When you’re caught up in the day to day work and responsibilities that come with your role, it’s easy to forget about your personal brand. In one of my recent articles, I explained why taking control of your personal brand must be an intentional and purposeful process. Because, the truth is, you have a personal brand whether you are in control of it or not.
Your personal brand is primarily the impression and perception of people around you. It’s their understanding of the areas you excel in, the outcomes you achieve, and the unique value and capabilities that you are able to bring. These perceptions exist regardless of whether you are aware of them, and if you fail to manage these perceptions, you may suddenly find that the way you think about yourself and the perceptions of people around you is not aligned. And this can have a dramatic impact on your career.
As a leader, your personal brand must be part of your career management and leadership development strategy. Unfortunately, in a recent survey conducted by Hazell & Collins Associates, most people are not proactive in managing their personal brand or thinking about how it aligns with their career strategy. In fact, less than 15 percent of people have truly defined their personal brand, and less than 5 percent are consistently living it at work. This is a huge missed opportunity to truly stand out and differentiate yourself from the people around you.
I’ve identified 4 ways personal branding can be a powerful part of your career management and leadership development strategy.
#1 Personal Branding Enhances Your Self Awareness
Because managing your personal brand requires you to go through a very thoughtful, intentional, and purposeful evaluation process, it can greatly enhance your self-awareness. By openly and honestly seeking and accepting feedback from the people around you, you’re able to better understand how your actions and behaviours are perceived by others, how they impact others and how they are helping or hindering your career. Feedback will also help to identify and recognize the unique skills, capabilities, and values you bring to an organization, as well as the areas you need to take steps to improve. Conscious awareness makes it far easier for you, and those around you, to recognize the return on investment and return on expectations that you are able to provide, and why you should be sought out for internal promotions or new responsibilities.
#2 Personal Branding Helps You Clarify and Reach Your Goals
Effective goal setting requires you to be crystal clear on what you are trying to achieve. Otherwise, you’re unable to focus your efforts on what’s really important for your career and leadership goals and outcomes. And as your career evolves, your personal brand must as well. Focused goal setting gives you an opportunity to continuously reflect on your current goals and set new ones that continue to drive you forward. Taking control of your personal brand not only requires self-awareness, but it also forces you to take action and be accountable to yourself and others. Every day, you must set out to deliver to a standard of expectation that you have set forth as part of your personal brand.
#3 Personal Branding Creates Visibility and Differentiation
Within a large organization, there are frequently many other people across the organization and in your peer group aspiring for the same promotions or internal opportunities. A strong personal brand ensures you differentiate yourself and stand out from the crowd of colleagues. When thinking about differentiation, it’s important to remember this is not the same as self-promotion. Instead, personal branding for career strategy is about the value you are able to provide to others. It’s the total experience of who you are as an individual and as a leader. By purposefully understanding, communicating, re-evaluating, and consciously role modeling these behaviours, you create the visibility and differentiation needed to continue to advance your career and manage the impact of your leadership.
#4 Personal Branding Builds Resilience
No matter who you are or what your role is, it’s a reality that your career will endure ups and downs over time. You will face challenges and downturns that you will need to overcome in order to continue to thrive in a role that suits your skills and connects with your passions. Just like a corporate brand, a personal brand can help build this resilience and overcome failure in your career by re-enforcing what makes you unique and valuable to others. The way you react to challenges goes a long way toward developing a personal brand that demonstrates your commitment to improvement and learning from your experiences, both positive and negative.
My Challenge to You – Truly Live Your Personal Brand
Remember the statistic I provided at the beginning of this article – that only 5 percent of leaders are consistently living their personal brand? What I didn’t say is that more than 50 percent of leaders believe they are. But what they are really doing is simply a passive process of self-promotion and hoping that their actions speak for them.
Instead, true personal branding for career management and leadership development requires an intentional, thoughtful, and purposeful approach to aligning and managing your ideal and actual brands, the way you want to be perceived and the way you are actually perceived. Your personal brand should clearly demonstrate your personal impact, and how inspired performance leads to inspired employees and an inspiring career. By effectively leveraging and communicating the value you bring as a leader, you can make sure you are well positioned and sought out for the next strategic or career opportunity that comes your way.
Jennifer Collins is CEO and Managing Director of Hazell and Collins Associates (HCA). Learn more about HCA’s Career Strategy and Coaching Services.