In the last few years, the topic of having and establishing a personal brand has been much discussed. We keep reading and hearing in the media about having a personal brand and how we should always be thinking about how we’re branding ourselves. But what is a personal brand, actually?
There’s a varying degree of opinions out there, but to me, a personal brand is who we are as our most authentic selves, inclusive of our strengths, capabilities, morals and values and how we present all of that in our everyday life. It’s about our uniqueness and what makes us, us. And truthfully, personal branding goes beyond just projecting who we are – it’s also about managing perceptions. It’s about the way people see us and what comes to their minds when they think about who we are.
The reality is that we all have a personal brand, whether we realize it or not. And if you aren’t aware of what your brand stands for, then my friend, you are not in control of it and that’s a problem. If you’re not actively defining your personal brand and making it a point to reinforce it, others will define your brand for you.
In the case of your career especially, you should be establishing and making your brand known. This is ultimately what is going to make you stand out from others and help you excel in the workplace.
Understand & Own Your Brand
The first step to establishing your personal brand in the workplace and excelling in your career is identifying what your personal brand truly is.
What are you good at? What are your top values? What do people frequently compliment you for? What adjectives would people use to describe who you are? What do managers, co-workers and friends come to you for? What inspires you? What are your passions?
These are all questions to ask yourself to get to the heart of who you are and how you want to showcase that in your role. You can also map these out using L&I’s Personal Brand Plan template. Download it here.
Capitalize on Your Strengths
Once you’ve done some inner discovery, you’ll begin to understand where your strengths lie. Make it a point to excel in what you know you do well and reinforce that expertise. Lead with purpose and find ways to use your strengths to make your manager and team successful.
For example, I am organized and detail-oriented at work and have been recognized for being so. One of the reasons I’ve been branded that is because I decided to create a document for my team that linked to all the other documents that were floating around in cyberspace that we had to keep track of. The document I created ended up becoming a go-to resource for my team and has saved everyone time in the long run, so we can do our jobs more effectively and efficiently.
Strive to get recognition for your strengths and what you’ve accomplished too. Make it a point to share feedback from co-workers and clients with your manager to reinforce your strengths and capabilities. This self-promotion may seem awkward at first, but remember that it will remind your manager how invaluable of an employee you are.
Build Leadership Skills
One of the ways to gain leadership is to become a manager and help develop future leaders. But you don’t have to be a manager or in leadership to gain leadership skills. You can do this in a number of ways:
- Become a thought leader in your field of expertise. This goes back to capitalizing on your strengths and making them known. You can do this by writing thought pieces and posting to LinkedIn or your own personal blog or contribute to discussion boards or groups. Make sure to vocalize and promote that expertise too. Once people begin to learn about your thought leadership, you will become the go-to person for that topic that other employees come to for questions. Read more on this here.
- Join organizations in and outside of work. Go beyond your job and get involved. You can even volunteer to become a board member or leader of the organization. This is a surefire way to boost your personal brand and make yourself known.
- Volunteer to speak in front of an audience. Raise your hand to opportunities to speak at a conference, lead a webinar or present a topic to your team. Getting yourself in front of an audience will increase not only your leadership skills, but also your clout.
Develop a Respectable Reputation
Sometimes the best way to establish your brand in the workplace is to simply excel in your job and achieve results. Be the problem solver and the team player. Be flexible and open to new opportunities, even if they don’t always fall into your so-called ‘job description.’ You can also develop a positive reputation by raising your hand in meetings and stating your opinion or asking a question. The more you make your voice known, the more people get to know you.
Grow your Networking Skills
You need to consistently be working towards building and growing your networking skills as it will 100% pay off in establishing your personal brand. Attend industry and company events and make connections whenever you possibly can. You can even treat social events as potential networking opportunities (find out how to do that here). For people you admire or are interested in, ask their availability for a quick phone call or to a coffee date. Find out how they’ve achieved success and see what you can learn from them. Pass out your business card when appropriate so people remember you and their conversation with you.
You can also network within your own company! Introduce yourself and make conversation with people outside of your team and get to know them so they can also get to know you. You never know when that can possibly open up a door for you. I also highly recommend taking advantage of groups within your company to develop relationships outside of your workgroup and to get more recognition outside of just your team. For me personally, I’m a part of Salesforce’s Women’s Network Group where I’ve gotten involved and been able to meet other females I normally wouldn’t have met in the Chicago office.
Have a Positive Attitude
I get it, sometimes we have shitty days at work and let it get the best of us. I’ve been there and have even had to get a pep talk from a previous manager a few years ago about it. I realized in that moment how my negative attitude was coming across and how it was affecting team morale. I learned through that experience that you always have to stay positive and professional in the workplace, regardless of your emotions. Instead of complaining, be proactive and bring solutions to the problems you are encountering. That will go over a hell of a lot better than being a negative Nancy.
Also, being kind can go a long way. Be kind to everyone you come in contact with (yes, even on those days where you feel stressed or frustrated). Make it a point to get to know your manager, co-workers and clients on a more personal level. Express interest in them and ask them questions.
Plug In Your Personality
More than ever, the lines are blurring between the professional and the personal and a lot of that is thanks to social media. It’s now commonplace and encouraged to infuse your personality into your workplace. If there are things you are passionate about outside of work, don’t be afraid to talk about them at work! Let your managers, co-workers, and clients get to know you on a more personal level. It helps humanize you as a person instead of just a face behind a computer screen or a voice over the phone. You can also plug in your personality by including your interests or a fun fact about yourself in your resume and LinkedIn profile. That piece of information is almost guaranteed to become a talking point in your next interview! Read more about how to show your personality at work here.
Read more about personal branding in L&I’s Making Your Mark: Infusing Your Personal Brand into Your Professional Life event recap!
Kelly Nash is a Chicago-based writer, career coach, speaker and founder of Lipstick & Ink®. She also works full-time in technology as a Senior Employee Engagement Manager at Salesforce and has over 12 years of digital marketing experience. Kelly has been featured in Thrive Global, Chicago Tribune, International Association of Women, General Assembly, Salesforce, and SheFactor. She’s fueled by black coffee, sunshine, a good ink pen, and a bold lip.