While writing this blog every day is a big part of my life, it’s not my “real” job. The gig that pays the bills is entirely different. For the last seven years, I’ve made a career as a professional speaker and consultant, traveling the country working with companies and organizations, talking to leaders about creating a compelling and authentic brand either as a company or an individual. It’s a topic I’m passionate about, especially for women.
I thought, since it’s the summer, we would start a series for the next few weeks focusing on crafting and implementing a personal brand strategy. September often begins the busiest time of year. Why not use the slower pace of the season to spend some time evaluating your reputation and make sure it’s reflective of your very best self.
No matter where you are in your professional and personal life balancing both is hard, and sometimes those challenges negatively impact us. Not that it’s fair – at all. My husband is as involved in our girls’ lives and our community as I am. When he flies home early to coach a softball game, it’s looked at positively. He’s considered a good guy (which he is), and it furthers his position as a leader and an asset to his company. He becomes more likable.
It was an entirely different narrative when I told my old boss I was pregnant with Maddie, and she turned to me and said, “that’s a problem.” Having a young family, at the time, made me less of a team player.
What I encountered in my first pregnancy and the culture I witnessed early in my career is the reason I started my own business and why I feel so strongly about giving women tools to help navigate this often complicated topic. Luckily, times have changed, but we’re still not operating on an even playing field.
Today, we’ll talk about why having a clearly defined and modern brand is so important. Can having a brand prevent overt or passive sexism in the workplace? No. But it can help position you as a leader, and the more women we have in leadership roles, the better chance we have at lasting cultural change.
Many people assume your reputation and your brand are one in the same. I look at it a little differently. Everyone has a reputation but a brand you craft. Figure out who you are, how you want to be seen and where you want to be and work backward from there.
After years of working with professional women, below are four easiest things you can do to start to get your brand on track.
Despite countless studies showing that women are building a new economy one Instagram account at a time, there are just as many who don’t use, engage or understand social media at all. If you’re looking to build your brand in the modern workplace, you need to at least understand the power of social media.
Social is more than bikini pictures on a boat in the middle of the Mediterranean. It provides businesses with a channel to connect and sell directly to the consumer, recruiters a place to find new talent and a vehicle for companies and individuals to tell their unique story. It’s not going anywhere, in fact, it’s only going to get bigger.
A lack of understanding or disinterest in established and emerging technology sends the message that you are not as modern and informed as your competition. Spend some time learning about how each platform works. Make sure you have a completed LinkedIn profile, and at a minimum, can explain the purpose of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest.
“Unflappable” is a term I picked up from my dear friend Maribeth, and it perfectly describes how I strive to try to carry myself. Like everyone, I’ve learned some hard lessons over the years. What I know for sure now is that freaking out, even when you feel it’s warranted, even when you’re right, does you no good. Coming across as angry, frustrated, stressed or overwhelmed, only hurts your brand, will never prove a point and doesn’t get you what you want.
Every time I’ve flown off the handle, or just looked strained, was because I was at emotional capacity. Here’s how you can set yourself up to be “unflappable”:
Regular workouts – The best cure ever for stress.
Reworking your schedule – Eliminate unnecessary commitments, learn to say no.
Stop responding immediately – There is a ton of power in silence, give yourself a minute or a day to collect your thoughts.
Set boundaries – Ignore non-urgent late night texts, hold steady to a schedule, you don’t have to be available 24 hours a day.
Get organized – Find a system that works for you whether it’s an app or paper planner, set your workspace up for success, clean your bag out weekly, you’ll not only function better, but you’ll instantly appear more pulled together.
Learn Communication Skills
Some basic communication skills can help set you apart from your competition and colleagues. There is an entire industry that focuses on helping people become more clear and concise communicators. Below are three easy skills and techniques to get you started:
Avoid oversharing – People tend to say too much to either show off their experience or to fill dead air. Instead, be discerning in how and when you speak. It’s much more powerful to say less and when you do speak have it mean something.
Stop using tentative language – Women especially use tentative language, and all it does is dumb us down. Avoid starting your thoughts with phrases like, “This might be a stupid idea,” or “I might be wrong but.” Why would you position yourself like that? Be firm in your speech, and state your opinions with conviction.
Try to limit filler words – We’ve all heard them, and we all use them, but too many will make it hard for people to understand what you are saying and you’ll lose your listeners attention. Start to pay attention to the words you cling to (like, so, um, uh), and practice eliminating them. It makes a world of difference in not only how productive you become as a communicator, but you also come across more confident and composed.
Manage Your Wardrobe
How you dress matters whether you like it or not. People notice how you look before you ever open your mouth, so it’s important to set yourself up for success. Of course, I love the topic of personal style, but not everyone does, and that’s okay. Just focus on looking modern and tailored. When you’re clothes are dated, it is assumed that you and your knowledge is dated as well.
Have your clothes altered to fit your body (the one you have right now, not the one you had five years ago), make sure your shoes and bag are current and in excellent condition, keep yourself groomed – chipped nails and messy hair sends the message that you can’t stay on top of details. Finally, incorporate more tailored pieces: swap a cardigan for a casual blazer, trade your khakis for a navy pant, small changes make a big difference in your professional appearance.