Working well – 5 steps to develop your personal brand

Whether you’re considering a new career, facing the chop, or looking to develop in your current position, developing a strong personal brand is important.

So what is your personal brand? Are you perceived as a go-getter who’s full of ideas, energy and enthusiasm? Perhaps people see you as a good team player who’s always prepared to help others out? Or maybe you’re regarded as a bit of a ‘coaster’ – someone who does just enough to get by but never really puts themselves out.

Having a strong presence will ensure you are on the radar of the right people.

Whether you’re aware of it or not, you already have a ‘personal brand’. It’s made up of the way you look, the way you interact with others and the skills and qualities you are known for. In short, it’s what people say about you when you’re not in the room.

Investing time in developing that brand (or changing it if you don’t like it) is a great way to support your career and stay current in the workplace. Having a strong presence will ensure you are on the radar of the right people when it comes to new opportunities. If you are feeling overlooked at work, it can help you increase your visibility and impact.

So how can you strengthen your personal brand and make it really work for you?

1. Find out how you come across

What do people really think about you? It’s a scary prospect, but the best way to find out is to ask. Find five people you trust at work and ask them what skills and qualities they most value about you. Or maybe ask a few colleagues to come up with three words they would use to describe you.

Seeking this kind of feedback can feel uncomfortable, but it will give you valuable information you can build on. If you want to be known as highly creative, for example, and it becomes clear that isn’t how people see you, you can take action to work on it. Make sure, however, that the brand you are building is congruent with who you really are. People will soon see through it if you pretend to be someone you’re not.

2. Blow your own trumpet

You may feel that shouting about your achievements is not the ‘done thing’ and people will think you are being crass. The truth, however, is that people who have the confidence to blow their own trumpet are the ones who will push past you on their way up. Simply doing a competent job is not enough to get you noticed – if you don’t make efforts to actively tell people what you’re good at, they won’t know.

The key is to find a balance between presenting yourself in your best light and outright boasting. If you’ve led a successful project, offer to write an article about it for the company newsletter or Intranet. If you’ve had some great feedback from a customer, forward the email on to your boss. If you are going to big yourself up, however, make sure you can actually deliver what you’ve promised.

3. Keep your profile high

If you want to stay relevant at work, you need to be visible in the business and seen as someone who is actively involved. Identify your niche and look for ways to become the ‘go-to’ person in that field. If the business is setting up an internal working group that interests you, put your hand up. Get involved in your professional association and share what you’ve learnt at team meetings. Find ways to get to know the movers and shakers in the company and be prepared with something interesting to say if you end up in the lift with the CEO. Internal social networks are your friend here too. If your company has an active Intranet or Yammer platform, use it as a vehicle to share your expertise and suggest new ideas.

4. Build your network

When was the last time you paid any attention to your network? Chances are, if you’re not actually looking for a new job, it’s been a while. Networking has a huge role to play in helping you build a strong personal brand. Your contacts can help spread the word about your talents and developing strong relationships with peers will help you get a fresh perspective.

Mapping your network out is a useful way to look at who you’ve got on your side and where the gaps are. Do you have people you can go to for practical help and advice or who have know-how you can tap into? Are there people in your network who can connect you with others or open doors for you? Develop a plan for keeping in touch with existing contacts and meeting new people.

Face-to-face networking is a great way to build personal relationships, but social media platforms such as Twitter and LinkedIn will also help you widen your professional circle and demonstrate your personal brand publicly. Get on board.

5. Assess your image

You may feel that what you wear at work shouldn’t matter, but the reality is that it does. Think about whether your clothes are conveying a professional image and sending out the right message. This doesn’t mean you have to become a suited and booted corporate clone or indeed a fashion victim.

Dress codes differ widely between companies and it’s a case of finding a style that’s appropriate for the setting you are working in, which is also a good fit for your personality. If you’ve been in the same job for some time, make sure you haven’t become complacent about the way you dress.

Clothes are only part of the picture though. You also need to pay attention to everything from your voice and your handshake, to your posture and the way you make eye contact. Listening to a recording of your voice is probably one of the most painful things you will ever do! But it will alert you to the pace and tone of your speech and any annoying vocal habits you may have. As the old saying goes, you will never get a second chance to make a first impression.

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Erika Lucas

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