When I became an entrepreneur by launching a media start-up a few years ago, I had to quickly learn many business concepts and lingo – elevator pitch, market niche, value proposition etc. But none seemed harder to change or control than personal brand.
Personal brand, as I’ve come to understand over time, is how people see you.
In business or in your personal life – how do your co-workers, boss, friends or family see you? Do they see you as careful, careless, carefree, sincere or phony, hardworking or lazy, snobbish or friendly, considerate or selfish, manipulative, aggressive, a loner or a team player? Are they right? Does it Matter?
Personal Brand: Perception Becomes Reality
I remember when I was starting out in college, starting out on my first job, and even later transitioning to my first network news jobs, I cared less how people saw me, and more how I performed on my job, interacted with my co-workers, and whether I treated everyone as nice as I could. I thought what I do and say becomes my personal brand. What I didn’t realize was there had been times when what I did and said did not match my intention. In fact, sometimes my goals and values were betrayed by my unintentional or unconscious words and actions. But fortunately, close friends and colleagues who know me well would tell me from time to time that I come across arrogant, bossy, or overly driven. All of those qualities are not who I am or want to be. But they became the reality of how I was perceived by those who had the power to help or hinder my career advance.
The good news is I was fortunate enough to be surrounded by friends who told me the truth.
The truth is, we are often unconscious of our own actions. I certainly have acted mindlessly, carelessly whenever I felt under pressure, stressed out, or lacked a good night’s sleep. I’m sure we all have. But the key for change – is mindfulness.
Personal Brand: Mindful of Image, Impression, Impact
Mindful of my professional and personal need to sustain a consistent message about my values, I went to a “Personal Branding 101” event organized by the New York Chapter of Ellevate (a professional women’s network). While it was incredibly reassuring that many of our panel speakers admitted and shared how their mistakes may have impaired their image, it was more beneficial to realize that it is never too late to course correct.
My biggest takeaway was that personal brand is more about an experience than a creation.
Your created image is what you can control, but someone’s experience of that image is not up to you to control at the moment of first contact. Being conscious of others’ experience is very important.
Here are top 3 things to be mindful of –
Mindful of your image – physical appearance reflects not only your style but also your values. Do you stand for simplicity or sophistication or sloppiness?
Mindful of your impression – align your image with your message about what values guide your work. Are your values all about advancing and promoting yourself first and foremost? Are your values strictly business and for profit? Are your values about creating impact to help and serve others?
Mindful of others’ experience – see yourself through someone else’s eyes. How do you want them to see you? Do you want them to be aware of, understand, and believe your values enough to become your advocate?
These are all soul-searching questions that begin with mindfulness – mindful that we all carry a personal brand, and we can enhance someone’s experience and ultimately ours.