Managing Your Personal Brand At Work To Get Ahead
> Whether you like it or not, you have a personal brand
Every office has at least one superstar.
You hear about them pretty much from your very first day on the job.
They’re heralded as the guy who closed the biggest sale ever or the lawyer who can fix anything.
They seem to have almost myth-like status within your organization.
And then, one day, you finally meet them.
And with a flash of their smile, you’re their latest fanboy or fangirl, reduced to a wide-eyed lackey saying “teach me, oh great one!”
Okay, that may be a bit dramatic - but we’ll bet that you know exactly who we’re talking about when we say office superstar.
Sure, a lot of people are well-known at work because they’re loud or popular or gorgeous but these people manage to do the almost impossible.
They’re well known - probably for all of those things above - but mainly because of their actual work.
Most of us couldn’t even tell you what our best friend or significant other does all day. And yet for these superstars - anyone in the company, from any department could tell you what they do, and probably their biggest achievement to date.
These are the guys and gals who get promoted and the whole company seems to celebrate with them.
They’re the ones who get name dropped in appraisals as people you should emulate.
These are the kids who rub shoulders with the CEO and senior management even though they’re probably half their age and three levels their junior.
So are these office superstars really that good at their jobs?
They’re probably good, yes. But they’re equally good at owning and promoting their personal brand.
These workplace celebs are not the types to get on with their work quietly and hope that someone will notice.
They’re the types to turn their latest success into a case study for the whole team.
And us introverts can learn a lot from them.
When it comes to getting ahead at work, doing the job will get you halfway there. Having a strong personal brand will get you past the finish line.
If the idea of walking up to the company founder for a chat “just because” or putting yourself forward for public speaking gigs scares the crap out of you - don’t panic.
There are lots of ways for introverts like you to improve your personal brand at work - and some of them can be done without leaving the security of your cubicle 😉
What Is A Personal Brand & Do I Need One?
Personal branding has become more and more of a hot topic in recent years. This academic study from Amsterdam offers compelling reasoning that the responsibility for employees’ careers has shifted from the organization to the individual.
Gone are the days where we would:
1. Find a respectable and honest company to work for
2. Stay with them for 30 plus years, receiving a raise and a promotion every few years like clockwork
3. When the time comes, clock out for the final time and sail off into the sun with our pension
We live in the age of portfolio careers, fierce competition, entrepreneurship and the gig economy. Our careers are truly in our own hands, since the myth of a “job for life” has been proved to be exactly that - a myth.
So, building a personal brand has never been more important. But personal branding isn’t just for the YouTubers and the Instagram celebs. And it doesn’t have to involve speaking on stage a la Steve Jobs.
Your personal brand, simply put, is what people think of when they hear your name.
Whoever you are, whatever you do, you already have a personal brand. You probably have different brands with your family, friends and colleagues.
How your coworkers see you is going to be very different than how your BFFs see you. It’s a totally different perspective from a completely different environment.
Whether you do anything about it or not, you do have a personal brand at work. And, at the end of the day, decisions at work are made by other people (for now at least, until the robots take over). So, any decisions made will be affected by the view others have of you.
Of course, this can have a negative effect - but once you’re intentional about your personal brand, you can use it to your advantage.
Whether you’re an accountant or an artist, entry-level or the big boss, there are a number of tools you can use to instantly take control of your personal brand.
Operation “Brand YOU”
Your personal brand is just like you - constantly evolving.
So the steps below are things you may want to revisit every so often, especially if your career direction or goals change.
1) Complete A Brand Self-Audit
We mentioned earlier that everyone has a personal brand - but you might not necessarily know what your brand is.
Run an audit on yourself to figure out how you’re perceived at work. Some of this you’ll be able to figure out yourself. Other things may come as a surprise.
You know what you’re good at and what others are constantly coming to you for help with.
You also know what you’re not so good at - calculating derivatives for a multi-regression analysis? Yeah right, can’t do that.
But there may be some other, more subtle areas of your brand that you’ll need to have pointed out to you.
Most companies have annual performance reviews which include feedback from your boss and even sometimes from your colleagues, if it’s a 360-degree type of review.
Read over your last appraisal and see what common themes you can pick up.
Maybe you were consistently hailed as a great team player or leader. Perhaps your ability to mediate and liaise between teams was heralded. Or maybe your colleagues appreciate the creativity you bring to work.
As well as looking at feedback from within your team, go beyond that and find out how you’re viewed in the wider company. Ask your friends from other teams or departments what they think you do, and how they perceive you in terms of the company (rather than as a friend).
Some of the answers you get might surprise you (in a good way, we hope)!
Remember to always look for the constructive angle. For example, if your manager has asked you to dial down the perfectionism as it causes you to miss deadlines, perhaps one of your strengths is attention to detail.
From all of this feedback, look for the common themes and come up with a brand statement. Maybe you’re currently seen as the creative brain of the HR team or a commercially minded project manager.
2) Who Do You Want To Be?
If you read the brand statement above and think “that’s exactly how I want to be known” then, congrats! Your personal brand is already on point - skip to point 3 below.
But, if it leaves you feeling a bit “meh” then despair not, you can change it.
First, you need to know what you’re changing it to.
Think about your role within the business and how you would like people to talk about you.
What do you want your key strength to be seen as? If you have a particular promotion in mind for the near future, what kind of traits would make you the ideal candidate for it?
With this in mind, write out your new brand statement. Maybe you’re the developer who makes coding seem simple or the marketer who loves all things data.
Whatever your brand is, make sure it sets you apart from others in your team.
Being an accountant that’s good with numbers isn’t particularly impressive in the F&A department. But being an accountant with specialist experience in supporting start-up businesses is.
Here are a couple of examples:
“A project manager wizard specializing in launching and managing large multi-year, multi-vendor database projects.”
“A shipping and logistics coordinator that has a knack for presenting complex networks and loves getting all the pieces to the right place at the right time.”
Write out your brand statement and remember it - this is now how you introduce yourself to new people within your business.
3) Be The Brand You Want To Be
Now that you’re clear on exactly how you want to be known across your company, you can make it happen!
Keep this brand statement in mind at all times, whether you’re introducing yourself or asking a question in a meeting. It should shape how you communicate and the work that you do.
To keep it top of mind, write down your brand statement on the inside of your notebook or on a note and pin it on your wall by the monitor. Every time you catch a glance of it, read it to yourself mentally - let it sink in.
This creates a self-fulfilling mantra to live up to. It’s all about “being” about it and not just “thinking” about it.
As well as simply being your brand, there are a number of different tools you can use to amplify your brand message across your company, get yourself known by the right people, and land that next promo.
Ways To Build Your Personal Brand At Work
When people talk about building your personal brand, it almost always seems to involve getting up on a stage or posting videos on YouTube in order to become an industry expert.
In other words, things that sit firmly in the extrovert camp.
But what if you’ve set your sights slightly smaller than that, and simply want to get known within your company?
And what if your approach is less “look at me” and more “hide me”?
Here are some ideas which don’t involve anyone screaming “lights, camera, action!”
A) Build Your Network
If you want to get ahead at work, it’s important to make sure you know the right people. Beyond just your manager, there are others in the company who could influence your career trajectory.
Get a good grip of your workplace politics and use that to understand which key stakeholders you should have in your network.
In addition to knowing the right people, it’s also good to generally be known within the company. You can up your celeb factor by joining social groups and committees, taking part in sports teams, and showing your face at social events.
Even becoming known as “One Drink Dave” for always sneaking off early is better than not turning up to social events at all!
Of course, whenever you’re with your colleagues, be aware of how you’re portraying yourself - but generally just being yourself and keeping a level of professionalism is all you need to worry about.
B) Communicate What You Do
If you want people to take notice of your work, they first have to know what you do.
Everyone won’t know exactly what you do.
It’s like when Chris mentions Angela from operations. You know Chris since he’s on your team, but you have no idea what Angela does.
There will be people at work that don’t have a clue as to what you do and what you’re responsible for.
And introverts aren’t exactly known for screaming from the rooftops about themselves to whoever will listen.
So, don’t be an office hermit. Talk to other coworkers outside of your immediate team. It could be in the break room, large cross-departmental meetings, company-wide events, etc.
Put yourself in situations where you’ll meet colleagues beyond your immediate team. The question “what do you do?” will inevitably come up when you meet someone new, so this is an opportunity to share your roles and responsibilities.
C) Share Your Success
If you’re lucky, you have weekly catch ups with your manager, where you can share what you’re working on and celebrate your wins.
If you’re less lucky, maybe that’s not the case.
But either way, it’s down to us to make sure our managers really know how much work we’re putting in and how awesome the results we’re getting are.
To ensure your work is getting the recognition it deserves from your manager, make it super easy for them.
If you do have weekly meetings with them, make sure you share a win with them every week - and make it specific. Tell them the value of the deal you just closed. Show them the percentage increase in the results you’ve achieved.
If you don’t have regular catch ups, you can still do this in email form. Take it upon yourself to create a weekly email update to send to your manager and include your weekly win in this.
Beyond just sharing your work with your manager, you should also share the bigger wins with your wider team.
If you’re not one to toot your own horn, find a way to share the success which isn’t all about you.
Maybe there’s a key lesson that can help other members of the team. You can use this big win as a case study to add value to the team and help others improve their work.
This is especially important if you have a manager who may not have your best interests at heart. Maybe, they’re not engaged at work and so they don’t fight for your advancement. Or perhaps there isn’t much room for movement within your team and so they see you as a threat.
Either way, making sure your success is recognized in the wider team can counteract this to an extent and get your name heard by other decision makers in the organization.
D) Share Your Knowledge
A great way to share your knowledge is to write and publish blog posts. But if that’s not for you, there are other ways you can share your expertise within your company.
1. Run Training Sessions - put yourself forward to train up new team members.
2. Represent Your Team - when there are company-wide meetings or committees, offer to represent your team.
3. Internal Comms - whether it’s a section in the company newsletter or a post on the business social accounts, volunteer to provide content for internal comms.
4. Run Team Meetings - if the opportunity arises to lead your team meetings, or present a particular part of the agenda, go for it.
5. Become A Mentor - if your company runs a mentorship program, sign up to be a mentor.
E) Speak Up
As well as taking the lead in more formal settings, you can also ensure your voice is heard as you go about your day-to-day role.
Don’t be afraid to speak up in meetings and share your ideas with your manager and team as they come to you.
Disagree on something? Share your thoughts out loud to the group and explain why you disagree. Don’t just be an internal critic.
And, it doesn’t have to be on some huge ginormous mission critical thing. In fact, it’s better to train your chops on voicing your opinion on smaller stuff and then, work your way up.
Be proactive in your approach - you don’t always have to sit on the sidelines and wait to be given permission to share your views.
And if you really feel that you can’t share your ideas in a group setting, you can always speak to your manager one on one or seek solace behind your good friend, the email.
F) Use LinkedIn
Though LinkedIn is a tool for networking beyond your company, it can still be a useful platform on which to build your personal brand at work, especially if you work in a large organization where you probably haven’t met all of your colleagues.
Your LinkedIn profile helps to give your colleagues - and the world - an idea of who you are as a professional and what your network is like. For many, it will be their first impression of you, so make it count.
Here are a few tips to make your profile work for you.
1. Profile Photo - it should go without saying but make sure your photo is appropriate and up to date. LinkedIn is not the place for a bathroom selfie or a picture of you from over a decade ago.
Ensure your photo is a headshot and aim more for actor’s headshot than celebrity mugshot.
2. Hero Image - this background image across the top of your profile gives you the chance to tell more of a story about who you are.
It could be a photo of a team win from an awards ceremony, or the landscape of the city you’re from. As long as it’s still professional, you can be creative here.
3. Headline - your headline will default to your job title and company, but that’s so dull. This is essentially like an online version of your elevator pitch so you want to make it interesting.
A great idea is to use the brand statement you came up with earlier.
4. Keywords - complete your summary and make sure it’s in line with the brand you want to portray by including the appropriate keywords.
5. Recommendations - having a few recommendations on your profile adds extra clout, especially if they come from people high up in your company.
The next time you work on a project with someone new - assuming it goes well - ask them to write a recommendation on LinkedIn for you.
Lest they assume you’re job hunting, let them know that you’ve only just started working on your profile so you’re trying to get more content on there - and that you’d be happy to repay the favor if they want.
6. Connections - it’s good to have your connections public so that people can easily find you and see which connections you have in common.
With this in mind, be selective with who you connect with. This is LinkedIn, not Facebook. Don’t feel obligated to accept your cousin’s daughter’s boyfriend if their profile is a bit - ahem - sketchy.
Every connection you have is a reflection on you, so connect wisely.
VIDEO: Personal Branding In The Workplace
> Be visible - share your achievements
> Be consistent - deliver at the same level
> Be relevant - add value to become indispensable
Building your personal brand is about on-going consistent effort rather than one big push. Using these tips in conjunction with each other will help you to raise your profile at work and progress in your career.
It’s Your Time To Shine
Remember those company superstars we mentioned earlier? Well, for every superstar, there’s someone who does the same job, probably does it better and yet doesn’t have the same cache.
They work hard, they’re nice to people and yet they continue to be outshined.
They mutter under their breath every time someone mentions the superstar and tell whoever will listen that they’re “not even that great.”
They live in the shadow of the superstar and their resentment grows and grows until, one day, the superstar is promoted - to be their boss.
At that point, they either leave the company or live out the rest of their days in misery.
Don’t be that guy.
Be the superstar.
With the simple magic of getting very clear on the brand you want to portray and then being intentional about your actions, you can go from being a carbon copy of everyone else on your team to the obvious pick for promotion in no time.
Then, as your career progresses and your personal brand strengthens, positive things slowly start to emerge and before you know it, recruiters are calling and begging to talk with you.
So, are you ready to launch your new brand into the world?
We’re with you every step of the way.