Building and maintaining your professional brand
Take the time to create your own personal and professional brand.
Jane Sidebottom, AMK LLC, Louisville, Ky.
You walk into the office on any given day, grab your favorite morning beverage, and get started on your day. As you look at your calendar, how much time is allocated to building or maintaining your personal brand or reputation? For many of us, not enough time. In fact, if we were honest, we’d probably say that the last time we thought about it was when we graduated from college, began our job search, or when we got our current position.
But in today’s market, building and cultivating your personal brand or—to put it in more familiar terms—your professional reputation, is essential to a successful career. You want to be top of mind to your employer for organizational advancement, to a perspective client, or to a potential employer looking for talent. None of us wants to be in the position of hoping we hear about an opportunity and having the chance to chase it. While your firm will invest significant marketing resources to develop and build the firm’s brand, where do you turn for help with building your own brand?
A great place to begin is with a personal brand outline. This outline will help you better understand your professional strengths and any knowledge or skill gaps that you may need to address. Find 30 quiet minutes to jot down some notes on these four areas:
- Knowledge/expertise: What are your areas of expertise? Are there skills or core knowledge that you have or are developing that set you apart from your colleagues in your firm as well as in your industry? Are you sought out for your firm’s projects because of your knowledge and experience? If so, why do project leaders want you? It can be hard to have a perspective on our own skills and expertise, so don’t be afraid to consult friends and colleagues for feedback on what makes you valuable to the firm or a project. This information is the foundation for your personal brand.
- Presence: How do you appear to others? Do people remember you? Creating a presence is about your personality and demeanor, behavior in front of clients and colleagues, and your personal character. Understanding your personal presence and how it can impact a client and colleagues is almost as important as understanding your skill set. I have seen numerous examples where the most experienced individual in a company is passed over because he or she does not have the right presence for the role. It is not enough to have the knowledge; you must have the personal presence to deliver the knowledge in an effective manner.
- Relationships: In the words of Jimmy Buffett, “we all got ’em…what do we do with them?” Do you have a strong and broad-based network available to you? We operate in a relationship-based industry, so a strong network is essential. Do you network and nurture your contacts? Do you have a LinkedIn profile and do you keep it up-to-date and use it to connect with colleagues, clients, and professional resources? Networking and relationship-building is no longer something we can afford to do in our free time; it is essential to building our personal brands.
- Visibility: Are you assigned to high-profile projects in your firm, or active in high-profile organizations or associations? Are you active in your community? Being assigned to a particularly challenging client, leading a United Way or a Habitat for Humanity project for your firm, serving on the leadership board for a professional organization, or coaching your child’s little league team all show leadership and willingness to take on challenging assignments. Be sure to include results in your notes on your outline.
Now sit back and take a look at your outline. Does it tell a good story about your brand and reputation? If not, identify the gaps and focus on spending a few minutes each week on filling those gaps. For some guidance on how to do that, refer to past Career Smart articles on building knowledge, and mentoring. And, there are numerous resources on the Web that will guide you through using marketing/brand building fundamentals for personal brand development, including Careerrocketeer.com, CIO.com, and an excellent presentation done by Toby Nathan at RecruitaStar on increasing your online presence.
Taking the time to build your personal brand and nurture your reputation is not only a smart investment in your career, but one that will produce ongoing returns.
Sidebottom is the owner of AMK LLC, a management and marketing consulting firm that provides market development and growth expertise to small and medium-size firms. She has 20 years of management and leadership experience in both consulting engineering and Fortune 100 organizations. Sidebottom is a graduate of the University of Maryland.
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