As far as you are concerned there may not be much difference between your personal and professional personas. In the words of the Gloria Gaynor song ‘I am what I am’ and you may think that people should accept you as you are. However, it is not as simple as that. If you are really serious about managing your career and building your profile you should keep the two separate or at least be savvy about the content of both. The holiday photos that show you eating a hot dog sideways may be mildly humorous to some social contacts but do they articulate an accurate message to a wider audience about what you stand for in your professional life? If they do not then the social network material should be shelved or kept out of reach to people who could influence your career in the longer term.
This is nothing new. Tom Peters coined the phrase the ‘brand called you’ in the 1990’s. What is new today is the concept of career. In a world that is downsizing, rightsizing and where job security is long gone, this has never been so true. People must build their profile and take ownership of their career.
To be successful professionals do not work in isolation; they build and enhance their brand by attracting like-minded contacts and friends who help to build momentum and presence in the marketplace. It is not simply a case of networking it is about building positive networks that add value and these take time and effort to manage so investment on your part is required. Personal brands are therefore as important, if not more so to you, than corporate brands. This takes on a new meaning in the digital world and it is important that you do not let your guard down. If you ‘Google’ your name what would you find? What does it say about you as a professional; you as a brand?
You need to reaffirm your credentials amongst equals and this happens when you belong to a group or professional body. Membership adds value, allows access to like-minded professionals, learning materials and relevant articles and increases your self confidence.
Professional or career branding then is a key differentiator and it works on all levels. If you articulate a clear and simple message about how you offer value and this is delivered consistently over time it will help you stand out from the crowd. This was certainly the case with Barack Obama. He told Americans throughout his campaigns for nomination and presidency that he was calling for wholesale change. He never faltered during this time and he has not deviated from this script since his election to the White House in 2008.
The following will help you successfully build your brand
* Gain insight – what do you stand for? What are your unique values, key strengths and attributes and what is holding you back from taking action now? A female manager I coached spent all her time thinking about her weaknesses. When she concentrated solely on her strengths, of which there were many, she gained confidence and her progress within the organisation was remarkable.
In another case a young man did not know what to do when he graduated from university. His barriers were centered on his definition of career. He considered it to be something that was role and sector specific that you concentrated on from day one until you retired. He did not appreciate that a career can be made up of lots of different experiences including voluntary work, projects and work shadowing. He relaxed once he knew that he would not get trapped into something he would not be able to escape and one week later took on his first assignment. Three years and a number of projects later he is still there enjoying success, developing an impressive portfolio of relevant experiences, building skills and growing in confidence.
* Going on from this point; you do not have to be defined by your job title. This is something devised by HR departments to help their systems classify and reward their people. Be defined instead by what you offer. You have no doubt heard the cliché ‘don’t sell the steak, sell the sizzle’. What is your sizzle factor? What are you famous for and how can you sell your unique benefits.
The trick is you must do this in a subtle way that is true to your authentic self. If you go overboard on your qualities you can look self absorbed and arrogant and this will also damage your brand.
* Be mindful of brand supporting behaviours. For example, if you say you are results orientated and customer focused you must always deliver on your promises. Attention also needs to be paid to the small things. Do you set an out of office message when you are on leave, do you signpost alternative sources for help, what is the tone of your emails and other communications
* Giving clear and consistent messages means you can still evolve and change. You should regularly evaluate your brand and make adjustments as and when necessary. An example is the US pop singer Madonna who has regularly reinvented herself to prolong her life cycle in the fickle world of popular music and celebrity.
Everyone has a chance to stand out. Everyone has a chance to learn, improve and build their skills. The more you learn from courses, books and other people the more you build a brand and the more you can offer back. Strive to make your brand more useful and valuable to others. And remember you are not on your own. Coaches at Meet Your Goals can help with all aspects of career and performance management and meetings can be conducted face to face, by email or by telephone. Good luck!