Have you looked in the mirror lately and really asked yourself, “Who am I?” Did you like your answer? Is it consistent with your efforts to become who you want to be? Does it match up to how others would answer that same question about you? What is said is indeed your professional brand. And like it or not, you are primarily defined by the workplace perception of others. No doubt you can influence that perception, but it’s much more common each day to take a hit to your brand than it is to gain favor or build your brand.
And each hit can last for a long time. Each ding gets stuck in people’s minds and it comes out their mouths. It’s not often that you hear about the good things people do, but people are quick to point out flaws. So, if you’re stuck in the middle, it’s time to actively manage your brand, influence those perceptions and get people thinking less about who you are and more about who you want to be. Rebuilding or repairing your professional brand is not for the thin-skinned … but can be done.
It, like any home improvement project, starts with you and a look around your current place. You have to be able to answer the question honestly of who you are and if you don’t like your answer, you need to get into a time and space where you can do some deep reflection and create a blueprint. Figure out who you want to be and start making small, conscientious changes to your new brand daily. “Mind the Gap” between the you of today (version 1.0) and the you of the near future (version 2.0) because there may be a large space there that to you until now has gone unnoticed. At the end of the day, you have to manage those perceptions before you get anyone else invested in your career aspirations.
Start poking around and learn what the “word on the street” is about you. How do you show up to other people? Ask colleagues close to you and knowledgeable of your brand to share how they would define what they see, feel, or hear about your brand in three words. Then decide if those three words are acceptable to you as a definition. If so, that’s great! If not … now is the time to put your brand under construction and start working on it by hand.
Staying unstuck from the middle is achieved by actively and consistently working on who you want to become. Your next career move may very well start by taking a good look in the mirror, and taking a few figurative trips to your favorite home (self) improvement store.