You need a brand because you have one anyway. Not having a brand just means that you aren’t driving the way you’re being perceived. Recently, a girl I used to work with asked me what my “secret” was and why I keep getting promoted while she (and so many others) seem to be stuck in their entry level positions for years just getting more frustrated. Obviously there’s no one thing, but here’s how the conversation started:
Me: I work hard to maintain my brand
Her: You mean you work hard, period
Me: Of course, but also, I work hard to be the things I want my brand to be
Her: What are you, Coke?
I swear to god it was one of those moments where I couldn’t believe I got such a great lay-up…
Yes! I’m like Coke. People know what to expect behind my label, they know it’ll be the same ‘product’ every time, and I’m loud and proud about the good things that I try to do outside of the office. It’s not that different from Coke at all! Behind their red label is the same taste, every time. No matter which store I go to, or where I order it, it will always be the same formula, and they make huge noise around their good works that go beyond massive product sales.
The sad truth about navigating the corporate world is that we are all products – the hard part is finding a way not to feel used for the product you are giving in return for your income, and instead feel like you are contributing to your organization. This is the ONLY way I found to mentally survive my first five years in corporate America.
My brand is about competence, intelligence, exuberance, and helpfulness. I’ll explain…
Competence is something I try to build and embody by having as many skills as possible and then executing as quickly and accurately as possible whenever those skills are needed.
Intelligence is something I try to demonstrate by choosing the words that say exactly what I mean, avoiding swearing in professional life (and personal, but nobody’s perfect), and then I try to build it by reading. Reading books, reading the news, reading my emails closely to make sure I know what the sender was trying to say to avoid looking stupid in my response, and yes – reading DListed for celebrity gossip because I love that garbage. All of it gives you more to talk about with more types of people.
Exuberance – sometimes bites me and gets me labeled “loud,” or “annoying,” but it’s at the core of who I am. I am thrilled to be alive, and grateful to be employed, so I try to act like it!
Helpfulness – Everyone comes to my cube with questions. It’s not my job, and it takes time I don’t always have, but it makes me feel good to help, and since I usually know the answers or where to look for the answers, it supports my brand elements of competence and intelligence. Added bonus? It makes people like you when you help them.
I don’t fire on all cylinders all the time, and I’m definitely not perfect, but I try to keep these four things in the back of my mind like a mantra to keep me on track.
OH, and when I screw up? I admit it IMMEDIATELY and apologize if needed.