Whether it’s a new haircut or losing weight, the New Year is a great time to give yourself a makeover. But why stop there? Update your professional image and you could greatly enhance your career prospects in 2015. Read on to discover why and how to create a winning ‘personal brand’ at work.
What’s your personal brand?
There are times in your career when it pays to take control of your workplace image – if you’re going for promotion or have a new manager, for example. But think about your personal brand before you need to impress and you’ll be better placed to succeed. If you’re not sure how you are perceived at work, or are concerned that you may be viewed negatively, it could be time to re-define your personal brand.
‘Personal branding sounds like a great idea when presented by a motivational speaker, but in practice it often seems unrealistic. Most of us associate the idea with tireless self-promotion, pushing to gain influence, exploiting connections, and verbal assertiveness,’ says John Lees, career strategist and author of “How To Get A Job You Love“.
‘In fact, developing your personal brand is simply a question of increasing your visibility (are you considered vital, useful, baggage – or worse, are people unsure about your contribution?) and sharing the right information about yourself with the right people.’
How do others see you?
Before you can re-define your personal brand you need to know how you are seen. What you think about the strength of your reputation is one thing – what matters more is what others say about you when you’re not in the room, warns John.
If you don’t already have a professional relationship with a mentor in the company, John’s advice is to seek the opinion of someone you respect and trust.
‘A good mentor, even if you only have an informal relationship with them, can tell you whether eyebrows are raised or people pay attention when your name comes up,’ says John.
‘As well as offering honest feedback, they may also be able to help you change your reputation by increasing your visibility in the right areas.’
Be strategic and play to your strengths
Do you want to be known as “Jane the great ideas person”, “Jane the amazing negotiator” or “Jane the team player”? If you want to raise your profile and enhance your career you need to be strategic, says career coach Ruth Winden of Careers Enhanced.
‘Start by asking what matters to you, and what matters to your organisation. Identify your strengths: What are you naturally good at? What comes easy to you? What do you find energising, rather than tedious and tiring? And importantly – what do you want to do more of in the coming years? Once you are clear about your top strengths, look out for opportunities to demonstrate them.
‘For instance, if you are a person who bursts with ideas, contribute to projects where you can bring in your creativity. If you consistently come up with novel approaches that are well received, you will soon get noticed for what you enjoy and excel at. And these are the things that will help you build your reputation, and your career.’
Share the right information
Doing a great job isn’t enough. You need to make sure key stakeholders are aware of your contribution and abilities if you want to climb the career ladder. If the thought of shameless self-promotion makes you shudder, switch your mindset to sharing useful information instead.
‘Tell people what you enjoy finding out about rather than what you think you’re good at. If you have successes to talk about, focus on how learning from them can help the organisation rather than your star quality,’ advises John.
When it comes to thinking about your reputation outside the organisation, consider the way you’re pigeon-holed. ‘This can be unhelpful – being known only for your current job or sector, for example. It can equally be helpful if people recommend you for the right reasons,’ explains John.
‘If someone checks out your social media profile or seeks out a verbal recommendation, the first item of information is usually a short role description. This may be your job title as it currently stands, but is more likely to be a more generic term – for example “he’s an information security specialist”.’
John suggests taking the time to influence this by putting the right key phrases on LinkedIn, and by using clear, concise terms when speaking to connections. Again, this doesn’t need to be about selling yourself, but sharing information.
You don’t need to list your successes to persuade others of your brilliance. Talk enthusiastically about your passions, focus on the successes of the team or benefits to the business, and be generous with your time in helping others, and you’ll soon be known – and valued – for being great at what you do.
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