The term “professional branding” is what people in the workplace envision when they think of you.
Consider the following questions:
- Are you good to work with or difficult to be around?
- Are you professionally competent or is the work you do considered low quality?
- Are you a hard worker or like to take the easy way out?
- Are you willing to help others or are you only trying to help yourself?
- Are you a person who can be trusted or should people always watch their backs when working with you?
- Are you humble or overconfident?
- Are you open to or resistant to change?
- Are you a natural leader or a natural follower?
Answers to these questions and questions like them can have a profound effect, both positive and negative, on your professional career. There are, of course no guarantees, but the better your reputation, the more often unexpected opportunities seem to appear. It could be a call from an old manager wanting to hire you into his/her new company. It could be a new potential customer who heard from a friend that you stand behind your work. It could be anything. Conversely, a bad reputation can cause your resume to be thrown in the trash and you will never know why you didn’t get an interview even though you seemed so qualified for the position. This is the definition and power of professional branding.
To be sure you answered these questions consistently with the way others see you, and not just as how you see yourself, ask these questions to a couple of fellow employees you respect, trust and believe will give you honest feedback. If your answers and your friends’ answers are inconsistent, then you may be viewing yourself differently than others see you. Professionally, this is very dangerous because it means you are not presenting yourself properly to others.
If your fellow employees view you more positively than you view yourself, your humbleness may be holding you back professionally. Use the information as a way to better position yourself for future promotions. If those you work with have a more negative opinion of you than you have of yourself, do some soul searching to analyze why this inconsistency exists and devise ways to correct it. Remember, your professional brand is not what you think of yourself, it’s what others think of you.
You must gain an understanding of why people view you differently than you view yourself. There are two primary reasons why this is important. First, as time moves forward, having the ability to perceive how you are viewed by others allows you to take charge of your reputation, make personal corrections as needed, and use this “new improved you” to your professional advantage. Second and conversely, an inaccurate personal view of your professional brand will cause your manager, business users, and others who have input into your professional future, act in ways you won’t understand, such as not:
- Getting the promotion you thought you deserved
- Receiving the project assignments you have been lobbying for
- Being given the training needed to use a new and exciting technology
- Asked to go to lunch with your fellow employees
If these things are happening to you, they are telltale signs of an inconsistent personal view between you and others.
To help maximize your understanding of how you are viewed by others, there are two conceptual frameworks you should study, both of which can be found in Wikipedia. The first is called the Johari Window. It is a four box diagram used to help people understand their relationships with others, based on the knowledge they have of themselves versus the knowledge that other people have of them. The second is called Emotional Intelligence, which is also a four box diagram. Here the concept is that the better you know yourself (self-awareness) the better you can control your actions (self-management). Also, the better you can understand others (social-awareness) the better you can lead and/or influence others (relationship management).
The use of these two conceptual frameworks and a willingness to be honest with yourself, can help catapult your career upward by providing you with the knowledge needed to be the best you can be and then accurately presenting this new-and-improved you to others.
Until next time, work hard, work smart, and continue to build your professional brand.