There's you, the essential person you are.
Obviously related, but not quite the same, is you -- the professional who shows up on the job and makes a contribution.
And then there's your professional brand.
Originally a "brand" referred to a word or symbol indicating the owner or producer of a product. Ranchers used hot irons to brand cattle. And back when soap was usually just called "soap," Pears Soap was named after the barber who invented a gentle cleaning bar.
As it's used today, the term "brand" isn't the same as a "brand name." In a branding effort, marketers try to distinguish a product, highlighting how its attributes differ from those of competitors. But a "brand" is an even broader concept than that, because it encompasses not just the qualities of a product but also how customers perceive those qualities.
Your professional brand is a reflection not only of you and what you do, but also of others' assessment of your expertise, your work product and your character. Your brand can greatly impact your career opportunities and satisfaction. And yet it might be quite different from either the real you or the high achiever you strive to be when you are on the job.
In other words, even if you are a good person, and you work really hard, there's no guarantee you'll have a strong brand that differentiates you from the competition and brings you the career success you deserve. So smart professionals manage their brands, using strategies like these:
- Do research. When marketers want to pump up a product brand, they start by getting a handle on how the product is currently perceived. They may conduct surveys or find other ways to collect customers' views. If you want to gauge your brand, gather feedback from other people. On the job, this might take the form of a "360 review" in which your bosses, employees and colleagues are quizzed by a third party about your performance. A simple approach is for you to simply ask people who rely on your work for suggestions about how you might be even more helpful. Or you might find a way to have one of your work products evaluated by the people who use it.
- Promote your work. It is not enough to build expertise and do good work. The next step is sharing the news about what you've been doing and learning. This might mean giving speeches, writing articles or sending out progress reports. Or you can show what you know in more subtle ways, like by offering your services to someone who needs your help. If you become more collaborative, you may have more opportunities to show off gracefully, by shining a light on the achievements of your whole team.
- Look in the mirror. People are more likely to regard you as successful if you present yourself as a person who is doing well. In a professional world, your aura of success is impacted by your personal style. Whether you like it or not, people are influenced by the way you dress, and speak, and carry yourself. If you feel like it's time for a bit of a makeover, look around for people who appear energetic, polished and powerful. And consider small steps that might help you acquire some of their gloss.
- Shape your online presence. The way you show up in an online search has become vital to your professional reputation. If you want to set up a meeting or call, you must assume the person you're trying to reach will Google your name. You can't get around this by doing nothing. Your employer, your university and maybe your competitors have mentioned you somewhere. And your absence from the blogosphere and other professional arenas may be regarded as saying a lot about you. So if you don't have a social media strategy, consider starting with these basics:
- Set up your LinkedIn profile. You don't have to complete everything. You can project your brand to the world simply by typing in a few sentences in the summary section.
- Post your work. Do a little writing about your area of expertise. Finding places to show off your work and share your insights has never been easier. Online groups are eager to attract comments and many blog sites welcome guest posts.
- Curate. You can show what you know without creating original work. If you choose to be a "curator," it's considered legit to collect and republish others' articles, photos and infographics on a site like Scoop.it (of course with full attribution).
Building your professional brand does not mean being fake or manipulative. In fact it's the opposite. It means becoming better attuned to how your work impacts other people, and more adept at understanding and displaying your best self.
For more reading, consider these archived items:
Strengthen your career by building your leadership brand
Sound like an oldster? Do you want that as your brand?
Your style is a career changer within your control
MESSAGE FROM BEV: I'd love to know what's on your mind. If you’d like me to address a career-related issue, send it along in an email and there's a good chance I'll explore it in this eZine or my blog. And let’s be cool careerists and stay in touch through Social Media. Please Follow me on Twitter and connect with me on LinkedIn.