Personal Brand or Professional Reputation

If you are not developing a business, looking for a job or vying for promotion – do you even need to read about it? I believe you do.

Janet has a stable job in a big organisation. Having worked really hard for the last 10 years, being smart and diligent, caring deeply about the quality of her work and people it impacts, she was expecting to be noticed. And she was! 2 years ago she was made a department manager. Her working ethic has not changed and – as before – she was really annoyed with people who were consciously promoting themselves instead of putting effort into work. 

Yet with her new responsibility she started noticing that “Life is not fair” for those who just “do the work”. More complex jobs means managers do not always see what people, even outstanding efforts could miss or praise. In the noise and busyness of big companies, even great ideas could be lost if they are not marketed properly. The additional funding often goes to a project with the most influential leader, not the one that is quietly coping. And promotions…how many do not go to the most deserving!

For many people like Janet the idea of Personal Brand feels revolting, but they now accept that they “need to do something about it”. So, suppressing internal qualms they now learn the tips about networking, enroll on training to improve their presentation skills, try to develop this elusive “charisma” or “gravitas” that they are supposedly lacking (according to the poor feedback they had received after being passed by for promotion).

Consciously building your professional reputation will make more sense, if you think of the following Do’s and Don’ts

- DO spend time to find who you really are. And remember that what your authentic self is might be exactly what is needed by the company. Does your organization want yet another super charming charismatic presenter? Or would they be happier to have a reliable, knowledgeable person? Are you required to be able to tell funny jokes or do you only need to be clear and confident when you share your expertise? Will people appreciate more direct no-nonsense style? Will they respond better to an engaging, warm, and slightly quiet manner?
- DON’T try to be who you are not – at best you will be found out, at worst – you won’t be, which means you will live your life unhappily pretending you are someone else
- DON’T start with “How”, before clarifying the “What” and “Why”. Presenting beautifully and memorably the message you are not happy with would not win you the right support. Starting a chat with this important person without knowing what they should remember about you is pointless or might even be dangerous.
- DO be clear about WHY knowing you and your work could be useful to people you want reach out to. If you just TAKE space and time from other people they may be impressed, but not necessary inclined to help. If you GIVE them something – information, support, direction or a listening ear – that’s when they want to reciprocate.
- DON’T think that promoting your brand or reputation is purely selfish. Ask yourself: How could your team benefit from you being noticeable and influential? How much more good work could you do, if your input is listened to with more attention and respect? How can you make more people in the organisation share your values?

When you know what you want to portray, what message to spread and – crucially - why, you will have formulated the core of your brand - or, if you prefer, your professional reputation.
The next steps will be easier – making a plan of WHO needs to know about you and your message and HOW you can ensure they do.

And what about the world moving to virtual space? It does affect the ability to build your reputation, but mostly around the HOW. Some ways of connecting are closing now, but the others are opening up! You are less likely to get stuck in the lift with a CEO for your “elevator speech”, but you might be in a better position to reach people across the company with your e-newsletter. Make sure it reflects WHO you are and WHAT you want people to know.

*working with a coach on your professional reputation could help you focus on the important and avoid traps.