The Importance of Professional Brand and Reputation for Career Success

The Importance of Professional Brand and Reputation for Career Success by Antoinette Oglethorpe

In a previous blog post, I talked about how to clarify your personal brand. In that
post, I explained that your personal or professional brand is the promise you make to others of what it’s like to work with you – what you want them to think and believe about you. The opposite side of that same coin is your ‘reputation’. In other words, the perceptions people really have of what it’s like to work with you.

Do you know what your reputation is at work? Ideally, you want it to be aligned with your professional brand. So, how do you achieve that alignment? That’s what we’ll look at in this blog post.

Definition of Reputation

Reputation is defined as:

1. The beliefs or opinions that are generally held about someone or something.

2. A widespread belief that someone or something has a particular habit or

Perception is reality

A good reputation is hard to earn and easy to lose. And sadly, they are not always
based on reality. Your reputation is the sum of those things that people say about
you or associate with you. They will take the form of comments made about you by people who may never have met you. After all, you probably have clear views about what Richard Branson would be like to work with but have you met him? How many of you have met Richard Branson?

There are several reasons you may have a particular reputation. It could be because of:

  • A single powerful defining act – something you have done or have been involved in which sticks in the imagination
  • A particular way you have of behaving
  • Particular things you do or have done
  • A conspicuous way you have of dressing, acting, speaking
  • Particular qualities you may have
  • Your presence and charisma
  • Accoutrements and other things that are associated with you

Of course, it may be there is no association between yourself and anything in
particular. While people may know who you are, they may have no strong feelings
about you either way. In other words, you may have no reputation at all.

What reputation do you have?

What reputation do you have among people whose opinion matters to you? One way of finding out is to do an informal survey. You can either do it yourself or you can find someone you trust to carry it out for you. Essentially you want to find out the answers to the following questions:

  • Do people know who you are?
  • Do people know what you do?
  • What do they associate with you?
  • What words would they use to describe you?
  • Why do they see you as they do?
  • When they think of you or hear your name, what things/ideas/ thoughts jump into their minds?

Once you know how you are seen by others, you can find out whether the promise
you make (i.e. your Professional Brand) is what people experience (i.e. your
reputation). If not, you can decide on ways to close the gap.

Email requesting feedback

Here is an example of an email I sent asking for feedback:
You are all good friends of mine who have also known me in a work context.  Some of you have known me for ever and some of you have got to know me relatively recently but you all have opinions I value.  So my question is this.  When you think of the work Antoinette Oglethorpe (as opposed to the chardonnay swigging one!), what do you think of?  You don’t need to give a lengthy answer, I’d just be interested in the two or three words that come to mind.

If this all sounds too hard or you just don’t want to be put on the spot, don’t worry. 
But any thoughts you’re happy to share would be a great help. And here is a word cloud of the responses I received. I was pretty happy with that!

Word cloud of responses for The Importance of Professional Brand and Reputation for Career Success by Antoinette Ogelthorpe.

Managing your reputation

Today, it’s not only important to be good at what you do, but also to become visible to the right people in the right way. That doesn’t mean sucking up to your supervisor, though. The key is to position yourself as an expert.  That way, you will get connected to all the important events and activities in your organisation.  Your opinion will be sought after by the top people in your company. It’s about creating value for your company and proactively communicating that to others in your organisation.

There are three principles to follow:

1.  Do Things. Tell People.

Among all the noise, no one is going to notice the awesome things you’re doing—the things you care about—unless you share them.

If you keep a low profile and let your work speak for itself, you may indeed develop a good reputation among the people you work closely with. But that’s a limited number of people. Individuals in other departments or leaders many levels above you may not be aware of your contributions. And any staffing changes might disrupt the hard-fought reputational capital you’ve built. Your new supervisor or colleagues, lacking personal experience with you, may have no idea whether you’re any good.

Many people may feel uncomfortable talking about their accomplishments and promoting themselves. But there are other ways to show your areas of expertise when building a professional brand.

2.  Be helpful, not boastful

It’s not enough to be an expert or specialist in your field, you need to help others by sharing your knowledge.

For instance, you could volunteer to host a lunch-and-learn about a topic you’ve been researching.  You could start writing for the company newsletter, offer advice or respond to queries on the corporate intranet. Many professionals ignore these opportunities because they take them away from their “real work”. But senior people are almost always paying attention. They value those who transfer knowledge and share best practices.

Focus on things that add value: teaching, entertaining, engaging and inspiring.  Your reputation will grow from there, in line with how you see your professional brand.

3.  Manage the impression you make, don’t mask it.

We can become self-conscious about what we share of ourselves, where we share it, and with whom we share it with.

There’s a reason many of us post different things on LinkedIn than we do on Facebook. There’s a reason many people wear a different face to work than they do in other parts of their life.

Impression management is what you do to control and filter how others perceive your brand. It’s easy and understandable to default to privacy when it comes to your online presence. But this isn’t managing the impression you make; it’s masking it.

Instead, I encourage you to share your experiences in authentic ways to whatever extent you are comfortable with.

In my next blog post I’ll share four strategies you can use to raise your profile and develop your reputation in your organisation.

How can we help? Our Career Compass Workshop is designed to help employees take ownership for their career development and prepare effectively for career conversations with their managers. Providing the tools, techniques and templates needed to succeed.

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