Do you ever wonder about people who seem to do very little, but continue to advance?
You honestly can’t understand what the higher ups see in this person. Do you feel your hard work often goes unappreciated and unrecognized? Do you ever wonder if you are missing out on something crucial?
The topic of personal branding tends to receive some negative backlash. Like any type of marketing or sales, there can be the feeling that style or tricks of persuasion are being substituted for merit and substance. When laced with nefarious intent, I tend to agree. We need look no further than the classic confidence man or woman to see how marketing tactics, employed with selfish intent, can be used to help oneself at the expense of others. Did I mention there is this Nigerian prince I know who needs your help?
Most people, and I include myself in this cohort, operate in the default mode that if keep your head down, work hard, and provide value, your just rewards will come eventually. I agree with this in a limited sense. If you do all these things, you will indeed obtain increased mastery in your field plus the internal reward of high self-esteem. However, this approach by itself does not guarantee recognition or success in terms of recognition by management and career advancement.
To move forward in any endeavor, you need supporters on your side. In other words, you need to be connected to others who will support you, mentor you and most importantly, when it comes to career advancement, advocate on your behalf when you are not in the room. This is were the gap is.
If you spend all your time working and neglect ensuring people know who you are and the value you provide, then you will have the bare minimum of supporters on your side. If you trust, but DON’T verify that your boss is making sure you get the credit and recognition you deserve, you are taking a big risk. Keep in mind that your boss may not intentionally be ignoring or neglecting you. They may just be very busy and have limited mind space to know what you think they should know already.
You know the science riddle, "If a TREE falls in the forest and no one is there, does it make a sound?"
If you do great work and nobody knows about it, do you get rewarded?
If you want different results, a good place to start is by doing things differently. The great thing is, the best results often come as a result of small changes. Nudges. Tweaks. I wouldn't ask you to change your values, priorities or your value proposition. So what am I proposing?
There are 2 EZPZ tweaks you can make to improve your personal branding and career results. They do come with a few requirements. First, you must be open to change. Second, you need the discipline to follow through and keep it up even when the results are not immediate. And third, you need to be willing to manage through any discomfort you may experience while tending to an area you had previously neglected.
Step #1 - Tell story sandwiches, with your value at the tasty center
To improve your personal brand, you must get comfortable with talking about the value you provide. That’s it. I’m not talking about bragging or becoming egotistical.
“But Joe, I’m not comfortable tooting my own horn. It seems self-serving and not particularly credible.”
You bring up a fantastic point. Talking about yourself does have the inherent problem that people may be on guard and not respond as well when you are praising yourself.
So what is the solution?
Everybody loves a story. Stories that highlight the value you bring are more credible and effective than just outright announcing your achievements.
Think about it this way, when someone asks you what you have been up to or your boss asks you how’s it going, how do you reply?
“I’m doing great. The other day I finished Project x, which was a great success. I even got a compliment from the business stakeholder!”
“You’ll never believe what happened. Remember Project x? I thought everything was going great when ____. I was sure it was going to be a disaster, but then _____. So then I remembered ____ and decided to do ____. It was still a 50/50 chance, but with a little help from ____ it all worked out. The funny thing is the business stakeholder was very complimentary of the work, but if they only knew!”
Bonus: Memorable stories have a viral nature. So if your story is memorable, others will share it so it’s no longer just you telling the story.
Step #2 - Be intentional with your timing
To improve your personal brand, you must not only show consistent value, but you should align the times when you highlight your value with when it will make the biggest impact.
In other words, time your kudos.
“How do I do this Joe? I’m not sure I understand what you are proposing.”
Work on ensuring that the value your bring is highlighted throughout the year, not just for one brief shining moment and then forgotten.
Also, think about the times when it is most important that people have your value in mind. Ask yourself, do you know when such critical moments are scheduled to occur? For example, before key assignments are handed out or before promotions are decided. Are you advocating for yourself in the run-up? It’s like an election. The most successful candidates maintain a solid brand all-year round, but in the months before voting it’s a full-court press.
If you begin to take control of your personal branding by telling tasty story sandwiches, with your value at the center and start taking into account the timing of when people should have your value on their mind, you will improve you career results.
YOUR MOVE! From your perspective, what has been your experience with personal branding? What works? What doesn’t?
Joe Kwon is the Connection Counselor. He teaches busy professionals “How to Click with Anyone, Anytime, Anywhere.”
Next post next Saturday, 6:30 a.m.