*This is the first entry of my “Corporate America For Us” Series. I’ll be posting several entries on how Young Professionals in the fast-paced, digital, millennial age can still make Corporate America work for us. This entry is a broad look at how we should begin to think about our personal brand.
What is your professional brand?
When I began working in Corporate America, I felt that I was very grounded in who I was. I was a fun, energetic, hard-working and ambitious woman seeking to aggressively climb the corporate ladder. That’s all that really mattered to me. I worked at a company that I felt comfortable being myself in, and so I just let my little light shine. The good news is that this meant I had a ton of friends who loved my fashion choices. The somewhat not so good news is that I failed to establish myself as a serious marketer who should be the first considered when major projects were on the table. It’s not that I wasn’t good at my job, and it’s not that I didn’t get good opportunities, but I would soon learn that my approach may have kept me from reaching my highest potential.
When I left my last company and started my new role at a new company, it was a major step up. I walked into a Senior position, I have direct reports, and out the gate my team was confident in my abilities. Knowing this, I took a step back and had a pep talk with myself: “Jennifer, you have an opportunity to reach your goals, and make a great situation into a very powerful situation. What can you do differently this time?” The answer: Establish my professional brand.
This is the brand pyramid that I created for myself. An Executive once told me, “your brand should be an outline of what you want those in this environment to think of you. It is your chance to define yourself in this space. Everything you list should be important, but prioritized. Once you have it written, make sure every interaction you have, and every thing you do is a direct action based on your brand.”
Given my brand pyramid, I make sure that I’m always bringing smart questions, actionable solutions, and my A+ game in every meeting I have. I treat every interaction whether it is a formal meeting with an agenda, an informal meeting, or a coffee chat, as an opportunity to present my brand. This doesn’t mean I’m stiff and rehearsed. When you create your brand it should be based on who you are naturally. It’s more about putting structure and thought into how you present yourself. When major opportunities or promotions come up, I want my name to not only be in the pile, but at the top of the pile. I’d like for people to say “Jennifer is not only great to work with, but she’s a great marketer who really knows how to respond to consumer’s needs, but also in ways that drive our business. We need her.”
These days young professionals are caught up the profile/bio life. Who we are is captured easily on our Facebook pages, our Twitter bios, our LinkedIn summaries, our Instagram bios, and the pictures that follow. It is hard sometimes for us to take a step back and say, ‘What a minute, there is more to me than these snapshots.’ In the professional world, we have to understand that we can still be ourselves, but we do need to own and craft that conversation carefully. The times are changing, but as young professionals, we don’t want the stereotypes about our work ethic and values speak for us when we can easily speak for ourselves.
My brand pyramid is just one example out of many. You design for yourself what works for you. Here is an example of a template that may be helpful in guiding how you want to build your brand.
Good luck! Tell me, have you established your professional brand? What do you prioritize?