Anyone who’s looking for a job, hoping to keep their job, or seeking a better job faces the same dilemma: How do I make myself compelling and relevant, yet stay true to my goals and values?
The answer lies in understanding the basics of reputation management and personal branding.
Employers, hiring managers, supervisors, clients, colleagues and peers naturally form opinions and judgments about us based on how they’ve experienced our behavior and interactions (online, in person and from what they’ve heard about us). If they perceive our value to be strong and compelling, they’re likely to want to hire us, engage us or form relationships with us. When we take a proactive approach to managing our reputation and the way we’re perceived, we can actually design and direct the way we want to be known.
How Do You Want To Be Known?
Most people don’t think about their reputation. Then, when they’re turned down for a job, miss out on the promotion they wanted or find themselves lacking support from their peers and staff, they wonder what they did wrong. When this happens, it’s often important to understand how your brand is defined today (what are you known for?) and how you want to be known (your desired brand).
Your desired brand is the ultimate reputation or legacy you want to have. When people talk about you after an interview, around the water cooler or even at your funeral, how will they speak about your skills, contribution, attitude and values? How do you make people feel?
Most likely, they won’t talk about your delivery of on-time and on-budget projects — they’ll discuss how you made them feel. That feeling is what they use to ultimately assign value to you.
Designing Your Desired Brand
To build the reputation you desire for yourself, I recommend my Five D’s of Reputation Management:
Evaluate your current reputation. How are you known today? How do others feel about you and perceive your value? What feedback have you received that confirms or dispels the way you think you’re known? Are you known today as a fun person to be around, but not much more than that? Have you heard that your boss doesn’t perceive you as management material?
Think about the reputation you’d like to have. What do you want to be known for? How would you like others to refer to you? Do you want to be known as a collaborator and thought leader? Do you desire a reputation as a problem-solver who’s passionate about global poverty issues?
Attach as much detail and thought to your desired reputation as possible. This will help create the strategy to bring that vision to life.
3. Define Your Target Audience
To what group of people must your reputation be relevant and compelling? (Note: It’s not “everyone.”) Who are the people you seem to “gel” best with, where you get each other’s jokes and align with their integrity and passion?
Which people hold access to opportunity for you? If you desire to affect global poverty issues, for instance, you might target audiences in nonprofit leadership, politics, and foreign relations.
Learn everything you can about the audience to which you’ll promote your brand — including what their needs are and how you can fulfill them.
Build out a strategy to move your actions, relationships, networks, and vision toward your desired brand. Be sure to focus on the audience that must find you relevant in order to get you closer to those opportunities. Assign goals and benchmarks in the strategy and consider all marketing channels.
Deploy your marketing strategy through all of your marketing and communications — social media, image, body language, networking, messaging, public relations. Use all of the tools available to you.
Instead of hoping your target audience will appreciate you and recognize your value, empower them with the messages and behavior that will make them find you relevant. Leverage your networks intentionally, and seek to build relationships that are win-win and rewarding. Measure your actions and the results you’re seeing, then continue to do what’s working!
As you deploy your marketing and build your reputation the way you desire, enlist resources, champions and supporters to help you. Where you lack skills or talents, surround yourself with people who can help you and compliment your offer.
Things to Keep in Mind
Remember, the goal is not to be perfect. None of us could possibly be perfect! Instead, strive for consistency in building a reputation that’s authentic and compelling. Be the same person online as in person, stay authentic and relevant, and build your reputation over time to achieve your desired brand.
The power of being intentional and focused on how you’re perceived is crucial to your career success. Your employer, customers, staff, supervisors, and peers are holding you accountable to living authentically with the values you promote and the words you speak.
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