You have spent the first 90 days of that new job understanding the organization and your team, starting to establish relationships with your boss and your colleagues, and ensuring that key goals are on track for delivery. Now it is worth some time to reflect on your personal brand. Do you know what your personal brand is?
Just as your company brand is the sum of the emotional reaction that others have when they think of your company, so your personal brand is the emotional reaction that others in the workplace have to you. It is important to long-term success in your company and your industry. You should definitely spend time thinking about it and managing it. But be clear that managing your personal brand is not the art of manipulation, nor is it bragging about your personal successes or being the one who uses up more than your share of air time at meetings and conferences.
Managing your personal brand is more about ensuring that you reflect on what that brand is, then work to align your behaviors, communications and actions with that brand. If your personal brand is meaningful, relevant to your company and industry, and differentiated from others, then you will stand out in your company in an important and exciting way and position yourself for long-term success.
I tend to think about personal brand with regard to three critical areas: skills, passions and behaviors. Think about your skills and how they are recognized and valued in your organization; or if you are new to an organization, reflect on which skills will bring the most value to your new organization. Think beyond just the job or role in which you are working and focus on how the skills you have will translate to higher-level or broader jobs.
For example, perhaps you were hired to be a financial analyst in a marketing function, but the skill you possess is being a quick study in spotting trends and issues that others may not see. Perhaps you work in an information technology organization, and your skill is seeing how technology can be harnessed to improve organization function and workflow. Of course, your best skill might be much more general; maybe you are a great communicator and have the ability to inspire audiences, or maybe you have great capacity to build rapport and trust with customers. Be sure to focus on real skills and capabilities, not aspirational ones. In establishing your personal brand (as with your company brand), you are focusing on genuine strengths that others will readily see and acknowledge.
Next, reflect on where your passions lie. This is about what you are willing to stand up for and spend time on in your organization. Maybe you are passionate about helping others achieve their full potential at work; if so, you should be willing to spend extra time with people, listening to their career plans and helping them network in your organization so that they can succeed. Or perhaps you are passionate about ensuring that your company does things as efficiently as possible, so you challenge activities that do not add value. My own personal passion was workplace diversity; I tried to mentor both female colleagues and other minorities and encouraged them to try out for key jobs and useful training experiences.
Finally, think about your behaviors and personality characteristics. These can also be a positive aspect to your personal branding. Are you the one who can be relied on to bring a sense of humor to defuse tough issues or bring groups together for great team-building events? Are you the person who will always stick your head above the parapet and ask the tough questions, or expose in an acceptable way the elephant in the room? Are you the creative genius who can see new ways of doing things before anyone else? Or maybe you are the one who loves to network outside the company and build new partnering relationships that can create value.
Once you have honed in on a short list of skills, passions and traits that are the essence of you, it might be worth testing them with a few trusted others in your organization to make sure you are hitting the mark. If you have been in your company a while, you should be seeing some of these highlighted in your performance appraisals or commented on by colleagues. If you are new to the company, work to build your reputation around these key characteristics. Some great ways to build or reinforce your reputation include:
Join a team or project in which you can use and exhibit your skill or passion during team activities, meetings and interactions.
Start a group of like-minded individuals in your company. For example, start a mentoring activity, host a communications seminar or lead an efficiency project where you can use your skills and demonstrate your passions visibly in the organization. Of course, you may need to get your own leaders support or that of your HR department.
Take on a role at your next company function or meeting that plays to your skills or passions. People will always remember an inspiring talk, a breakthrough conversation or a truly unique networking event.
Write articles for the company newsletter or an industry journal that showcase your skills or passions.
Be aware that every interaction with others is an opportunity to reinforce your personal brand, but always in a genuine way that stays true to who you are.
Over time, you may find that you want to emphasize or de-emphasize some aspect of your personal brand, and I think that is appropriate, especially as your career develops and your passions evolve. You will know that your personal brand is working when others come to you for advice or collaboration in your brand areas, or when your leader cites some of your brand characteristics as the reason for your latest promotion!
Sara Lefcourt of Lefcourt Consulting LLC specializes in helping companies to improve profits, reduce risk and step up their operations. Her experience includes many years in marketing, sales and procurement, first for Exxon and then at Infineum, where she was vice president, supply. E-mail her at email@example.com or phone (908) 400-5210.