When people refer to your “personal brand” they’re referring to what other people think about you.
It’s not what you think that matters most. It’s what others think, that really counts.
The perceptions they have of you, are shaped by their interactions with you – how you present yourself, your behaviour, the things you post of social media, your mood and, and, and…
Have you reached a ceiling?
How appropriate and strong is your personal brand? Are you failing to command the respect you deserve? Are you missing out on being given the best projects to work on, promotions, pay rises i.e. preferential treatment and conversely with a weak brand you’ll miss out on an opportunity?
Go further faster, take up new challenges, reach new heights…
If you want to be seen as a role model, subject matter expert or leader – you’ll need a personal brand which is commensurate with your position.
It’s not what you think that matters most, it’s what other people think that counts.
Your personal brand is shaped by; your image, your online presence and impact & influence, and if you are an executive or aspire to become one, you’ll need an executive presence.
The insights in this article will help you to take a high-level view of what you need to do, to break through barriers and reach new heights.
It’s not what you think: it’s what others think that count.
What does the image which you project need to suggest about you?
Do you need to project an image which is creative, formal, responsible and respectful?
Dress codes at work are blurred. Formal or informal. However, what’s not blurred is the need to dress appropriately which in some environments and circumstances will mean needing to be more formal.
If you present a casual image, this may be interpreted by others as having a casual attitude to your work or perhaps that you’re someone who’s not committed.
You need to be cognizant to project the right image at the right time. Even if your working environment has a casual dress code, consider the merits which may apply to you on a day to day basis of being casual smart and when you should present a more formal, more serious image.
Dress one level up.
For example, when meeting with customers, business partners, giving presentations, in important meetings, attending conferences and interviewing whilst you may wish to reflect the styles of the people with whom you meet.
Consider the merits of dressing one level of formality up from those with whom you are meeting to exhibit respect and avoid being interpreted as being casual.
Some job types, various industry sectors and cultures will mean that a more formal dress code may require an image which projects you as being someone who is responsible, respectful or a person of authority.
What is your status in your employer company, and what are the implications of it, in the broader ecosystems in which you operate?
Is it possible that you may be perceived as being a junior if you wear casual cheap clothes?
You need to understand that at different levels of seniority, in different industry types and in different job types there will be different dress codes not only in what is required but also what’s acceptable. The differences may be subtle or extreme.
Do you need to look responsible and accountable? Do you present an image with credibility?
Different people have different preferences, some like squares, others prefer stripes or patterns. Your favourite colours are likely to be different from other people with whom you meet or work. Some people like flashy, sparkling, glossy, glitzy things others hate them.
Checks and stripes don’t mix well. Different colour combinations don’t always match well.
What works best
If you want to look credible and sophisticated, you should opt for neutral colours – black, dark grey or navy suits for both men and women, with crisp white or blue shirts or blouses.
Light blue is a good colour choice for shirts and blouses, to wear when you wish to project a calm or relaxed image.
These colours, are ones which are mostly neutral and most likely to project you at your most serious, professional and credible.
Wearing clothes and accessories which are block colours are key to presenting a neutral impressive executive image. If you chose to wear a patterned item of clothing, your look is likely to be most sophisticated with just one – with two or more combinations of patterns, your outfit is likely to look like a mismatch and present an uncoordinated image.
And in a similar context, if the dress code at your workplace is a casual one, your best interests are still most likely to be best served by presenting yourself with a neutral image.
Hair needs to be neat, not too much jewellery or go light on any make-up and carry a smart bag. Keep it all coordinated.
You need to look the part for the level at which you are operating, or aspire to, so make sure your clothes reflect this. Good quality, well-fitting and avoid old, dated clothes.
If you are in a senior or leadership role this is even more important – click here.
Have you ever seen someone as a role model who is fat, has yellow teeth, whose hair is unkempt, whose shirt collars have curled, whose shoes look cheap with plastic soles, whose clothes look dated, who take notes with cheap plastic pens and whose desk looks messy?
Formal or casual smart. Tie or no tie. Suited up or jacket and jeans.
Your style needs to reflect the environment you are in and how you wish to be seen at any one time. Think about whether you are operating in a conservative occupational or industry type/s or creative ones, reserved or contemporary ones.
In the sweepstakes of life, you should never underestimate the importance of a commanding physical presence.
This is one of the reasons why politicians often like to be filmed exercising, or walking in the countryside… And think about how others see you, in and out of work. Organised and successful, or unkempt, and going nowhere?
Consider your roles models, what do you like and dislike about their appearance. any are overweight, unkempt or badly groomed. How many are wearing cheap, outdated clothes, take notes with cheap plastic pens and whose offices are in a mess.
Anyone over the age of 40 must, without exception, be conscious to keep fit and wear clothes which have not lost their shape, form. Your image needs to be current, not dated.
Whilst young people are considered to be in the prime of their lives, in contrast, for the majority of people as you become increasingly vulnerable to being perceived as being on a downward spiral.
Keep fit. Good posture and an agile body are associated with a healthy mind. Too much weight may be interpreted negatively by others, who may perceive you as lacking in condition, self-respect and self-discipline. Unless you have a medical condition carrying excess weight should be avoided.
As you become older consider having your haircut more frequently, older people look more unkempt and less sharp than their younger counterparts with an equivalent hair length.
YOUR ONLINE BRAND
Your LinkedIn profile is like your career passport.
And at different times, you’ll need your LinkedIn profile to represent your interests in different ways – such as if you’re in job search mode, networking, pursuing a promotion or leave me alone mode!
If you are employed in a professional or semi-professional job, you can expect customers, suppliers, business partners, mentors, recruiters and headhunters to check out your profile on LinkedIn.
They’ll all form opinions about you based on your LinkedIn profile.
Your LinkedIn profile is your most important professional online presence.
Opening up a world of opportunity or at worst a barrier to exploring new possibilities.
And the first thing someone will notice is your photo.
- You should be looking directly at the camera
- Ideally smiling, unlike a passport photo where you are expected to be expressionless.
- The image you project will ideally be one which suggests you are approachable, confident, positive and energized.
- Professional, clean-cut, many people are of the opinion that beards create barriers. Right now, there’s a fashion for men wearing beards and moustaches however unless you’re a pop star or billionaire they may compromise your image. Some of your peer group may think it’s cool but they do not have universal appeal. I’m not seeing many of the executive leaders of businesses wearing them.
- Your image should be contemporary, credible.
- How current is your image, is it up to the minute or outmoded, which can be interpreted as out of style and out of touch?
- A photo in which you’re looking away from the camera
- Wearing sunglasses
- Have a photo in which your clothes compromise your image, for example, wearing T-shirts, exposing shoulders
- Have your arms crossed in a photo?
- Publish a photo in which may make you look awkward.
Fit for purpose. Your photo should be context-sensitive in respect to the nature of your industry, occupation, level of seniority and the level of seniority you aspire to.
Your photo is important and will influence whether someone is going to stop at your profile or move on? It shows how serious you are about your job and promoting yourself.
They’ll always be exceptions such as people in creative roles, or billionaires who don’t need to impress anyone. For most people, your LinkedIn photo should showcase the professional not the social side of your life.
Is your LinkedIn profile appropriate, weak or strong?
Looking beyond your LinkedIn photo… how impressive is your content, what does it say about you and what you do?
Your LinkedIn profile gives you an opportunity to promote what you do, what your employer does and how you can add value.
Promote things you stand for. A mission such as to increase sales, developing strong supplier relationships which deliver the best value, set production records, elevate customer service, deliver the most accurate research or stats, be the responsive team….
Your persona should reflect your profession.
At all times you should consider:
Clarity and context. Is it clear to the person reading your profile exactly what you do? Is your job title one which people outside of your company will understand – if not use words which are universally recognized.
What is your raison d’etre? (the most important reason or the purpose for your employment).
If you are employed in a promotional or customer services role how can you help people? And consider including in your profile, one or two sentences about how your employer company add value to its customers or the community in which we live.
If you’re not in a promotional role such a role in finance/accounting, engineering, design or R&D then you may wish to simply stick to facts and have a very brief profile.
LinkedIn is a place where professional meets social which for most occupational types means however your profile needs to align with your career interests.
Consider introducing some personality into your LinkedIn profile particularly if you have posted a comprehensive set of info Authenticity is important and for some people, in some role types individuality.
Showcase relevant skills and accomplishments on LinkedIn, but not your full CV/resume.
Be careful that any testimonials recommending you compliment your goals and positioning and add substance to your profile.
You should be cognizant about your use of other social networks…
Your digital footprint will be determined by your presence on Facebook, Google, Instagram, Pinterest, Snapchat, Twitter…. And while a professional profile which presents you in a positive context represents a huge advantage, the opposite is also true.
Who’s going to be inclined to browse at your digital footprint? Your superiors, subordinates, customers, suppliers, shareholders and stakeholders in your business, not forgetting head-hunters, HR/recruitment professionals or investors who may offer a life-changing opening or a lifeline.
Be cognizant that your social footprints do not compromise your professional brand such as late nights, drunken behaviour, use of expletives… If appropriate you may prefer to make some of your social media private by restricting access vs your settings being public.
Google yourself – play around with a few keyword searches, using your name, employer, occupation and see what is presented to you.
YOUR IMPACT AND INFLUENCE
If you’re a high impact type, know you command the room and consider yourself high in status, high in importance, see yourself as being big man or woman – then you may wish to click here.
Otherwise, if you’re more of a modest or quiet personality type, there are steps you can take which will help you to establish a greater presence and level the playing field with the impressive confident types of people.
When you’re in one to ones.
If something concerns you or is important make a note of it, make a note of what was said, by whom and when, and keep it.
This is particularly important if you are a manager or project manager, there will be times when you will need to refer back to conversations and memos, where you have given instruction or guidance, in particular verbally, where an employee, peer or superior may conveniently fail to recall what was said or reinterpret it in a different manner to suit themselves.
Some managers/execs send an email to themselves to record comments or requests which they have made to, or of people. So that if required in the future, they may wish to subsequently refer to, and make this easy to reference by creating email folders for employees/projects/initiatives.
For managers neglecting to reprimand someone will result in you being perceived as being a weak manager.
Point of view approach.
There will be times when you may need to confront someone or an issue. Failing to do so at critical times could expose you as being weak).
In difficult situations it can help to explain your point of view with a full, frank and honest disclosure about how you are feeling.
You can be quite forthright with employees when you’re developing a major point, but maintain respect when dealing with co-workers, peers and your superiors. When confronting people, you will invariably need to have your ducks lined up and in order.
Prepare your position well and collect any evidence before the meeting or discussion, and used with diplomacy and respect where necessary, this can work well with subordinates, peers and superiors when you are unhappy with a situation.
“I have a point of view….”
Why it is important to listen to my point of view?
What the options are for rescuing the situation?
Ask them for their observations and conclusions. It is particularly important when dealing with people who report into you, that they come up with the conclusions.
When you’re attending meetings organized or called for by others.
Determine the big questions, and always ask the thing others are uncertain about. Plan how to answer any questions you may be asked.
Consider making yours by asking the question or bringing up the issue which is most important and carries the most impact.
If any issue which has been discussed is an area for which you are ultimately responsible and is one, requiring focus or a follow-on action, then consider putting it in writing, in particular the most important aspects. This will give clarity as to what you expect of people. It will also act as a point of reference.
When you’ve called a meeting.
If you have called the meeting you need to control it.
Be prepared in advance: Determine the big questions, and always ask the thing others are uncertain about. Plan how to answer any questions you may be asked.
Don’t be late or frequently rearrange meetings. It will make you appear dis-organised.
Check-in by setting the scene: Why has the meeting been called? What needs to be discussed? What’s the agenda?
If you have called or managed a meeting consider following up the meeting by issuing a memo with a precis of the key points made and any takeaway actions.
When you’re presenting.
Expressing yourself with confidence and positivity – are you energizing or enervating?
Switch on the happy and or positive side of your personality. If you feel down people listening and observing you, will recognize it.
If you feel nervous don’t worry, you’re not alone most others presenting are too. When people are nervous, they will often move around and talk excessively with their hands in contrast to a calmer manner. Be animated but economical with it.
Maintain eye contact with people.
Failing to express gratitude one to one or publicly.
When you’re on or off the radar.
In your interactions with people showcase yourself in a positive manner by using positive greetings, maintaining eye contact and having a firm handshake when meeting people.
If you want to win friends and be popular become a good listener. It’s easy to talk about your issues, projects and experiences – people are considerably more interested in talking about themselves.
- Be seen to be pro-active. You could be the one who coordinates a project or an initiative.
- Go in for one to one meetings, grab a coffee or club sandwich.
- Publish your ideas. Get your smart thoughts out there. Use emails, memos, where / when appropriate posting through social channels. Be the one who sets in place the frameworks and determines what’s best practice.
- Send thank you emails, thank you notes or acknowledgements, which you can cc to others and which will raise your visibility.
- Avoid unnecessary gossip and making disparaging remarks about other people. To have a good brand, you need to be popular and positive.
To elevate your status:
- Be positive, energized and enthusiastic, and you’ll become the sort of person others want to work for or with, to have in their team or be heading up the enterprise.
- Your personal brand will be seen as being weak or insignificant if people are unsure about who you are, your credentials, what you do, what you have done and what you are capable of doing.
- Avoid self-deprecation and making cheap comments, don’t get too familiar, and learn when it’s best not to say too much.
- Be conscious to be well organised and have a clutter-free manner about you, a tidy office/desk, briefcase/note-taking material etc will make you appear in control of things.
- Make sure your credentials are visible to reinforce your expertise. For example, a strong LinkedIn profile or having your certificates, if they are relevant and significant, on display in your office.
- If you lack confidence in yourself others will too. So, fake it. Act how you aspire to be. Follow the role models. What do they do? How do they behave?
Your emotional intelligence (EI) will shape your interactions with other people and how they see you. When you apply your EI well you will maintain or enhance your status. When you apply it poorly you will compromise it and weaken your personal branding.
For example, failure to act, acting too soon or not acting at all. Failing to recognise when someone is not interested, or not engaged in the subject or not on-board to buy-in and support a project or idea.
If you are aged upwards of 40, there is a probability that you will stay on a subject too long or interrupt others which means you’ll fail to maintain their interest in what you are saying – people will stop listening to what you have to say.
Similarly, the more competent and senior people become, the more likely it is that they (you) will lack curiosity and in doing so, fail to connect with people, fail to identify other people’s issues, problems or points of view – and therefore you impact will be minimal.