Several years ago, a friend asked me about my “personal brand”, as it relates to my professional life. She asked, “Do you want others to see you as a (insert name of big box store here) or do you want to be associated with a higher-end brand, such as a boutique store that focuses on quality?”. It was a new concept to me, but it was also something that resonated with me and since then, I have seen many articles about how to “brand” yourself as a professional.
Your personal brand is your reputation, the ongoing process of establishing a prescribed image. Marketers, McNally and Speak define your brand as “…a perception or emotion, maintained by somebody other than you, that describes the total experience of having a relationship with you.” To put it simply, it’s how people experience you.
When I first started a job many years ago, long before I knew anything about a personal brand, one of the people training me gave me all the “dirt” about the organization. I quickly learned that she was willing to gossip and I knew right away not to associate too closely with her. As the new person, I wanted to be careful about how I was perceived and I certainly didn’t want ‘gossip’ to be part of my brand. I also wasn’t interested in hearing all the dirt on an organization that I was just starting with and felt very positive about it.
Whether you know it or not, you already have a personal brand. Your colleagues (and customers) have formed opinions about you based on what you say (and don’t say), what you do (and don’t do), and how you dress/act both inside and outside of work (have you checked your social media accounts lately to see what image they portray?). It is better to construct your brand with intention, rather than to just let it happen. In order do that, you must learn what your brand is. It might be surprising to hear, but what you think it is and what it actually is might be two very different things.
To learn what your brand is, it is helpful to ask trusted friends, colleagues, mentors, and people you can trust be honest with you, to describe what it is like working with you. If you have ideas about what you think your brand is, or want it to be, write down some adjectives and ask if they think those adjectives describe you. For example, if “trusted” is an important part of what you want your brand to be, ask if they would describe you that way. Whether they say yes or no, ask for examples of behaviors you have that tells others you are trustworthy or not. Do that with several different adjectives and behaviors, and that will help you identify if your brand is what you think it is. Another way is to think of others that you work with and how you experience them. What behaviors do they exhibit that lead you to develop your impression of them? Do you have those same behaviors (good or bad)?
You now have some ideas of what steps you need to take to change your brand. It’s time to decide which behaviors you want to keep, which behaviors you might want to get rid of, and what behaviors you might want to add to enhance your brand.
Christine M. joined Empathia in 2000. As Manager, Employer Services, she oversees the Account Management Team, along with the Performance and Consultation Specialists. She also assists in coordinating small and large scale trauma response services. In her previous role as an EAP Counselor, she provided clinical assessments/counseling, trauma response services, and on-site services. Additionally, she holds a Masters in Social Work, is a Certified Employee Assistance Professional (CEAP), a certified wellness coach, and leads the Online Leader Coaching Team..