes a long way in developing your brand. Also ensure that your behaviors towards others is consistent to the image you’re trying to project.
While your company may have a formal or informal mentorship program, don’t let it stop there. Look to those who have developed a personal brand you respect or who have navigated an interesting career path. Reach out to those who you think might have valuable insight to add to your own personal brand and career.
Mentor/mentee relationships don’t have to start out as major time commitments. Ask for 10 or 15 minutes on their calendar to grab a cup of coffee and let them know how you respect their position and brand. Developing additional mentors adds to your visibility within an organization as well. Those who are higher up will recognize and appreciate your eagerness.
Explain Your Value
When all is said and done, if you develop your strengths, ensure visibility, clarify your image and develop mentors, it will be all for not if you can’t explain your value. You should be able to sum up who you are and what you do (what you contribute) in a few sentences or less.
Many of us don’t get a lot of face time with the CEOs, Directors or VPs of our organizations. Imagine you have the opportunity to walk up and introduce yourself to the President of your company after a big meeting. What 10 words could you say to him/her after shaking hands that clearly defines who you are and what your value is to organization? Your personal brand will depend on how efficient you are in delivering this statement to those around you.
Never stop networking. Use tools like LinkedIn to develop relationships with others in your field. The more connections you can make, the more you can spread the word about your expertise. Consider attending professional networking events in your area to meet those who are influential in your field. The more opportunities your give yourself to meet people and explain your value, the more successful your personal brand will become.