As she approached a critical fork in the road, Alice and the Cheshire Cat had this brief exchange:
“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”
“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to.”
“I don’t much care where –”
“Then it doesn’t matter which way you go.”
― Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland
As we look forward to 2015, you have an opportunity to hit reset on your plans and find a new direction. Here are my top 15 tips for enhancing your personal brand, keeping yourself relevant and compelling, and reclaiming control over your career!
- Know where you are headed. Without a vision and a plan for your career, you face the fate of Alice, above. It won’t matter which choices you make, because you aren’t in control. By contrast, when you can drive and direct your reputation and your career, you put yourself in the driver’s seat. This doesn’t necessarily make life easier, but it makes your choices more coherent and your direction more intentional.
- Be clear about your values. In personal branding, this is often the most difficult step. While it is easy to espouse values of “honor, integrity, and loyalty,” many people who claim to follow those values do not live them. Credibility is only earned when you can articulate your values and then live consistently with those values.
- Go to school on your target audience. Your target audiences may change and evolve over your career, but you still must retain focus on their needs and wants in order to respond. When you can clearly know what motivates, inspires, and scares the people you are promoting your brand to, then you are able to choose how to benefit them in ways that are genuine to your values and responsive to their goals.
- Focus on opportunities. Life will always offer challenges and setbacks, but if you can keep focused on the opportunities you want, you stand an excellent chance of bouncing back from adversity quickly. Learn from mistakes and reset your goals if needed.
- Pace yourself and relax. While building your reputation and promoting your personal brand, take time for yourself and enjoy things that make you happy and allow you to recharge. I was never very good at this early in my career, but I’ve learned that the time spent relaxing is often when my most creative and inspiring ideas come to mind!
- Consistency is king. None of us is perfect. We can, however, be consistent. When more often than not I experience you to be loving, patient, and kind, and then one day (when you are really in a bad mood), I see you grumpy and short tempered, I’ll write it off. Everyone has an off day. The goal is to consistently live your values and show up uniformly as the person I expect you to be (based on your reputation management strategy). Then I will assign you credibility for your brand.
- Use social media. If you’ve resisted forming an online presence because you hoped “this Internet fad would pass,” then you’re behind the rest of us. Online networking is not going away; in fact, it’s growing exponentially! The tools and resources available to build your online reputation are dynamic and powerful and not to be overlooked. If you have been online but haven’t closely monitored or managed your presence, make this year the time to get active. Be sure your profiles, images, content, and connections reflect your values and goals; engage with audiences who can offer insight, tools, connections, and resources to your career; and contribute authentically and with passion in your conversations online.
- Say thank you. I’m a huge proponent of gratitude, personally and professionally. Looking someone in the eyes and saying, “Thank You” is underrated. True gratitude leaves an indelible impact on others. I’ve known many CEOs who have held onto thank you notes written by people they’ve met, mentored, and influenced. Personalized gestures of appreciation make an impact!
- Consider Pinterest for style ideas. I became addicted to Pinterest when I was remodeling my house. I found ideas, inspiration, and links to valuable tools on the site. Then, I discovered recipes, photography, and other interesting tools. Most recently, I’ve been connecting clients to Pinterest and sending outfits, haircuts, and other style ideas to them as they rebuild their look to be consistent with their desired reputation. Pinterest offers a wealth of information and ideas to expand your current wardrobe if your personal brand needs refinement, retooling, or rebuilding.
- Broaden your network. Who do you need to know? Who needs to know you? Networking is not a one-time thing. You must feed and nurture your network to remain top of mind, relevant, and compelling. When a great opportunity crosses the desk of someone in your network, you want them to remember you and reach out. Consider joining a new organization or association where your prospects gather. Seek out a leadership position in a group you’re currently networking in. Sponsor an industry event so you get time at the podium. Look for opportunities to be in front and memorable with the networks who will serve to advance you goals.
- Keep learning. No successful person I have ever met told me they stopped learning when they got to their goal. They continue to refine their skills and knowledge to keep them sharp and current. Read books on topics that interest you and your audiences, follow trends, and study new developments in your industry. Then, when a desired circumstance presents itself, you can show the timeliness of your offer and seize the opportunity!
- Smile and make eye contact. Your body language should reflect your values and the reputation you desire. To be seen as someone who is approachable and confident, you will smile at people, look them in the eyes, and relax your hands by your side. To promote a brand of more exclusivity, you can take a reserved and cautious posture. The goal is always to have your physical presence consistent with the overall experience you want your personal brand to provide.
- Don’t forget YouTube. Many of you know I’m a huge fan of YouTube because of the accessibility and ease of consumption of its content. YouTube is filled with educational, informational, and inspiring messages posted by professionals and non-professionals on every topic under the sun. Want to learn how to properly fold an omelet or tie a Windsor Knot? Curious about how to respond to negative blog posts? There are YouTube videos about that! For inspiring and timely content, visit TedTalks and watch thought leaders around the globe share their ideas. And, yes, you can find videos of skateboarding dogs and cats falling off countertops. (Hopefully those will never go away.)
- Watch people you admire. If career growth is in your plan, then watch the people who hold the positions you desire. With whom do they network? How do they dress and act? Are they consistent with their values? You can learn so much from watching other people, but be sure to filter all your input through what’s right for you. Just because someone else’s strategy is to be direct and pushy, it may not work for you.
- Be generous. A consistent trait I’ve always admired among my clients who are leaders in their industry, business, or area of expertise is that they are generous. Some are generous with their financial resources, others contribute to next generation ideation and mentoring, and others share their knowledge in public forums and in writing. They believe that giving it away is justified because they have so much. As you build out your reputation in 2015, I challenge you to explore ways to help, inspire, or motivate someone who needs it. You will, in turn, find the rewards to be exponentially great!