By Dr. Maria G. Hernandez
Latina Cubicle Confidential™
Whether you set out to create it or not, you have a personal brand!
It is just as powerful as the branding associated with the kind of car you drive, the make-up you buy or your favorite beverage. When I talk about personal brands at workshops, I often show participants a picture of famous individuals and I ask them to silently write down three words that come to mind when they see those pictures.
Then I ask people to share those three words out loud and it is amazing how consistent the words are across the participants. Entertainer Oprah Winfrey is seen as generous, inspiring, or authentic. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is seen as decisive, intelligent, and diplomatic.
Do you know how people describe you and your work to others? Is it clear to you how your work or your style comes across to your co-workers, your internal and external customers, or your boss?
If you don’t know, make it a priority to find out and if you are surprised by what you discover, start working on your personal brand. It can influence the assignments you are given, the opportunities presented to you and, yes, determine your career path.
One way to learn how others describe you is to ask your boss during a performance evaluation. Another opportunity is to ask your colleagues. Regardless of what you hear --- you can reinforce or change your brand and manage it to your benefit.
Start by looking carefully at what kind of image you want to have at work among your peers and your boss. What three words or key phrases do you want to hear people assign to you?
For example, if you want to have more opportunities to be more visible to customers — maybe leading a customer relations effort in your company — your three words may include terms like “resourceful”, “dedicated”, “precise”, “responsible”, “friendly” or “helpful”.
Next, ask yourself how those words translate into actions. If you want to be known for being “resourceful” what is it that you would need to do to claim that word for yourself? Maybe it is to know how to use all of the product’s newest features. Or, you may have to know exactly how your product stands up to your biggest competitor. You may also need to be great at showing customers special shortcuts on using that product effectively.
Does all this require extra time, extra effort, extra attention to details? Absolutely.
The hard work of claiming your brand is in the degree to which people see consistent behavior that captures your three words.
It means taking time to think carefully about how to make the best impression each time you interact with people and planning accordingly — maybe studying your product specifications or manual or watching carefully what questions always pop up about a feature. That kind of focus and attention to details can get you noticed for all the right reasons and most of all build your reputation around your brand identity.
A final word of caution, you cannot build your brand by simply telling people you are “resourceful” nor can you be seen as resourceful if you start handling questions like a robot.
You need to demonstrate being “resourceful to others so that they walk away feeling you truly took care of their questions. Author Maya Angelou once said, “I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
At the core of building your brand and reputation is to create a consistently positive experience each time your coworkers, your customers, and your boss interact with you.
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Dr. Maria G. Hernandez has 20 years experience consulting in both the United States and Mexico to senior executives in Fortune 50 companies and facilitated change initiatives for elected officials and their staff. She has worked in academia, business, nonprofits, technology startups, and public agencies. For more information, visit Latina Cubicle Confidential™.