What's Your Personal Brand at Work (and Should You Change It)?

What do people say about you at work when you’re not in the room? What are you known for?
Your career opportunities and advancement likely depend on this. I’m not talking about gossip. I’m talking about your personal and professional brand. You have one, whether you’ve cultivated it deliberately or not. Listen to learn more about what this means, and how to use it to your advantage.

In this episode of The Career Rx we’ll discuss:

  • Descriptions of some common professional brand traits
  • Understand the value your brand can bring to your organization
  • How to make sure your brand is positioning you for the right opportunities

Today we explore personal branding through the lens of the traditional workplace. All employees have a brand – you are your own business, in a sense. Put your professional brand to work (no pun intended) to advocate for the advancement, assignments, and opportunities that you really want!

In this Episode:

[3:00] What is personal branding for employed professionals?
[6:20] Some common archetypes and trait examples -both good and bad
[12:35] Answer this one question
[15:45] How to shift your branding for the advancement you want and deserve

Links and Resources:

The Branding Rx – 18 hours of CME, mastering digital strategies for advancing your career, building your business, and growing your professional brand

Industry Insider – 12 hours of CME, learn exactly how to land a rewarding nonclinical career without a new degree, special connections, prior experience, or a pay cut



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TRANSCRIPT: Episode 119 – What’s Your Personal Brand at Work (and Should You Change It)?

Hey, everybody, welcome back. This is another episode focused on something near and dear to my heart, your personal brand, your professional brand at work. I have talked about this on the podcast a lot, sort of in the early days, but not that much recently.

And it’s come up in some conversations around people getting promoted, people looking for sort of some career changes, and thinking about how to really leverage their professional brand at work. I actually know it’s timely because I get the subscription to the Harvard Business Review. And the, you know, the hard copy, the paper copy, and recently, on the cover was a conversation about, you know, what is your professional brand?

So this is still a hot topic. And I think, in a simple way, it’s sort of what are people saying about you at work when you’re not there? What are you known for?

What are you sort of the go to person, in your organization or in your broader community, it doesn’t necessarily need to be at work within your office or within your organization, if you’re also part of bigger societies or communities, you know, your reputation may be within the walls of your physical space, or it may be around the globe.

But it’s really important to have a solid idea of what your brand is. I think we’ve talked in the past about what you can do to cultivate the kind of brand that you want.

And that’s really important. So if you’re interested in that, go check out some of my earlier episodes on personal professional branding. A lot of the things that we’ve talked about in the past two do revolve a bit around social media, which has changed a lot, I think, in the past year, in 2022 – 2023.

Social media has changed tremendously, including the way in how organizations use it, as well as just what platforms are used, what kind of content is used. So some of that may be, you know, time for an update or something to evolve.

But I think the principles are still really the same in terms of how you can go about really establishing more awareness around your professional brand and, and having influence over it doesn’t have to be just passive.

But today I’m going to talk about some different ways to think about your existing brand, from that passive point of view. As if you were really just taking a survey of colleagues, what are people saying about you, when you’re not there?

If someone mentions your name, I don’t mean this in a gossipy way. I mean, if somebody says, Oh, do you know Marjorie Stiegler and somebody else’s? Oh, yeah. And then whatever comes out of their mouth after that, of what they think of me, or what they’ve heard of me, or what they know, of me, et cetera, that’s really what I’m talking about.

And I think it’s worth, you know, answering this question. I’m not, I’m not answering this specific question that came in, but it was something about really how almost all organizations are pyramid shaped, right, and you have only but if you are true leaders at the top, and, and how does a person, you know, get their way up there?

And so I’m not actually going to answer that question in this, but I wanted to talk about personal branding, sort of in that, from that lens.

So it might be that your personal brand is that you’re well known as a leader. And that could be because of a formal title, or it could just be because you are because of your presence, where you’re you have really strong presence, people really listen, when you speak, you’re highly influential, and you have you know, good ideas, and you know, how to get things done and, and that you do it from that leadership, perch, if you will.

Which is different, I think, from what I’m going to call individual contributor, and I mean, these both in really, really favorable ways. So some people at work are leaders by title, and some people are just inherent leaders, perhaps without title without overt authority, because people really look to them for direction, what should we do and take their recommendations and are influenced by their thoughts.

You may also be really, again, well known for executive presence and, and for that it might be more of a communication feature.

So it’s not so much that you’re a leader, but if we need to have a face a face of this company, or face of the project, or, you know, a face, in the media or face on social media, if we want to have somebody to speak for this team, who’s it going to be who can get up and really, you know, put forth that that confidence that that leadership quality, that executive presence from a communication point of view?

So that might be something that you’re well known for.

Another thing you may be well known for that is, is you know what I’m one of these sort of common brands is the person who can learn it, figure it out, get it done, make it happen. You’re a get things done kind of person. And it doesn’t matter.

You don’t need somebody else to show you. You’ll find out right, you’re that really industrious, really independent person who can be given any task, and they will figure it out on their own probably pretty quickly, like these kinds of people are held in extremely high esteem, even if not in a leadership position.

And, that work actually isn’t even necessarily viewed as leadership work, that’s individual work. But when you have that superstar who’s ultra dependable that you know, that you can give them the new thing, and they’ll go figure it out and get it done.

Or that you can put them in a new environment or with a new set of responsibilities, and just be extraordinarily confident that they can figure it out and make it happen. That is a kind of personal brand, that’s the sort of get things done brand.

Another variation on the personal brand is the sort of the connector or the bridge builder. This is the internal network, or the person who really knows everybody in the organization and outside the organization, so they know who to go to about stuff, right?

They know who can make things happen. And then so you could go to them with anything, and they would say to you, you know, who you should talk to, is so and so like, they have the they’ve got the go to, they’re almost like the organizational Rolodex, and they’re a bridge builder, a people connector, an internal networker, and that is an extremely powerful, powerful, professional brand to hold.

And not all of these are mutually exclusive, by the way, they’re just kind of ways of looking at, you know, are you known for any of these things can help you to figure out a little bit about your personal brand, being a connector and the bridge builder is really, really a fantastic and very, very powerful, professional brand to have.

Another version of the professional brand is sort of the detailed and dependable person, this is your analytically oriented, you know, sort of data oriented, detail oriented, ultra dependable person that you know is not going to let anything slip by, right?

That you can give them something that is complex, something that is high stakes, something that has a lot of regulatory importance or or otherwise, and that they will be able to sort that out solve those problems, get those things done.

It’s again, more of an individual type of work, it sort of falls within the get things done bucket but slightly different, because it’s really very data focused, detail oriented, sometimes to get things done person is figuring out problems, and thinking of different ideas.

And this one I think is a little bit more of, of looking at data, detailed analytics and not letting anything fall through that’s, that’s got to be done and got to be done right.

And by the way, these are my own mental constructs. So they’re not, you know, they’re, it’s not a list that you should like, you know, memorize or go by, it’s certainly not exhaustive.

It’s just when I think about people that I have worked with in the past, and I think about some of the brands that stand out to me, of how I would describe some of my, my colleagues, there, they’re falling within these buckets, and you may have different ones. So that’s great.

And then that leads me to another one, which is the sort of the Ideator. This is the big picture, innovative thinker, this is the thought partner, or the sort of idea architect.

Now sometimes this person is also a leader by title, because those things often go hand in hand. Or sometimes they are the connector, because they again, are they’re really good at sort of being a thought partner. And so a lot of people come to them for ideas and for bouncing things off or picking their brain, that kind of thing.

The Ideator you know, they can also be a person who gets the stuff done. But a lot of times we see these people are somewhat different folks who have these grand big ideas, they have a vision, and they can set that vision out and they can sort of, you know, spell out describe the direction, they’re not necessarily the down in the details, doer, and that’s fine.

And in fact, it’s good. Because most people aren’t really excellent at all of these things. They’re the best, just a few. So maybe that’s you, maybe you’re the Ideator. And you think you know, I have these great ideas, people come to me to be their thought partner, or they come to me to help think about Big Picture problems.

They don’t necessarily come to me to solve the details of those things. And that’s, that’s great again, because these are people of different strengths, right?

So it’s really good to know, what do people think of you is sort of in these different types of buckets, if you will.

And then the other one that I’ll put out there is sometimes there’s a person who is the confidant or the ultra mentor, they are the person that everyone goes to, to advent to get advice. But they are an information holder.

Sometimes this is also the connector. But this person is again, quite quite powerful, really, if they’re the person that that is trustworthy, that everyone feels safe and identifies as I’m going to go to this person with my problem, because I know that either I can trust them to listen, I can trust them to give me strong advice.

And oftentimes, what goes hand in hand with this is because they are so well connected and so well trusted, they end up with a very, very deep understanding of the organization and the organizational needs and the needs of the individuals within it.

And they’re often an incredible and very powerful behind the scenes influencer. And this person is often not actually in an overt leadership role, or, or the sort of executive presence, I mean, they may have some of these things.

But this is more of a behind the scenes hub. This is a person who sort of knows how the internal chess of the organization is played, and understands how to how to help everybody kind of get to the best solution possible by hearing what everyone’s needs are being that vault, that super trustworthy vault, and being able to give advice that people listen and act on whether those people are peers, whether they are junior, or whether they’re senior leaders, and so they can be really influential and how all these pieces move around.

So those are, you know, seven, eight different types of overarching brands, what do people think of you, some of them, again, are more leadership oriented, some of them are more individual, work oriented, all of them are extremely important.

And they’re not mutually exclusive. And some of them are fairly loose, some of them are really work, task oriented. Some of them are very much people oriented. And so you can kind of slice and dice this in a bunch of different ways.

Why am I bringing it up to you here, because when you think about what brings your value to an organization, some people think about this in terms of job security. Some people think about it in terms of advancement for additional opportunities, or what they might be able to grow and develop and do differently.

It’s important for you to know, which among these and perhaps others, are your brands, what are you known for today? What is the go to? If the boss had a problem, and they came to you with that problem? Which one of these types of things would it be? Or would you or your peers come to you with things?

And if so, which, which kinds of things, as we just talked about? Are they more or are they more, you know, can you help me solve this detailed data analytics problem? Can you help me? Who should I go talk to like, who can you help me connect with, in order to advance this project?

Is it you know, we want you to stand up at the faculty meeting and and present this idea, because we know that you have really good communication and presence people listen to you, like which of these things are you really, really important, because if you know which one or two or three are the main things that really kind of fall within your brand at work.

Then you will know how to leverage it in terms of really pulling, pulling that out for how you can, you know, advocate for yourself for the kind of advancement that you’re interested in, and how it aligns with the specific skills that you have.

And you can probably, then look to specific examples of how you’ve really been successful for your organization, and made a difference for your people or your company, by being really effective in one of those domains. So you can leverage it for that.

I hate the word job security, because I really think that’s much of an illusion, but you can leverage it for your sort of indispensability at work. And you can feel really confident that if there’s a change in your professional status at that organization, that you know how to describe the skills that you’re really going to bring to the table at the next place.

So they can kind of get a sense for where to fit you in. So that’s so you can leverage it, right? You got to know what you’re known for, so that you can leverage it. The other reason to know what you’re known for is so you can change it if you want to.

So today and I suppose now I am perhaps answering this person’s question of you know, how do you get to the top of that pyramid? If what you’re known for is the get things done, figure it out, I can make it happen.

That is super. It shows you know that you can kind of handle anything, it’s got its screams growth mindset, right? It’s really good one, but you’re not going to become the most senior leader just by demonstrating that you have to also probably develop a little bit have that at the ultra mentor kind of behind the scenes, influencer, understanding a little bit more about that or the connector, you don’t have to be all of these things.

But it is good to do what you’ve got to, you’ve got to move yourself from being really, really excellent at individual task work, to demonstrating some of these more people oriented things that make you not only very well suited for official leadership, and will make you very effective in that leadership. But importantly, make people think of you for those kinds of leadership opportunities.

That’s, again, what professional branding is all about. So if you’re spending all of your time, really focused on doing an excellent job at specific tasks, but your aspiration is to do something that is really more of an Ideator, or more of a thought partner, or more of an executive presence, and leadership type of role, then you have to start letting people see you in that role.

And in order to do that, you know, you may need to take on volunteer opportunities, you may want to just sort of change the way in which you present yourself. But you may want to also, perhaps take some courses or do some self development in order to get better at those things.

But you will not, you will not know you’ll get rave reviews and, and be really, really valued for your task oriented work. But that’s not what’s going to put you in a leadership role.

And you may not want it and I want to really emphasize here before I wrap up, you may not want it and not everybody needs to be it. That’s not the way the world goes around. Right, we need really excellent people who are really skilled at and enjoy doing some of these very complex task oriented things.

But again, if that’s how people think of you, and you want to be in a different type of role, then you have to start letting people think of you in a different way. And that requires your awareness of how people think of you.

And then you’re sort of active, solicited, soliciting, or seeking out opportunities to show up in these other ways, really starting to carve out time to seek these opportunities, and to demonstrate yourself in those ways.

So that you shift from you know, and you grow, right, like people already know, you’re really super at the task oriented types of things. And now they will see your executive presence and communication or your ability to really be that internal networker who knows all the people and knows how to make things happen influentially behind the scenes, or they start to see you in an authoritative role, like an actual leadership role in which you’re making decisions and setting a vision.

You’ve got to have people be able to view you in that way, in order to successfully land those kinds of positions. Because in the world of, of work, you know, your professional brand, perception really is reality, you might be quite capable of a lot of these other things.

But if people aren’t seeing it, and they aren’t thinking about you, when they think about those types of words, like it’s almost word association, do the words of leadership, or the words executive, or did they did those go together with you, if people aren’t thinking of you in that way.

Now, there are ways that you can change that, also, if they are thinking of you in that way. But that’s not really consistent with what you want to do, and how you want to spend your time. I mean, that’s equally valid to say, I really appreciate being thought of as this leader, but what I really like to do is be in the details doing the task work.

And so it might be more important to start shifting people’s perspective, perception of you towards that, I can learn anything and get the stuff done and get it done right and get it done fast. I get the stuff done. If that’s more of what you want.

And a lot of people do, let’s be honest, not everybody wants to be sitting at the top of whatever the food chain is. It comes with all kinds of additional challenges and opportunities and stresses and problems. So different things for different people. And that’s really what makes organizations very effective is for people to be building the right folks in the right roles and the right capacity.

And in order for that to be optimized. important for you to know. What are people saying about you and you’re not there? What is your perceived personal brand at work?

Because that is reality until you change it. So I hope that helps to think about how people are thinking about you and how, how and why it matters for your work depending upon what your goals are and what your aspirations are.

Be on the lookout. I’m going to do an episode soon on how to find out what people think about you. In a way that is. That’s really effective, really professional and will give you a lot of insight as to how you’re being perceived, how you’re being received, what it feels like to work with you, because that kind of totally unfiltered feedback is really the only way we can improve.

So be on the lookout for that, it is coming next. It’s obviously quite related to this, but I hope that helps you to start to think about why it’s important.

Thanks for joining me on today’s episode. Bye for now

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