You might argue — but it is my opinion that you cannot expect to walk through the office door a virtuoso. Whether you are new to the workplace or simply changing direction, it takes a bit of time to establish your reputation and set yourself apart from the crowd. This is perfectly fine — as good things can come with patience. It’s not a sprint, to climb the staircase of success, it is definitely a “steady and paced” endeavor.
Tom Peter’s classic article, The Brand Called You, emphasized the importance of developing your own career brand in our fast-paced world of work — and I fully agree with his premise. Standing out in a sea of competition can be daunting, and branding is a savvy option to consider. You are your own brand — and you alone have the control to develop that brand wisely.
Keeping your nose to the grindstone is a great place to start. However, a solid “brand” strategy is even better. You need to set a projected path and make the most of every interaction. Whatever you are doing, make a commitment to do it well — no matter what the task. Ultimately, it is your behavior that will identify you as something extraordinary.
What will you be adding to the workplace equation? Strive to be unique. Be remarkable. Be courageous. Make a solid commitment that your actions (and your attitude) mesh with the brand of a “high potential” contributor.
A few ideas. Try a couple of them to start:
- Start listening and talk less. Brand yourself as a strategic listener — a critical workplace skill. Key here, is having the smarts to stay quiet and absorb the knowledge that is around you. Grow this way, as this can serve you well.
- Underscore you strengths. Brand your strengths. What are the 2 or 3 areas of expertise that comprise your core value to an organization? Be sure you can speak to these. In fact, develop an elevator pitch explaining your brand — just in case someone directly poses this question. Always be ready to tell your strategic story.
- Be mindful of an “Achilles heel.” Your weaknesses can hold you back, so be sure to identify these early on — and brand yourself as someone who is self-aware. It may not be the most pleasant of tasks to consider, but tackling impediments head on, can help catapult your career forward.
- Be the link. Moving forward in an organization requires a broader focus today, so brand yourself as the “link”. How does your function (and your specific role) contribute to the success of your organization? Be sure you understand these connections and educate others about them.
- Read more. Brand yourself as an expert. There are great sites, blogs and book titles to help you get a strong grip on your specific industry. For starters — find out what your boss is reading. Develop talking points that engage others and encourage progress.
- Find mentors and a sponsor. Navigating the world of work can be a challenge — and seeking different perspectives can be a huge advantage. Don’t limit yourself to one mentor, build a set of them and brand yourself as a life-long learner. Don’t overlook the need for an internal sponsor, someone to help you gain exposure and key “stretch assignments”.
- Raise your hand for projects that everyone is avoiding. Brand yourself as a team player. Remember that the tougher the assignment, the more you’ll stand to learn.
- Learn to collaborate. Brand yourself as someone who gets things done. Gather information about how decisions are made. Be aware of the respective contributions of other teams in varying functions. Help to create an atmosphere of creativity and innovation.
- Chart a self-improvement course. Brand yourself as a “self-starter”. Don’t wait for others to suggest training and development opportunities — always have a list on your radar. Stay alert for development opportunities that will make an impact on your career path and prepare you for the next steps. Don’t ignore the basics (presentation skills, for example), as they are career building blocks.