I have a fun exercise for you.
Sit down with a notepad or laptop and write down about the ideal version of yourself.
If you are in your twenties ( or younger than that) you may have these aspirations about appearance. ( A well-kept secret – those concerns follow you into your 30s and 40s as well; you may just camouflage it better).
For some of you, it may be about your performance at school/college/the-first-job.
Whatever it may be, write it down.
Be as honest as possible – no one else is going to see this.
Once you are done, go through them one by one – most of you would have written about things that are about others’ perceptions of you.
You want to be perceived as an attractive person, or someone who is smart or capable or super efficient at studies/work, etc.
Now I do not disagree that an important aspect of “branding” is influencing others’ perceptions.
In my opinion, “Personal Branding” will become far more effective if you consider this from a slightly different angle.
It should start with how you want to view yourself.
This may sound easy but if you try and do the above exercise and remove elements like other people’s opinions from the above list, you will see how hardwired you are about judging yourself from another person’s point of view.
With this in mind, let us look at some of the key drivers of Personal Branding.
Let me tell you a very well kept secret. Most people around you lack confidence. They have just learned to pretend otherwise.
You would think this is a by-product of looks and intelligence. It is not.
It is, unfortunately, a by-product of years of conditioning – thanks to people who felt “obliged” to tell you that you are not good enough; people who felt it is their duty to keep you grounded and shared praises sparingly.
Such deep conditioning may not go away in one day. But you have to start somewhere and today is as good a day to start as any.
Can you list down all the good things people have ever said about you? Do that and see if you can believe that. Tell yourself that every day.
Create a few scenarios and mentally “pretend” to be confident in those scenes. Act it out in the bathroom, in front of a mirror.
Carry a talisman with you that can remind you during the course of the day to “Act” confidently.
An important aspect of acting confident is not to put yourself down.
People have a horrible habit of making self-disparaging comments. If someone assigns you a task, do you first tell them how you may screw up?
I have come to realize that this is how people take “anticipatory bails”. All that it serves is to create an unconscious bias that your work is going to be sub-par.
Do you know of any brand that launches its product with a subtext that it may fail?
For me the MOST critical component of personal branding is communication. Starting from an interview to team meetings to presenting your completed project, the one way to stand out is to learn to communicate effectively.
“Effectively” – that is the keyword here. Communication is not about the strength of your vocabulary or how fluently you can speak in English.
Can you frame your sentences without being verbose? Can you articulate your argument in an orderly fashion?
Don’t worry if this seems overwhelming. You can improve ANY skill with practice.
Identify your current level of competency in English.
If you lack the confidence to speak in front of others, start with reading out passages from newspapers and magazines. Read it aloud. This will help you get used to hearing your voice speak a foreign tongue.
Another trick is to prepare short speeches and deliver them in front of a mirror.
Record your speech on your phone and play it back. It is a great way to correct your pronunciation and enunciations.
If you have a slightly better level of skill in English but still feel the need to improve, join clubs like the “Toastmasters”.
The ability to communicate clearly and effectively will go a long way in building your brand.
Personal grooming is a critical part of creating your personal brand. But this does not mean spending half your salary in a saloon or buying expensive clothes.
Get a basic wardrobe, to begin with. Once you join your workplace, you will get a better understanding of what people wear and you can then purchase clothes that fit in culturally to that organization. But please ensure that you do not blindly ape anyone. You should be comfortable in your clothes. Clothes are an extension of the identity – your identity. So chose accordingly.
Some of the basic aspects to aim for is to look smart and be comfortable in your clothes. As a mentor once told me, “no one really notices what you are wearing after your first week in office.”
Personal Branding is a long term game. One of the building blocks of this is your attitude – attitude to work and life in general.
You may be familiar with the concepts of “growth” and “fixed” mindsets. People with a fixed mindset believe that they are born with a talent and they are only as good as the quantum of that talent. They use excuses like “ I am no good at math” to never attempt to do math well. These are the people who will setbacks as permanent failures in life.
People with a growth mindset understand that “if at first, you don’t succeed, try again”. They understand and appreciate the fact that you can always improve with practice. They are willing to pay the price of doing the coring math exercises over and over again, till they get good at it.
This is the kind of attitude that any organization looks for. They are the people who will always be in need no matter what the state of the current economy is.
The Online Avatar
We are all content creators. We do so unconsciously these days. Be it pictures of a night out with friends, or a nice sunset, we share it with the world without so much as a second thought.
While there are perils in the online world, it is also a tremendous opportunity to showcase yourself.
Start with professional network platforms like LinkedIn. LinkedIn is not just about updating your profile. Their algorithm pays “attention” to people who create content and share it on their platform. People who post with reasonable regularity and those who engage online with other content creators get more attention.
A personal website is a must-have in this category. For some reason, even seasoned techies in India do not have a dedicated website.
If you are a software professional, a personal website is a great way to showcase your skills to the world.
If you are not a techno-savvy individual( like me), build a site using all those freely available resources to showcase whatever is your area of interest.
Perhaps it is our middle-class mentality that makes us take a pause from serious efforts in personal branding. After all, it is not good to talk about ourselves, right?
Personal Branding and creating your own narrative allows you to showcase your talents in a way you want to.
It is a very crowded world out there. You HAVE to be able to talk about yourself with class and dignity. And that will only come with practice. So start today!