Branding yourself in your best light

dirty laundry branding

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Transparency. Isn’t it lovely? Unless we’re talking about bra straps or Scotch tape, not necessarily. No one wants to see (or smell) your dirty laundry. I promise. While transparency certainly has its place in the world of business and marketing, it doesn’t translate well to personal and professional branding.

Why? We’re flawed. We all possess defective character traits. If we care about our colleagues, and we care about creating a positive impression on others, we spend all day long hiding those little flaws. We work to build better character traits. When we’re hungry, angry, lonely, tired, sad, or overwhelmed, we try to suck it up and carry on. We may let it all hang out the minute we walk in the door after work. We heat up a frozen pizza, throw on the sweats, and lean into the sofa with a beer and our dog. We have ourselves a good cry. But do we show it at work? Absolutely not.

Is this healthy? Are we all imposters? What in the world is wrong with us? Why can’t we just be ourselves in the workplace?

First of all, let me be clear. If you’re struggling to get out of bed every morning due to depression or anxiety, seek professional help from a counselor. If you’re so overwhelmed by stress in the workplace, and this topic is causing you neck pain, you may need to consider yoga (or a new career path altogether).

But most of us aren’t struggling with emotions or concerns which are extremely out of balance. We’re just trying to make it through the day. Some days are tougher than others.

branding best light

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How do you make it through those tough days without losing your cool and burning bridges with people at work–your professional network? How do you brand yourself in your best light on a regular basis? And is branding yourself in your best light really being honest with yourself and others?

Here are a few thoughts on branding yourself in your best light and the notion of transparency in the workplace.

  1. Don’t be transparent at work. Set appropriate boundaries. If you need to learn how to set appropriate boundaries, hire a professional counselor or therapist. Read the book Boundaries by Henry Cloud and John Townsend. Don’t expect yourself to understand how to have positive, healthy relationships with coworkers if you’ve never had positive, healthy relationships with anyone else in your life. You cannot snap your fingers and gain this ability.
  2. Remember that you choose the brand you portray. A brand is simply your reputation. A reputation is built by choices you make. Choices include words and actions. Our words and actions are preceded by decisions. We make decisions all day long every single day.

    Did you know that decision-making is one of the most sought-after soft skills by employers? It’s true. If you brand yourself as level-headed, positive, kind, and thoughtful, you simultaneously brand yourself as someone capable of making good decisions on a regular basis.

  3. When you choose to showcase yourself in your best light–to bring your good stuff to work and share your struggles with only your closest friends, family members, and paid professional counselors–you are not being dishonest. You are being wise. You are behaving in a way which builds your self-esteem. You’re building dignity and confidence in the workplace. You’re giving yourself space from whatever problems you’re facing outside of work, allowing yourself to focus on work while you’re working. You are growing professionally.

    Here is how to brand yourself in your best light… Be the best version of yourself. Continually grow. Make choices you’re proud of on a daily basis. Develop your strengths and character assets. When you focus on developing your soft skills, strengths, and assets, guess what happens to your weaknesses and defects? They die of neglect.

    Your brand will begin to evolve as you evolve. Your brand is simply a moon. If you are working toward career fulfillment and toward becoming the best version of yourself, you’re going to be reflecting nothing but light–and branding becomes much easier.

 

If you need help developing a written branding statement, a bio, an elevator pitch, or a solid LinkedIn profile, reach out to me for help.

For more thoughts on branding yourself in your best light, check out this 3-minute video.

 

 

 

 

Why manners matter

Have you ever met someone who made a terrible first impression? Chances are, this person practiced manners poorly and lacked communication skills. He may not have had a firm handshake. Maybe he avoided eye contact with you (or worse yet, ignored you while interacting with others). Perhaps the person was attempting to sell you something yet failed because he was so over-the-top, aggressive, and obviously only interested in earning your business rather than getting to know you as an individual.

Manners matter. If you don’t think so, read up on the importance of soft skills. Manners matter to employers; they ought to matter to you, too, if you’re searching for a job or hope to earn a promotion at any point in your lifetime.

Here are five outcomes of practicing good manners. Consider these outcomes proof that manners matter.

If the video is not playing or displaying properly click here.

 

  • You make a great first impression.

We’re all prone to interpret others’ behavior and make a judgment call within the first 20-30 seconds of meeting people. It all goes back to the primacy effect and negativity bias. When you meet someone new, and the person makes a poor first impression, it sticks with you—often permanently, even if the person’s future behavior is completely different (and better) than the behavior he exhibited when you initially met.

This means you need to make a great first impression every single time you meet someone new. One tried and true way to do this is to practice great manners, proper etiquette, and strong communication skills.

  1. You stand out.

Let’s face it. People who go above and beyond to practice good manners are an endangered species. Many Gen Z students and recent grads have faced the conundrum of being kept on a tight leash as children while given unlimited virtual access to the world (and beyond). Under the thumb of ever watchful parents, afraid of tragedies, kidnappings, and accidents, many Gen Z children have been thrown electronic devices to keep them pacified since they were preschoolers. These devices introduced them to social media, video games, and false realities. Many Gen Z students and recent grads feel more comfortable communicating via devices than face-to-face as a result. The same students and grads express a desire to spend more time face-to-face with others, even though their communication skills are often lacking.

If you lack knowledge of how to practice good manners, and you know your communication skills aren’t up to par, seek help to improve these soft skills. Your ability to gain and maintain employment may depend on your willingness to develop better manners!

  1. You brand yourself well.

If you want to stand out to employers, college faculty and staff, alumni, and peers, you’ll attempt to practice great manners. When you interact positively and politely with others, you brand yourself as the kind of person people want to hire and work with.

As I discuss in the video accompanying this blog post, when you practice good manners, you brand yourself as courteous, thoughtful, attentive, kind, generous, helpful, and grateful. The people you meet will remember these great character traits and assets when they think of you. And maybe the next time they learn of a fabulous job opening, you’ll be one of the first people to come to mind.

  1. You build a strong network.

When you’re polite, courteous, thoughtful, attentive, and grateful, who wouldn’t want to hire you? Who wouldn’t want to keep in touch, connect with you on social media, interact with you in discussions, or meet with you for an informational interview? All great employers want to hire candidates who exhibit good manners and strong communication skills.

If you treat others well and make a positive first impression, you build strong, lasting relationships with other professionals, your peers, and your supervisors. Networking is all about relationships. When you practice good manners, connecting with others, building those relationships, and maintaining them is natural.

  1. You improve your self-esteem.

When you take esteemable actions, you gain self-esteem.

When you possess a sense of self-esteem and self-respect, you behave differently in the workplace, particularly in times of conflict. You can carry your head high because you know you’re doing the best job possible. When people gossip, you brush it off because no one else’s opinions define your sense of value or worth. This sort of self-esteem is a direct result of your actions. If you’re doing the next right thing each day at work, and you treat everyone politely and courteously, you can feel calm, comfortable, and proud of the work you’re doing.

At the end of the day, the way you treat others speaks volumes about how you feel about yourself.

If you recognize that practicing good manners and interacting with others positively is a challenge for you, reach out to me for help with soft skills coaching.

Making the most of working with your career mentor

I’ve never regretted one minute spent listening to my career mentors. I learn so much when we meet, chatting over pancakes at Bob’s Diner or pizza in downtown Little Rock. Sure, I do some of the talking–opening up about where I’m at in my career, asking questions, and even sharing about troubling situations in the workplace in hopes my mentors will offer potential solutions. They always do because they’re brilliant women. I picked great career mentors. One owns her own business, consulting small business owners who want to market themselves and attract better clients. The other manages recruiting for a telecommunications corporation. My mentors have been where I am in many ways. They know what I’m going through, and even if they haven’t found themselves puzzled by an identical client or partner, they have likely been in similar situations.

That’s the beauty of working with a career mentor. A career mentor is a mentor you ask to guide you through your career journey–not just from point A to point B during one stretch of your career or while you strive through the most difficult mess of it. Your mentor learns all about you, and your career mentor can give you very pointed, detailed advice. Since your mentor doesn’t work with you in your workplace–unlike a workplace mentor–she doesn’t care about office politics. She only cares about seeing you succeed in the long run. She sees the big picture.

If you already have a career mentor, you’ll want to watch this video with three tips/reminders about making the most of working with your career mentor. You’ll find ways to apply this advice to the relationship you already have with your mentor. If you don’t have a career mentor, think about a few people you admire while watching the video and reading the article. Maybe by the end, you’ll have narrowed down your list.


If the video isn’t playing properly click here.

  1. Remember, your career mentor isn’t a fairy godmother (or godfather).

    Your career mentor won’t float out of the sky, pixie dust sprinkled in her hair, announcing her desire to guide you through your career (but wouldn’t that be great?!). You’re going to have to break down and ask someone to mentor you. Sometimes mentoring relationships evolve naturally. This happens in the workplace and in higher education; you might fall into a relationship with your career mentor if she’s your professor or boss. But most likely, you’ll find someone you admire who works in your dream job or similar career field. You will observe this person to ensure she exhibits character traits you admire. Then you will ask her to serve as your career mentor. Asking can be difficult, but acting against your fear of rejection is important. You potentially have so much to gain from a great career mentor.Also, we can often believe our career mentors are fairy godmothers in the sense that we place them on pedestals. We think they’re professionally perfect. But they’re definitely not, and learning from your career mentor’s failures and defects can be just as helpful as learning from your career mentor’s successes and assets.
  2. If it’s not working, make a change.

    It would be great if everyone’s career mentoring relationship lasted for a lifetime. Some do, and some don’t. If you work with a career mentor for five years, and you find yourself growing apart, accept that it may be time to seek a new career mentor. Some relationships–even professional relationships–are only meant to last for a season. We all grow, change, and develop, and as that happens, we often grow apart. Trying to force a fit doesn’t feel natural and can make a mentoring relationship very awkward. If you’re asking questions and not receiving answers which feel aligned with your values, ethics, or goals, it might be time to seek a new career mentor.
  3. Don’t expect your mentor to serve as your career coach.

    Unless your mentor works in career services, career counseling, or career coaching, your mentor will probably not feel comfortable providing you with detailed assistance with your resume, cover letter, interview preparation, branding, networking, job search assistance, or other areas of career coaching. While your mentor can certainly share her unique experiences in these areas, your mentor won’t pretend to be an expert in an area outside her realm of expertise. And she shouldn’t! If someone comes to me for personal counseling, I don’t pretend for one minute I’m licensed as a professional counselor. I immediately refer that potential client to a qualified professional.Seek your mentor’s advice and ask her to share her experience, but don’t drain her either. Remember that your mentor probably juggles work, family, and personal interests, including mentoring you (and possibly other mentees). Respect her boundaries.

    If you need help determining how to find a great career mentor, how to ask someone to mentor you, or how to seek career coaching help from a professional rather than from your mentor, reach out to me to schedule a free consultation. 

Branding yourself with gratitude

When your coworkers mention you—when you’ve stepped out of the room, or when you didn’t join them for lunch—what do they say? Are you mindfully branding yourself in the workplace in hopes they’ll be lifting you up, not tearing you down? When former supervisors and colleagues respond for requests for references during a job search, what characteristics and values will they attribute to you?

Consider working to develop an attitude of gratitude; it can benefit your relationships with colleagues, supervisors, and clients. It can also improve your outlook on your current position within your organization, even if you’re not working in your dream job.

Let’s talk about how the practice of gratitude improves your behavior, transforms your attitude and outlook, and sharpens your branding and networking skills in the workplace (and even your job search).

If the video is not playing/displaying properly: click here.

How did I become an expert on gratitude? I learned this lesson the way I learn many lessons—the hard way. I had an incredibly cynical, negative attitude at one point in my life. I allowed my circumstances to drag me down, particularly related to my job at the time, which I still contend was “the worst job of all time.” My mentor instructed me to begin sending her a daily gratitude list via email. I had to document three unique, specific items each day, and I couldn’t repeat items on the list. I included things like, “I’m thankful today that when I merged onto the interstate, I remembered to put my coffee in the cup holder first because I was cut off, and otherwise it would have spilled onto my white pants. So I didn’t have to worry about removing stains, stopping to buy new pants before my meeting, or anything like that. Yay!” Over time, my mind began identifying positive moments more easily; I completed this assignment for over 1000 consecutive days.

It changed me. This habit has become second nature to me. In the workplace, it’s a game changer. I’m now less likely to identify problems and pick them apart. I want to help identify solutions instead. And trust me, this isn’t my personality type. I’m less disgruntled and discontent. Don’t you think this makes me more pleasant to work with? Don’t you want to be more pleasant to work with? I promise you every employer wants to hire pleasant, kind employees.

It’s important to remember this: gratitude is more than simply saying thank you. It’s a way of life. It’s a result of taking actions regardless of circumstances. We choose to behave as if we were thankful even when we don’t feel like it. In the workplace, this isn’t always easy, but if we choose gratitude over grumbling, we feel better about ourselves at the end of the day, and we build better relationships. This means we brand ourselves as people who are kind, generous, thoughtful, considerate, humble, joyful, and inclusive.

How can you practically practice gratitude in the workplace?

  1. When interacting with clients, customers, patients, students, or the public, treat them well. Make them a priority; they do matter, you know. Remember to greet them with a smile and a handshake. Invite them into your place of business (virtually or otherwise). Share a freebie. Create a welcoming atmosphere. Try to cut down on wait time. Improve your response time online. Say goodbye and ask them to return again soon. Remember, your clients may not remember what you say, but they’ll remember how you treat them. Word-of-mouth is your best advertisement. Treating your clients as if you were thankful for them—even if you’re having a bad day or feel rushed—is key to a successful business/organization, and it’s also key to living a life you feel proud of when your head hits the pillow at night.
  2. When serving on teams or committees at work or in the community, attempt to smile and serve with a positive attitude. Many times, we don’t approach these tasks with gratitude. We forget that many people are unemployed and underemployed and would love the opportunity to sit in our chairs, listening to our coworkers discuss upcoming events or debate about seemingly trivial matters. Keeping the big picture in mind can help you find gratitude even in your least favorite tasks at work.
  3. Display willingness to serve. Clean up after meetings without being asked. Tidy up the breakroom if you have a few extra minutes. Bring a dozen doughnuts on Friday. Donate your time to help another team when they put out a call for help via email rather than refusing to respond. Volunteer for events and activities as time permits. Expressing willingness can demonstrate gratitude for your part within the organization. When you’re grateful, you give back.
  4. If you’re a supervisor, regularly thank your employees. Host a recognition day or reception. Keep it simple to conserve costs, but make the effort to ensure people feel appreciated. There are fun and affordable ways to extend kudos for contributions. Consider doing a social media shout out on a regular basis. Who doesn’t love that in this day and age?
  5. Express gratitude to everyone, not just people who can promote you. Does the maintenance crew regularly empty your trash or clean your office? Leave them a gift with a note on your desk at night. Bag the trash for them occasionally to save them a step. When you visit the on-site deli or café, purchase a gift card for the administrative assistant anonymously.

Do things for fun and for free, expecting nothing in return. Taking these actions—and expecting nothing in return—will transform you individually. When you become a better person, you’ll behave differently. When you behave as a more thoughtful, more considerate, more joyful, and more productive employee, you will gain attention from colleagues and supervisors. This is the heart of branding, but all terminology and self-promotion aside, it’s really the heart of being a decent human being.

And that’s what really matters.

Let me help with your branding, networking, and other career coaching and workplace communication needs. For more pointers on your job search and workplace relationships, follow me on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.