‘I was overlooked by the executives and someone else from my team who doesn’t perform as well as me, got promoted instead.’; ‘I am really good at my job, but no one seems to notice.’; ‘I know I should promote myself more but I don’t know how to.’; ‘Shouldn’t my work speak for itself?’
Do you relate to any of the comments? For yourself or your direct reports or mentees? I certainly do, especially in the more junior years of my career. I have always been a hard worker and got the job done but I hated to manage up. Being overlooked and believing that I deserved promotion on merit held me back at least at one inflection point of my career.
Being Overlooked or Not Visible?
In 2005 I worked as a sales manager for a serviced offices company in Sydney and later in Melbourne. I was driven and loved the industry, you could throw any challenge at me, and I would run with it. My sales numbers were great, and I helped train new salespeople, jetting to other regions to support new openings. I even looked after the region while the area manager was being replaced. I really wanted the area manager role and to work on a more strategic level with more staff responsibility. I was doing the job already anyway. But time and time again, someone external was hired.
Was I being overlooked again?
Eventually, I was headhunted into a regional sales director role in Hong Kong and I didn’t think twice. It was the exact level and type of role I deserved. A few months later, I chatted with my former boss and he seemed surprised about my desire for a more strategic role. He said, ‘I didn’t know you wanted that role and that you were quite on that level’. He also asked me if I knew what my nickname was. I was ‘Miss Fix It’. Wherever there was underperformance in sales numbers, they would throw me in and I would fix it. Flattering, yet not what I wanted.
The thing is, I wasn’t being overlooked. I wasn’t visible. My personal brand was Miss Fix It, not someone who grows a regional business strategically. Had I known that creating the right personal brand and promoting that brand to the right people was what would get me promoted, not just doing a great job, my career would have taken a very different turn much earlier.
‘The bigger your personal brand, the more opportunities you’re going to have.’ – Martin Dai Mguyen
I now coach hundreds of leaders, many of them at inflection points of their careers. Bright, talented and successful managers who all say the same thing: I am good at what I do but it needs to be noticed more.
What’s missing? A clear personal brand and positioning it.
‘Your brand is what people say about you when you’re not in the room.’ – Jeff Bezos
Like it or not, everyone has a personal brand. The question is how well you create yours. Your personal brand is the unique combination of skills, experiences and personality that makes you who you are. A personal brand becomes powerful when you are able to communicate your unique identity and a clear value to your boss, executive team and potential employer.
Surveys show that less than 15% of people have truly defined their personal brand and less than 5% are living it consistently at work. Creating your personal brand is hard work, it’s ever-evolving and requires constant tweaks. Your personal brand should also be more than a reflection of who you are today. It should be a roadmap of where you want to go. My personal brand when working for the serviced offices company should have been more than ‘fixing things’. But I wasn’t even aware of my own reputation at the time; how could I have possible created a ‘future me’?
Start With Self-Awareness
First, get some insights into how people perceive you, your strengths and what you bring to the table. Use formal 360 reviews or simply ask people around you and get some feedback. The more honest the feedback, the better.
Then create your personal brand and brand message; not of the person you are now, but the person you want to be known for. One practical way of creating your personal brand is to think about your strengths, how you add value and your purpose.
Here is my personal brand model:
- Strengths – Focussing on your strengths doesn’t just enable you to grow exponentially, knowing and promoting them sets you apart from others and displays your unique selling points. Think of your strengths as your ‘superpowers’ and I encourage you to go further than writing down your traits and talents. Get clear on your character strengths and how they help you to be the leader you want to be known for. Accumulate as many strengths as possible and determine your top two superpowers for your brand message.
- Value – Get some narrative on how you add value to your team, clients, department, organisation or even industry. Those sentences often start with ‘I help…!’ A senior leader in banking once said to a group of high potentials I was coaching, ‘If you want to stand out and be heard, people around you need to know what you bring to the table.’ It’s not about bragging, it’s about how you add value. Put a future lens on here also. Remember my story about where I should have talked about my strategic thinking to grow the business vs. fixing problems.
- Purpose – People want to know why you do what you do, why you get out of bed in the morning. If you are familiar with Simon Sinek then follow his formula of ‘Start with Why’. Why is what you do important to you and others?
- Brand Message – At the heart of these 3 areas sits your brand message. You simply put strengths, value and purpose together and it serves as your ‘elevator pitch’. It’s important that we have a narrative that’s easy for you to use when you start positioning our personal brand.
Here is a template that might be useful:
‘I help (someone, a group of people) to (achieve what they need to achieve) by (using my unique skills) because I am exceptional at (superpowers/strengths). I am passionate about (purpose) because (cause) is important to me.’
‘Personal branding is not about you. It’s about putting your stamp on the value you deliver to others.’ – William Arruda
Positioning Your Personal Brand
Having a clear brand message is your foundation but a successful brand relies on its positioning. You need to actively promote your brand to others and be visible. Having a digital footprint that is in line with your brand is more important than ever.
Here are my steps for successful brand positioning:
- Who are you not talking to yet? Make a list of influencers and sponsors within and outside of your organisation that don’t know yet who you are, or you are not visible enough to yet. Take steps to get in front of them with face-to-face catch-ups through social media channels.
- Build your networks before you need them – Build genuine connections now so you can rely on people helping you with recommendations and referrals when you need them. People need to know you to trust you, so start now.
- Social media profiles – Update your LinkedIn and other social media profiles in line with your brand message. Actively use these platforms and consider publishing articles, sharing other content and videos. Update your bio on internal social media platforms.
- Embrace networking – Network regularly online and offline. Seek groups where you meet influencers and people you can learn from and who you can influence.
- Give back – Consider becoming a mentor and being part of corporate programs that give you the opportunity to use your unique skills but also the chance to give back to the community.
- Public speaking – One of the most powerful ways to position yourself is through public speaking. Consider hosting webinars with you as the subject matter expert within your organisation or industry and get invited to be part of panel events.
With less visibility in our changed workplaces and this hybrid world, it is more important than ever to use the digital tools at our disposal to position ourselves with a clear brand message, so we are visible and known for who we are and what we bring to the table.
Are you ready to create your personal brand? Get in touch with me on firstname.lastname@example.org to talk about how I can help you step into the spotlight.