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Building Your Personal Brand

Failing to manage your reputation leaves you overlooked and undervalued.

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Self-promotion, or personal branding, can be a polarizing topic. Many consider it to be bragging or boasting. Some studies even suggest that self-promotion is narcissistic — an unrealistically positive, inflated self-view in a status-relevant domain — behavior that others find "repulsive, distasteful, and off-putting."

On the other hand, advocates of self-promotion question, "if you don't boast your achievements, who will?" They note that we live in a competitive society where people are dispersed, and work is often performed off-site due to technological advancement. Team performance is more celebrated than individual accomplishment. Talent is often overlooked and subordinate to organizational politics.

Related: 3 Things a Personal Brand Gives You

Surveys suggest that women especially are disadvantaged in corporate offices due to their reluctance to self-promote themselves. Yet, taking credit for your talents and accomplishments in today's business environment is essential to advancement, higher salaries, and recognition. The key is using effective tactics and behaviors without venturing into false claims and over-the-top behavior that draws adverse reactions.

The importance of visibility

Few people dispute the importance of visibility in a group, organization, or professional field. Each of us has experienced instances where we "disappeared" in a meeting, withdrawing into a shell to observe rather than participate. Each of us knows those who silently become part of the background, remembered as an afterthought, if at all.

Visibility and credibility go hand-in-hand. Are you more likely to follow the advice of someone who has "been there and done that" or one whom you know nothing about? People respond to those with credentials and experience. Conversely, if your talents are unknown to others, they are less likely to consider you as a solution, whether leading a PTA event or a top-tier company.

Personal branding

The term "branding" originated in livestock marking to clear ownership to any observer. Branding in a social or business ecosystem develops personal identity or "reputation." It is how those around you would describe your capabilities, behavior, and accomplishments (or lack thereof) to others. Each person is responsible for creating their personal brand. Unfortunately, those who fail to manage their image and reputation are often overlooked and under-valued. They are generic members of a company's workforce, lost in the anonymity of sameness.

Related: 3 Keys to Building Your Personal Brand

Every person has a brand, whether imposed by those around you or carefully nurtured by your deliberate acts and speech. It influences your long-term career strategy and development. Effective self-promotion describes your motives, your personality, and your principles.

4 keys to successful self-promotion

  1. Understand your best skills and accomplishments. Honest self-analysis is essential to effective self-promotion. Before actively promoting yourself, you need to understand what you do best. If you can't define your talents, who can? Promoting an exaggerated capability or accomplishment invariably leads to a negative perception. Admitting that "I don't know," especially with the phrase "but I'll find out," is a powerful tool for establishing creditability.
  2. Be genuine and truthful. "Fake it to make it" may effectively build self-confidence and lower anxiety but should be avoided in self-promotion efforts. Exaggerating the level of your skills or the importance of your accomplishments can damage your reputation and long-term achievements. Effective self-promotion isn't about being someone you're not – just be yourself and embrace your talents.
  3. Share the credit. Showcasing the accomplishments of your associates is a comfortable way to gain visibility and build relationships. In addition, sharing credit shows that you work effectively with others, a critical skill for managers and executives. The most successful leaders — those whose personal brand is competence, courage, and compassion — manage organizations by the philosophy "Share the credit, take the blame."
  4. Walk the talk. Authenticity is not only about optimism and encouragement but honesty. Be the person you promote. A reputation of competence requires actual accomplishments, skills, experience, or knowledge that deserve recognition and acknowledgment. People relate to vulnerabilities since everyone has them. Sharing real stories about personal experiences — good and bad — is a practical, truthful self-promotion tool. Such stories are those instances where reputations are forged.

Final word

Self-promotion should not be apologetic, aggressive, or confrontational. Be relaxed, true to yourself, and be honest when building your personal brand, whether online or in-person. Exploit opportunities to step into the spotlight by volunteering, participating, and connecting. Share information and seek out input within and outside your organization.

Self-promotion helps you meet your goals. When they are aligned with your company's goals, you're more engaged to act on the company's behalf by engaging customers — a win-win for all parties.

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