You might not put a lot of thought into your personal brand, especially if you’ve been with the same company for a while. But whether you’re thinking of making a job move, or just having some self-reflection, Jenna Alexander of Hays Recruitment says there’s never been a better time to perfect your personal brand.
Some people see personal branding as a fancy term for self-promotion, others see it as an elusive idea with no real actionable points. You could say that we need to take personal branding back to its own personal brand.
Let’s re-establish the definition of personal branding, plus its importance within a professional context, by outlining three key steps you can take to perfect that all-important personal brand strategy in the workplace.
What is personal branding?
Personal branding is the art of establishing and maintaining a solid impression of your ‘self’ in other people’s minds. It’s simply replicating a practice that companies have been doing since the dawn of time, just on an individual level.
Needless to say, your personal brand is imperative, particularly within a professional setting. The way others see you in this context will impact your workplace relationships, working environment and progression opportunities.
You may believe that you have already created an unchangeable personal brand for yourself, particularly if you have been with your current company for a while. This is simply not true.
How are you seen and how do you want to be seen?
Be honest with yourself about your current personal brand. Based on your behaviour and conduct, how do you think others see you? How do you see yourself? Now decide how you want to be seen. Where are the discrepancies?
When I first started in recruitment, I was very bashful. I struggled to present in front of groups of people and when I had to, I made a mistake or looked like I didn’t know what I was talking about. I also blushed a lot!
Regardless, that ongoing uncomfortable experience within the first six months of my recruitment career gave me the extra push I needed to change, and become better at developing my personal brand and how others saw me.
I focused, increased my knowledge, worked with the right people and my confidence followed. I now present to large groups of people on a continuous basis as part of the day-to-day function of my job.
I also support less-experienced people around me on how best to address their personal brand because I considered how I was seen, how I saw myself and what needed to change for me to become the best brand of me.
You need to think about which positive traits you want people to see in you – envisage it and become it.
‘I think, therefore I am’
Now that you know what you want your personal brand to look like, everything you say and do within the workplace should align to that. Let’s start with how you talk. I don’t just mean what we say to others, although I will come to that. It is estimated that we have up to 70,000 thoughts every day. Before we do anything else, we need to determine how ‘on-brand’ our self-talk is.
If you are striving for a more confident and positive brand but you constantly doubt yourself or have a default sense that you are wrong, you will internalise your negativity and this will then affect your body language, behaviours and overall execution of your brand.
If your self-talk contradicts your desired personal brand, you need to change it – and quickly. In the above case, you should improve your self-confidence; whether it’s by talking to someone you trust who may have been through a similar journey in their career, focusing more on the tasks at hand, making sure you have the knowledge to back a confident approach [or] my personal favourite, exercising (whether it be yoga to help you centre your thoughts or going for a run to release positive endorphins and clear your mind).
Basically, you need to train your brain to reflect your desired personal brand.
Put your money where your mouth is
Once you have trained your thoughts to be on-brand, your habits – from the way you talk to the way you deliver – should follow fairly naturally. It is still important to keep this brand image in the front of your mind and make a conscious effort to incorporate it into everything you do, until it becomes ingrained.
Think about your conduct, particularly during times of pressure or change – this can often be when we forget ourselves. For example, an assertive, confident and positive professional would handle conflict by putting across their point of view calmly but firmly. They wouldn’t lose their temper or speak out of turn, but they would offer constructive feedback or praise where each are due, because all of this is aligned to their personal brand image.
You should also think about how you appear; from the way you dress and your timekeeping to your body language, how often you make eye contact and how often you smile.
For instance, if you want to develop strong credibility in the workplace, you need to be punctual, dress well, be engaging and show everyone the same level of respect, whether they be the cleaner, your peer or your boss. You need to be genuine and it can’t be all for show – your work ethic and the quality of your work must adhere.
Therefore, if you are striving to establish a ‘career-driven and committed to the company’ brand, you need to be diligent in all you do, and always willing to learn more. If you have weak spots or knowledge gaps, be honest by confronting and improving them. Again, keep your personal brand in the forefront of your mind to ensure your behaviour constantly mirrors it.
One last thing to consider
While your brand strategy is a professional one, this does not mean you cannot let your personality come through. If you are a warm and energetic person who thrives on being around people, then that’s absolutely fine.
In fact, this can add strength to your brand strategy. You can still be the career-driven and committed to the company brand who also has a warm and infectious personality. The two aren’t mutually exclusive. As long as your personal brand and professional one don’t contradict each other, you will be able to strike the right balance between the two.
In summary, personal branding isn’t worlds apart from company branding, in the sense that it’s the practice of establishing and maintaining the impression that others have of you.
Once you define the current unconscious brand you have created for yourself, you can consciously create a new one.
Following this, you will need to adjust the way you think, talk and appear. This is how you successfully execute your personal brand strategy. Remember, you and you alone are responsible for it.
A version of this article originally appeared on Hays’ Viewpoint blog.
Jenna Alexander is the national head of internal recruitment at Hays.
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