Have you ever sat back and wondered how others see you at work? How well do they know your qualities and abilities? Do they know the values you stand for, and those that you live by? And how would they describe you or introduce you to others?
If you’ve been diligent about building your personal brand, you likely have an answer for all of the above. But if you’re like the vast majority of working women, you haven’t given it much thought. And the few times that you have thought about it, you’ve experienced an averse internal reaction.
A brand sounds so pompous – and ego-driven. And it’s this misconception that puts so many of us off of branding. But brands can be purpose-driven – and for women they can become a great source of engagement and meaning at work. Because a brand is not a job title, nor even a career.
Besides, unless you actively build your own brand, others do it for you. People around you are always assessing you so they can place you in their own mental frameworks. And when you don’t provide them with enough information about yourself, these judgments may not always do justice to the person you want to be known as.
Here then are the 4 questions you need to ask yourself to consciously to gain clarity on a heart-driven brand that drives your words and actions.
Who are your heroes and heroines?
Spend some time thinking about the people you most admire. These may be people you know, or those from the past. They may be real or even fictional. And as you write down their names, write down the qualities you most admire about them. What are the values they stood for and why are they meaningful to you? Boil it down to the top 3 or 5.
What are the passions that light you up?
In the busyness of work, we often forget to check in with our true selves. That is the self who has interests and passions – who’s naturally drawn towards certain topics, endeavors or causes. Who’s this person in you? And what lights her up? Think of moments when you’ve felt emotionally involved, and write down the passions that are embedded within you.
What are your unique combination of strengths?
Many of us don’t know our strengths – and for those of us who do, we’re generally not very aware of how these strengths work best together. Think back to moments in your life when you felt you were at your best – what were you doing? And more importantly, how were you doing it? What were the strengths that you were using and how were they working together to produce the outcome?
What’s your special sauce?
Now sit down with your values, strengths and passions, and let them brew together. How can they come together to create a life you want to be known for? Write it down, or write multiple versions, and sit with them. Which one stirs you the most? Which one feels most authentic? Perhaps show it to a couple of people who know you well and ask them what they think.
Then begin experimenting with it. Try living in line with it and see how it feels. Give it time, for a brand is not a prototype you fit into, but a persona that begins to emerge. Over time.
When I decided to take my business online, I was suddenly called to create a brand I’d never given much thought to. I was bombarded by advice, by what others were dong, by visions of success – to the extent that I lost my way multiple times. I tried to push my message, I tried to emulate people who were doing well, I even tried to change myself to fit into what appeared the norm.
What I’m realizing is that the world needs me to be who I am. And unless I’m clear on it, I won’t be able to communicate it to the world. Nor in my actions, not in my words, and certainly not in my online brand. For there’s a part within each one of us that lives by what New York Times columnist David Brooks has called ‘eulogy virtues’ – and we often don’t listen to it in our obsession with our ‘resume virtues’.
So go ahead and spend some time with your other self – and you may be surprised by what you find.