How to Cultivate Your Personal Brand to Win More Opportunities
Your personal brand is how you show up in the world. And when it comes to your career prospects, your personal branding is everything. So, you want to cultivate yours carefully.
Because if the right people don’t know who you are and the value you can bring, they won’t be able to sponsor you and give you the opportunities you need to shine.
This is where the three elements we covered in the last three posts come together:
- The relationships you have and how you leverage them
- The activities you’re engaged in and how they help you show up as a leader, and
- The focus of your thinking, in terms of both mindset and strategic direction.
These weave together into your unique personal brand.
To cultivate your brand in the best possible way, start by focusing on these three areas:
- Who knows about you?
- What are you known for?
- How do others experience you?
Who knows about you?
There’s a saying that “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know”. While that’s true, I’ve discovered that there’s another level beyond that: it’s not just who you know, it’s also who knows you.
This links back to your relationships and the importance of cultivating them. So, who needs to know about what you do and how great you are?
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You’ve probably thought about your immediate stakeholders and have relationships with them already. How could you give them the chance to see you in action, doing what you do best?
Looking beyond the “usual suspects” of who needs to know you, are there people who will be in the room when decisions are made about your pay and promotion? Like senior managers from other departments or other offices?
And as you get more senior, you’ll need to broaden your influence beyond the four walls of your organization. It could be to attract more clients or customers, raise awareness for your company’s products and services, or identify new partners to collaborate with.
Think broadly about who needs to know about you. Remember, it’s not self-serving, it’s good for business.
Armed with a list of the people who need to get to know you, you can then take action. For example, could you reach out to meet with a senior manager in another department for advice? Offer to speak at an industry event? Organize a client conference?
Whether or not you have a personal relationship with decision-makers and influencers, you may be known to them without realizing. And this applies to external audiences like prospective clients, future employers and potential collaboration partners too.
But do they know you in the right way?
Which brings us to the second area.
What are you known for?
Think of this as your reputation, and it affects your standing with people who know you personally as well as those who don’t. It’s the way you “show up” when you’re not in the room, and it could be helping your chances or hurting them.
For example, when choosing a colleague to speak at our client event it’s someone saying, “I heard her at a conference and she’s not that impressive”. Or in promotion committee, people sharing impressions like, “is she the one who sends those long emails and never gets to the point?”, or “if she’s such a star, why haven’t I ever heard of her?”
Think of your brand as the image you’d like to convey and your reputation as how others see you. And the key is to have alignment between the two. So, how would others describe you, whether or not you’ve met them?
Earlier in my career, I was seen as someone with “strong attention to detail, hardworking, gets things done”. Which was great, except that it could also describe my high-performing personal assistant… but I aspired to become a managing director one day. Where was “high impact with clients, articulate, opinion leader” and any number of other attributes of someone ready for the next level of leadership?
If you discover you’re not known for the right things yet, don’t worry. The first step is to realize there’s a gap. Only then can you do something about it.
In my case, it took time, but I was able to shift my personal brand and reputation by developing a confident mindset and engaging in more strategic activities. If I can do it, you can too.
This brings us to the third area.
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What is their experience of you in person?
This is about your presence, which is how you show up when you’re in the room. Whether it’s face-to-face or on video conference, people can sense how comfortable you feel in a situation. This links to your mindset because it’s all about being comfortable in your own skin.
For example, when you’re in a meeting, what does your body language convey about you and how do you express yourself when you speak? Letting people see you in action provides a unique opportunity to convey your personal brand. So take advantage of it.
And if someone walked by your desk, what would they notice? Are your habits strengthening your personal brand or damaging it?
I remember my first impression of Carol, who I needed to get information from for a client presentation. As I walked across the trading floor, someone pointed me to her desk. I saw that she was crouched under it, making a phone call. True, it was noisy on the trading floor. But everyone else seemed to manage it without crawling under their desk! It was hardly becoming of a Vice President.
At the same time, I couldn’t help but notice her colleague Anna who was standing at the next desk, using confident gestures, laughing and at ease with herself. In the end, Carol didn’t make it beyond Vice President while Anna went on to join the executive ranks.
So start to notice how you’re showing up and consider what that might say about your thinking, mindset and personal brand.
Your personal brand is crucial to your career success
So be conscious of how you’re showing up and make the most of opportunities to convey yours.
As you develop your personal brand, focus on these three areas:
- Who knows about you? Cultivate your relationships with those who need to know who you are and the value you bring.
- What are you known for? Be aware of your reputation so you can close any gaps between your desired brand and your reputation.
- How do others experience you? Cultivate your presence when you’re in the room, whether virtually or in person.
Which area would most help you develop your personal brand if you focused on it now?
Leave a comment and let me know.