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).

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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.

 

 

My secret to stress-free networking

Holding it all together as a professional–not to mention finding time for networking–in today’s competitive workplace often feels like walking a thin, greased tightrope. Just open LinkedIn and view the images of your suggested connections for two minutes. Read their titles. Check out their white, shiny teeth and unwrinkled suits. Feel intimidated yet?

I do.

Now exhale.

The good news is you don’t have to perform at your best 100% of the time to network successfully. You really don’t. You simply have to be your best self as often as possible.

How do you accomplish that?

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Volunteering my time by sharing career tips with college students at the University of Arkansas Community College at Batesville

You don’t become your best self by arriving earlier, staying later, spending more on your work wardrobe, paying an additional $200 per month for Botox injections, or by obsessing about metrics constantly. You won’t feel like your best self by focusing so much on return on investment that you neglect to listen to people during conversations. And you probably won’t feel like the best version of yourself after spending hours having superficial conversations with people over drinks week after week. You will not feel like yourself after giving the same spiel to everyone you interact with—at the grocery store, at the career fair, or online.

You become your best self by getting outside yourself.

This isn’t meant to be a super touchy feely article—it’s just the truth.

I’ve learned from experience that when I’m honestly seeking to serve others in my community or even at work, I forget about ROI, making connections, branding myself, and pitching my services to clients. I stop worrying about whether my suit is trendy enough, whether my nail polish is the color of the season, and whether my forehead wrinkles are peeking out from behind my bangs.

When I get outside myself and into service, I am a better version of myself. And if I am serving in an area I am good at and truly enjoy, and I am serving an organization I respect whose aligns with my own values, I’m the best version of myself.

We don’t all work for companies or organizations we respect, but we all have the option to volunteer for organizations with great causes and missions. I don’t know of many non-profit organizations willing to turn their noses up to professional volunteers. I’ve volunteered as a writer, editor, fundraiser, event organizer, teacher, board member, and more. Whatever your specific passion or professional talents, there’s an organization out there willing to put them to work. Why not utilize your skills, build your resume, and make professional connections while contributing to a great cause?

When you’re volunteering alongside other professionals—and I don’t mean just sitting in a board meeting next to other suits who are there simply to be seen, because I’ve done that before—you’ll build genuine relationships with professionals. This isn’t just networking—it’s relationship building at its finest, and if you ever need to call upon these friends, you’ll find that they’re willing to help. I’ve called upon former fellow volunteers to serve as references during my job searches, to speak at events on campus, and to donate to charities. The friendships—not connections—I have made by networking while serving are some of my strongest. They know the Bethany who is passionate about serving. They know the Bethany who cares about a cause and is committed to something greater than the bottom dollar. They know the best version of Bethany.

Why not let others get to know the best version of you, too?

Need help building your networking skills and branding yourself? Reach out to me for help.