You work for an organisation. You meet all the deadlines. You are friendly in a professional manner.
You pretty much check all the boxes of being a good employee.
But if there was an opening for an important project, what are the chances that your name might come among the top contenders?
You think you’ve been an ideal employee and others can see it. But do your colleagues and seniors realize that? Can you do something to make them see that you have that extra edge?
This is just an example to illustrate that individual employees have their own personal brand to maintain depending on how you want to be perceived.
Let’s look at another example.
When Andy in The Devil Wears Prada joins the Runway magazine, she thinks of herself as above fashion. For her, the job as Miranda’s assistant is just temporary. She doesn’t feel the need to spend on an updated, more fashionable wardrobe.
But if you have watched the film, you know how she is shunned for looking the way she does, especially since she works for a leading fashion brand.
This is where personal branding for employees comes into the picture. You are not just the designation given to you.
The brand you build for yourself leads people to perceive you in a certain way that should benefit you. And this is critical to your career growth at your job.
So, how to differentiate yourself as a employee?
STEP ONE: What do you want your brand to be?
Tough? Easy going? The worker bee? The helping hand? The pushover? The assertive one? The funny one? The dependable one? The one who speaks up? Or the one who keeps quiet?
So many options and combinations to choose from.
In fact, we have different personal and professional brands. Ask your friends what they think of you and that can be very different from what your colleagues’ perception.
So you need to decide how you want to project yourself. This will depend on your career goals – short and long term.
For instance, if you have just started working, probably a good idea would be to have an easy going personal brand. Be helpful, mingle with everyone. Networking is a great trait to have at any stage in your career.
To be clear, I don’t mean to say that you shouldn’t be friendly if you’ve advanced in your career. I am just saying that the initial days on a job are critical to how people perceive you. And it will be helpful to have an easy going brand.
STEP TWO: Start building your brand
As you move along, create a more focussed brand for yourself. Some of the things that you can do to build a strong, positive brand are discussed in this post:
1. Dress up well – every single day. Think Chanda Kochchar’s sarees or Kate Middleton’s dresses. These women are known for their elegance in looks apart from being strong capable women.
In fact, dress up or down as the occasion demands. Apart from being dressed professionally to work every day, dress up to meet the needs at work. Make sure that you dress for the part when you have a client meeting or when you are host for he annual company event. Each role will call for a different look – especially if you are a woman.
T-shirts and jeans every single day worked well for Steve Jobs. But until we get to his stature, the way we dress determines the brand we want to build for ourselves.
2. Arrive early for meetings: This is helpful at any stage in your career. Catch up with a wider range of people who are a part of the meeting. Get feelers across the room for the ideas about to be discussed at the meeting. This is a great way to bond with peers and seniors alike.
3. Speak up when the need arises: If you want leadership to be a part of your personal brand, taking initiative is important. And that includes speaking up when you feel you have a great idea that might help the project. A lot of times you might have to speak up to oppose the motion. Either way, being assertive is a leadership trait.
However, research has amply proven that women find it hard to speak up in a room full of men. And being assertive also goes against women because of their gender. Now, it is for you decide whether you want to ride that way and go all the way to the top. Or conform to how women are expected to be.
4. Be nice to people in the corridor: This may seem frivolous and unimportant. But it is an important part of how people will perceive you. You could be surly about having to wake up and come to office. Or be happy and spread the sunshine with a smile and a greeting. The choice is yours.
5. Use Linkedin well to build your online brand: You could be doing great at your current job. But it is your network that’ll help you move ahead. And the colleagues that you work with now will also become a part of this online network in the future. (And hence the need for building a strong brand at your existing job).
You need to build your network before you need it. And being active on Linkedin is a great way to do that.
6. Offer to volunteer for projects: Especially the ones that give you visibility and the chance to showcase your skills. This is a great opportunity to be in the limelight and be considered for important roles/projects in the future.
7. Don’t be an office mom: This is for the women out there. Yes, it is important to volunteer for projects and be friendly. But if you are default choice to get birthday cards signed and organise lunches during meetings, you have gone too far. These duties are not going to get you the kind of leverage you might be looking for.
8. Never skip office parties: These get togethers might turn out to be just a drunken uproar. But if you use them strategically, this could be a great chance for you to socialise with people outside your immediate work circle.
If senior managers are a part of this event, make it a point to connect with them. Even the senior management look forward to meeting dynamic people working in the company. So leverage this opportunity.
Introduce yourself and chat informally. If it comes up, talk about your goals in the company or ideas that you have for projects. Don’t go heavy on work but ensure that you create a rapport.
Just a little planning and your personal brand could get so much better.
Andy was already good at her job. But changing herself to better suit her workplace got her bumped to join Miranda on her Paris trip.
What are some of the things that you do to boost your personal brand? Are there any points you’d like to add in the comments?