Branding yourself is important, for your career… for building relationships. Have you heard the saying… “You are always in an interview.” By far, this is a TRUE statement!
Brand Yourself by Leaving a Great First Impression
Almost everyday I’m talking to working professionals [well, that’s what they call themselves] on the importance of professional dress. I understand the job allows you to dress business casual but you are informing me, you want to move up in your career, right? In that case, DRESS TO IMPRESS and DRESS WHERE YOU WANT TO GO, NOT WHERE YOU ARE! First impression is everything! There are many days corporate execs just “pop” into the office, so why not leave a good first impression? You can accomplish this by standing out! They may see various people that day but b/c you were the only one dressed in a tie, slacks and dress shoes… they will most likely remember you.
Case in Point:
Vice President: Hi Ro! How are you?
Me: Hi… “Mark” [name changed for confidentiality] I’m fine…
VP: *Chuckles* Why did you have that look? ——>
Me: Honestly Mark… there are many high executives that visit our center but you are the first one to remember my name. It just caught me by surprise. *Smiling*
VP: *Smiles* Yes, I can understand that but I remember you from your shoes. I don’t come into this center often. However, the couple of times I’ve seen you, I remember who you are b/c of your fancy shoes. You also complimented me on the shoes I was wearing at the time.
Me: Awwww how nice! *blushing at this point* Wow you remember that! Yes, my first impression upon meeting you, I thought – okay, okay, along with his personable manner, he has a good fashion sense! [What I really wanted to say – for an older, corporate guy he is the first one I’ve seen with a shoe game- LOL!] Thank you very much Mark for noticing!
Moreover, put a little effort into your everyday look. Here are some pointers:
Wearing Jeans… dress it up with some dress shoes!
Weather is dreary, making your hair frizzy… put it up in a neat bun!
No makeup Mondays… cool, but at least put on some lip gloss/stick for the appearance of makeup!
Trying a new look by growing out your beard… well, can you at least keep it trim and neat?! Tip: If you are constantly getting food particles stuck in your beard… it’s too long! Ew!
Brand Yourself by Becoming Adaptable
Now this skill can hard be hard for some b/c you have to possess active listening and observance skills. In addition, you need to feel comfortable going outside your circle of friends. If you don’t have a diverse set of friends or acquaintances, you may be limiting yourself in growing in your career. There are many areas of adaptability but I will focus on communication since this skill is my specialty.
Case in Point:
Situation: We are in a formal meeting among different levels of leaders presenting our year-to-date results:
My Peer (Tenured Manager): “Before I start my presentation, let me tell you how pissed I am to see my results up on the screen the way they are! It was a hard-knock year but I did the best I could!”
Everyone: We stared in silence not knowing if we should respond or feel sorry for him b/c if that is how he begins his presentation, it’s pretty downhill from here… SMH!
Me: *Thinking* “Now this is a tenured leader – more than 5 years with the company- and you would think by now, he would know not to begin a formal presentation with an opening like that! If you are talking with close co-workers in a break room, okay maybe… but in front of leaders and their managers listening in a formal setting. I can’t imagine what communication and adaptable skills he is teaching his employees!
- You NEVER begin a presentation with the negative. Formulate your presentation or even a small, intimate discussion with a positive. This way if you have to bring up a negative point, it won’t seem so bad. EX: If your spouse came to you with a compliment before they expressed something wrong… you may take the constructive feedback better.
- You NEVER use slang in a formal presentation. BE ADAPTABLE! Leave the slang for the water-cooler talks. If your setting is formal, words like pissed are inappropriate.
Brand Yourself by Marketing Yourself
How many of you feel like you do so much work and it never gets noticed? Yeah, that’s me. Well, I used to feel that way until I learned how to market my work. Don’t get this confused with bragging. There is a way to market what you have done and not be a “show-off.”
Case in Point:
Situation: While working with a peer on a project, there were many times I would hear leaders mention how well the project is coming along but her name would always come up, never mine. At first, I thought nothing of it, but by like the 5th time, I finally asked someone:
Me: “Did you know I was working on the project as well?”
Them: “Oh yeah, you are… I forgot.”
Me: “Ummmm okay… sooooo, I’ve been putting in just as much as she has. Here is what I’ve been doing…”
Them: “Oh wow, you have done a lot of work. Well, she has been going around talking about the progress of the project so we assumed she was doing all the work. Have you talked to anyone?”
Me: “No, the work has to be done; I’ve been doing it and we will present together in a month.” That’s what I thought would happen.”
Them: “True, but you should be branding or marketing your work as you go along.” One– you are remaining transparent in your progress; leaders want to stay-in-the-know since they assigned you two the project; two– folks will know the personal work you have been contributing.
Me: “Well, folks would know the progress if she would remain transparent on whom is doing what, but that’s another story. Regardless, I see your point. Teach me more about marking my work…”
- Now, I openly communicate with my leader on the progress of my project to remain open on how it’s going.
- If I’m working with someone, I ask them upfront… would it be cool if we set up bi-weekly meetings with our leaders so that we can openly share together the progress of our project? Not one time has anyone said no to that idea.
- If there is a way to send a formal communication about your project– like through a company newsletter or blog… take time to write it! Make sure your name is plastered all over that newsletter- LOL!
Brand Yourself by Asking for Feedback
Do you really want to know what people think of you? Do you really want to be criticized, even professionally? Huh, well you should! For me, I always want to grow and learn. If I’m doing something wrong, tell me and show me how to improve. In essence, you are branding yourself through building a relationship. He/She will feel honored that you initiated feedback in the first place. Providing feedback is usually done in a private, scheduled session. However, if you are proactive in asking for feedback before it is automatically given; I promise, you just left a great first impression and you just began to build a good relationship; therefore, you will be remembered for the next project, recognition or maybe even a promotion!
Note: Although examples used in this post were for the working professional…. branding yourself in personal relationships is just as important as branding yourself in the workplace. You can utilize the same techniques in both situations.