How to Build Your Personal Brand
Discover your office persona and set goals for polishing that brand
A lot of what’s written about a personal brand makes it sound like you’re a product that has to be perfectly consistent on all social media platforms.
We’re not all going to be social media magnets with huge followings, and we don’t have to be. The truth is your personal brand is much simpler: It’s how you show up each day and what other people come to expect from you.
Do you roll in 10 minutes late to your meetings looking frazzled? Do you consistently have typos in your presentations? Are you the person that remembers everyone’s name and birthday? Or the one everyone comes to when they can’t remember an obscure fact? You might not actively think about your personal brand, but I promise you have one.
Think about what you can do to shift any negative perceptions people have about you.
If you don’t know what it is, find out and then work to craft your brand to reflect your values and the things you want to be known for. I have a process that I’ve done informally for several years. This is the first time I’ve formalized it in writing. I gather information, think about it and decide what I want to improve upon.
Quite simply: Collect, Reflect and Course Correct.
Find out how you’re perceived by others. Maybe you want to be known as an Excel guru, but everyone sees you as technologically illiterate. Poll your friends and co-workers and ask them to provide adjectives that describe you. Insist they include at least one negative adjective (let people do this anonymously, so they’ll give honest feedback).
Next, create a spreadsheet or a word cloud and see what bubbles to the top. You will see a theme and that’s critical to your brand.
The truth is your personal brand is much simpler: It’s how you show up each day and what other people come to expect from you.
I’m very time sensitive and want to be seen as a person of my word. I live by the mantra “Do what you say you’re going to do, when you say you’re going to do it.” When I first start working with someone, I try to deliver on a task as soon as possible so people know this about me. I’m happy to say when I ask for feedback, my adjectives always include words like prompt, dependable and reliable. Find out if the value proposition you think you offer aligns with the feedback you receive.
Now the trickier part (and try not to get defensive). What did people say about you? Do you like your brand? If not, how do you want to be perceived?
I have always prided myself on caring about people, listening and being of service. I saw myself as the person people came to when they needed to talk. Back when I had my own business, I collected feedback and was told people felt that they did not have my full attention. This stung and my first reaction was to build a case about why everyone was wrong. But upon reflection, I realized they were right. I was in a constant state of motion, checking emails, talking to clients and managing multiple projects. I was always thinking: what’s next? The truth is I wasn’t giving people my full attention. This isn’t how I wanted to show up.
You may also get feedback you don’t like. So what’s next?
3. COURSE CORRECT
Look at your areas for improvement and commit to making changes. I wanted to cultivate the skill of active listening, which my current job requires.
To do this I had to find a way to settle my mind and be present. Now when I meet with people, I remove distractions whenever possible. This means closing my email and having my cell phone turned off or out of sight. I make eye contact and do my best not to interrupt or rush a person’s thought process. When appropriate I will repeat back what I’ve heard and check for comprehension. Changing my brand took time, but now when people talk to me they feel heard.
Think about what you can do to shift any negative perceptions people have about you. You can also change your brand by volunteering for projects or stretch goals to develop in other areas.
For me, agreeing to write this post is a great example. I generally lurk on social media and rarely post. I worry about how I’ll be perceived or that what I say won’t be useful. But it’s a new year, so I decided to give it a go.
Repeat the above steps as often as you find them useful. I do this every year and a half or so. Be authentic, be honest and be a little vulnerable. Then you can be the best version of yourself.
Tracy Regis MBA 14 is a human resources business partner at Intel and serves on the board of the UC Davis Graduate School of Management Alumni Association.