Just as companies have a brand, so too do people. It can feel a bit odd thinking of yourself as a brand, but in a work context it’s really important to have clarity on how people see you.
Seth Godin talks about how a company brand is the set of expectations, memories, stories and relationships that, when considered together, determine the reason why a person chooses one product or service over another.
Your personal brand is essentially what springs to mind when people think about you. It’s created through a combination of what you say and do, and how you make other people feel. It is also what you are known for.
Are you the person who gets things done? Are you the strategist or deep thinker? Are you the person who is known for building awesome teams? Are you the technocrat?
The challenge arises when what you are known for doesn’t align with what you’d like to be known for.
For example, if you’d like to be seen as a visionary leader who can rebuild teams, and you are seen as the technical expert then there is a mismatch in expectations.
Or if you would like to be seen as a deep thinker and you are seen as operationally focused, then once again, there’s a mismatch.
A mismatch may result in your career aspirations being unfulfilled. If the people around you, who are in relevant decision making roles, don’t see you in the way you want to be seen you won’t get the role, promotion, job assignment or whatever it is you are striving to secure.
Reshaping how people see you doesn’t happen overnight, but it is absolutely doable.
It starts with being really clear on how people currently see you and how you see you.
Write down a list of words that you think describe your brand.
Then approach other people – not just people who you think will be nice to you. You need to know how you are perceived and experienced warts and all!
Tell people you are doing work on your personal brand and exploring how you are perceived in the world. You are doing this because you recognise that it’s difficult to identify the difference in how you see yourself and how others see you … without help from people you trust.
Make sure they know you really value their input, and then ask them to pick just 5 – 7 words that they would use to describe you. Encourage them to not over-think this exercise – they are best to pick words that first come to mind.
Once you have the details, then look at the responses from both yourself and your contacts. Give yourself time to reflect, considering:
- Where is the commonality?
- Where are the gaps?
- What most surprised you?
- What do you think this is telling you?
- What are you prepared to do about it?
After gaining these insights you can identify the steps to take to close the gap, or reinforce and sustain areas where there is brand alignment.
It was Tom Peters who said: All of us need to understand the importance of branding. We are CEOs of our own companies: Me Inc.To be in business today, our most important job is to be head marketer for the brand called You.