Companies pay a lot of attention not only to how their products are rated but also to how their corporate brand is viewed as a whole. As more research in marketing of goods and services is done, it has become apparent that it is just as important to pay attention to how a corporation is perceived as it is to pay attention to the quality of the product or service it provides. The same is true for you at work. Of course, it is important to do good work, but it could be even more important how your brand is viewed.
When I think of brand, I am often reminded of Ivy League schools, such as Yale and Harvard. These schools have strong name recognition and are associated with high-quality education. Graduates of these universities are sought after in the job market because the trust in the rigor of the programs gives them credibility.
It’s equally important for you, as an individual, to create your own brand. What’s your brand? It’s the set of qualities that people remember about you after you leave the room. It’s more than your reputation, although your reputation at work is part of it.
Examples of what people might say that show awareness of a person’s brand are: “She knows her stuff,” “She’s a go-getter,” “She gets things done,” “She’s a team player.” That’s how people perceive that individual, and that becomes their identity at work. Your identity can make things easier or harder for you. For instance, would you be more likely to entrust a strategic project to someone about whom people say, “She delivers on her commitments,” or to someone whose brand is “She isn’t trustworthy” or “She is too political.”
It’s important to carefully manage your brand as you progress up the technical or leadership ladder, but it can be tricky. Say you do a great job on a project. If your manager, or your manager’s manager, doesn’t know about your contribution to the project, then your good work does nothing to build your brand. At the same time, you don’t want to be viewed as someone who is always talking about their accomplishments; you could be perceived as self-centered and not a team player. Just as companies are careful about their messaging, you should be careful about how your actions help or hurt you.
In the process of interviewing women and writing their stories, I learned quite a bit about managing one’s brand at work. For instance, Ana Pinczuk, Former President and General Manager of HPE PointNext Services, says that one of the important lessons she learned during her early years at Bell Labs was how to build a more professional persona. As she transitioned from a college student to a professional, she needed to establish herself as a serious person. Being intentional about her brand and taking on a bit of gravitas paid off for her.
On career development in general, Ana’s advice is to “think two jobs ahead” and to be conscious of your journey. “One of the fundamental things you need to do is to know where you are and where you are perceived to be in your career—and then the journey is the difference. Understand your priorities so that you know how much you’re willing to sacrifice, and understand where your brand is relative to the job that you want, and bridge that gap.”
Establishing and maintaining a good brand is a lot of work. It also requires a lot of self-awareness. One of the first steps is to get what’s called “360-degree feedback.” Survey the people who report to you and your peer colleagues, as well as people outside of your direct chain of command. Find out what they perceive to be your strengths and weaknesses. It can be painful to get that feedback, but if you take the feedback and think about how you are viewed presently versus how you want to be viewed in the future, you can start to come up with actionable items on how to build your brand to further your career.
I think when women manage their brand well at work they can be more successful, and they find that it becomes easier to navigate the labyrinth. Consciously manage and build your brand, and the world becomes your oyster.
This extract, adapted from Nevertheless, She Persisted: True Stories Of Women Leaders In Tech by Pratima Rao Gluckman, is ©2018 and reproduced with permission from the author. www.pratimagluckman.com