By Nikki MacCallum
Over the past several years, the concept of branding has become a tremendously popular idea in business. The messaging an organization chooses to put out into the world that supports how they want to be perceived in the market is pivotal to success.
That said, on a micro-level, each individual creates their own personal brand through action and performance. Often times, people even have more than one brand.
Creating your individual brand is critical to your career as it is ultimately what will distinguish you in the workplace. Ideally, your brand should reflect how you want to be perceived, and what you want colleagues to think of when they hear your name.
Finding and shaping your brand can be overwhelming and challenging. But the stronger and clearer your brand becomes, the more you will be top of mind. And the more that people think of you, the easier it is to get recognized for other opportunities within your organization, or even perhaps, a promotion. It is how you will stand out and it’s the messaging people will attach to you based on what you create for yourself.
It often takes time to discover your brand, but there are certain steps you can take to uncover that mystery. In her book, The Message of You, Judy Carter suggests writing your obituary first from the perspective of a best friend and second from the point of view of a co-worker. Take notice of what adjectives people might use to describe you. Observe any themes that may be among the descriptors.
Another great tactic is to ask your manager, colleagues, or friends how they view you. Are you a subject matter expert? Are you someone people often go to for help? Do you always show a strong interest in others and ask a lot of questions? Are you casual? Are you more formal? Are you a leader? Are you a team player? What are some of your strengths? If there was one fact you’d want people to know about you, what would it be?
Another smart way to begin building your brand is to recognize what qualities you admire and respect in others. Have you praised others for values that you’d like to take on yourself? Find a brand you’d like to emulate and start taking actions that support that messaging.
As you continue to grow and develop your individual brand, you may find that more than one emerges. The most common distinction between brands is personal life versus professional life. Some people prefer to keep the two separate while others merge them. Are you perceived differently in the workplace than you are in everyday life? Do you behave differently in your professional life than you do in your personal life? Your brand can often change based on your audience.
One of the challenges that a lot of individuals seem to be currently facing in regards to their brand centers around social media. Is it appropriate to be friends with clients or colleagues on Facebook? Is your Instagram public? Do you have separate hobbies outside of work that encompass a brand that is totally different from the way you strive to be perceived in a professional environment? Given the massive uptick in social media, branding can be tricky as personal and professional lives start to meld.
Deciding whether or not to merge or separate your personal and professional brand is a unique choice. I have colleagues who keep their social media extremely private and others who’ve combined the two. There is no right or wrong answer here, but the key is to be hyperaware of your audience whatever you decide. If you have an interest in politics and your entire personal Instagram account is political, you may want to keep that separate as it may alienate some folks. If all of your social media consists of pictures of you running marathons and you’re looking to brand yourself professionally as hard working and determined, perhaps it would behoove you to blend them.
I used to keep my brands very separate. Outside of ediscovery, I’m a performer and writer, and I had a fear that I would not be taken seriously in Corporate America if my colleagues or clients were aware that I sang show tunes on the weekends. And on the flip side, I wanted my peers in the artistic community to think of me as an artist. At one point, I felt that I was missing out on opportunities by keeping my brands separate and wanted to try merging them. Instead of basing my brand on occupation, I decided to build it on messaging. What I found is that combining brands created more opportunities for me in both arenas. When folks I interacted with in Corporate America were aware that I was a performer, I started getting more speaking and writing opportunities in career development. And when folks in my artistic world learned I worked in recruiting and career development, I started getting people asking me for both business and career advice.
The important thing to remember is that branding goes beyond occupation. It is great to be known as a troubleshooter, a great writer, an attorney, or a parent. But the messaging of a brand is really what has the potential to be the most memorable. Are you authentic? Are you known as being efficient? Are you collaborative? Are you dependable? Take advantage of the resources around you and continue to develop a niche for yourself. Figure out what sets you apart and you are on your way to success!
Feel free to reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org to continue the conversation!
Nikki MacCallum brings over thirteen years of experience in the executive search space with a focus on litigation technology and eDiscovery. She’s spoken on panels and at conferences nation-wide (ABC News, Women in eDiscovery, LegalTech, CALSM, ARIAS) and was recently the key note speaker for a global Career Panel Workshop at American Express. Nikki is also a resident speaker at New York City’s Coalition for the Homeless where she privately mentors underprivileged women looking to re-enter the workforce.
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