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Career Success - Building Your Personal Success Brand

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Linda M. Lopeke photoSuccessful professionals know skills and talent are not enough. It's all about visibility, credibility, strategic positioning, and self-marketing. In other words, in today's competitive workplace, it's a "brand you" day.

Regardless of where you work, what you do, when you started making your mark and why you chose the industry and role you are in, how you brand yourself is going to make or break your career success. Think of the job market as a "free agency" system. You're only as good as your last season so you want make sure your track record reads MVP.

Everyone can do this. Most people don't or won't. However, if you want to be paid more, you have to do everything in your power to be seen as being worth more. It's that simple.

What is a personal success brand?

In a nutshell, it's the promise of value your company will receive when they decide to hire you and, over time, keep you on the team.

Anyone can put themselves in expensive clothes, power up a top-of-the-line laptop, and craft (or pay someone else to craft) a slick résumé. Your personal success brand is more than that. It's what distinguishes you as being better than all the fancy packaging money can buy. It's what you stand for. It's who you are at your core. All the time. Not just when it suits your mood or is convenient. It's what defines you outside of your professional role and job description. Branding is what makes you stand out from the herd.

How do you create a personal brand?

Can you speak your unique value proposition in two sentences or less? Successful people can do that. Sure, they might have had to spend a day or two writing it all out, editing it down and honing the message. But they make the time to do that important work. And when opportunity presents itself, they are prepared and ready.

You can do it too. The easiest way to start is to write up what you've done lately to stand out – yesterday, this week, last month. Make a list of your professional assets. Note the words you think your co-workers would use to describe you if they were asked to prepare a one-sheet listing your unique features and benefits as a member of the team or your functional business unit. What are you known for? What is your reputation? Your company can pick anyone they want for project x; why should/would they pick you?

Start by identifying the qualities or characteristics that distinguish you from your competitors and colleagues. What have you done lately - this week - to make yourself stand out? What would your friends, family and co-workers say is your greatest and clearest strength? What is your most noteworthy personal trait?

What do you want to be known for?

The next step takes the question further. If all of the above represent "you" today, what have you done to market yourself in a way that capitalizes on it? At the end of the day, what do you want to be famous for? What is the legacy you plan to leave behind you?

What are you doing right now to enhance your reputation and visibility? Does your personal appearance and grooming speak to your professional success or does it say "not ready to move ahead?" Rightly or wrongly, we are immediately judged by our appearance and we are always on stage. Make sure your "look" is consistent from day to day. Dress for the job you want, not the job you have. It also means standing and sitting tall, making eye contact when you speak to others, and minding your manners.

Do you have a polished consistent "signature" going out on all email? Do you have an uplifting, concise and clearly delivered voicemail message? A well organized office? A memorable and good-looking business card? Do you use distinctive stationery for your business correspondence and networking notecards? Are your project materials always packaged professionally? Status reports delivered on time? Are your presentations clear and thoughtfully compiled? Do you express yourself clearly and concisely when speaking? Are you seen as a person of action? Of ideas? Are you a problem-solver or a problem-maker?

How are you creating visibility?

Taking on extra work or projects is definitely one way to get noticed and expand your reach and impact. It always helps to have others singing your praises. And there's plenty you can do outside of the company to increase your standing as a serious, "on-the-move and going-places" professional. Accepting training assignments inside or outside of the organization creates visibility while enhancing your professional reputation.

If you prefer an enhancement with less people contact, there are contributions you can make through writing and design. They don't have to be worthy of major media attention to serve you well. Are you building an online presence? Volunteering where it counts? (There are many outlets for contribution within your own organization and many causes championed by your senior executives you could be supporting too.)

If you'd rather talk than teach or write, there are conference panels and other roles that can put you in the spotlight at any level that fits your comfort zone. The important thing is to put yourself out there so people can see you and become familiar with your name and way of working. Always work toward building your credibility, internally and externally. How you dress, speak, write, interact and follow-up tells a story about you. When promoting "brand you", you want it to be a success story. Style with substance is your goal. Packaging counts but it's meaningless if there's nothing behind it.

What are you doing to enhance credibility?

Are you keeping up with technology? Consciously building your personal relationships and professional network? Getting comfortable with your reputational power? Expanding your circles of influence? If not, how will you generate "buzz" for your work, skills, and abilities? A good part of building your success brand relies on "word-of-mouth" marketing. Don't lock into your current job role; it automatically limits your possibilities.

Additionally, you must know when, where and how to flex your power muscles. Information is power, but first you have to acquire it and then you need to know when and how to use it. (Remember, your influential and reputational power is mostly a matter of perception but you always control it.)

One way you do that is in the projects you are offered and work on. Don't settle for the easy assignments. Take the ones that stretch your comfort zone, expand your skills and add incrementally to your base of accomplishments. Build your project portfolio over time with success stories you were part of creating and leading. The person who evolves is the one who survives. Track your results and put them in that marketing brochure called your resume. Better yet, dump the term resume and start thinking of it as your "professional profile" designed to sell you as an appreciating asset not as an expense.

Learn to put yourself first and invest in your own future by putting every effort you can into building your personal success brand. The job market will reward you for that. Be known for the company you keep. What's good for you is great for the company. Always keep your pulse on the market and your eye on your marketability.

Feedback is the breakfast of champions!

Seek feedback on your performance, not just from the boss but also from those with whom you interact and where you've made an impact. It's the only way to have an accurate reading of your worth on the open market and to make sure you're always in a strong bargaining position for leveraging what you've done in a way that gets you what you want and where you want to go.

Regularly monitor your 4 most important metrics: your relationships, your professional expertise, your personal vision, and your business smarts. Stop worrying about finding the single best or right path to success (there isn't one) and focus instead on making sure you are on one and blazing a trail.

Your career can be anything you want it to be. Don't put yourself in the trap of seeing only one way up the ladder; the ladder doesn't exist anymore. Instead, concentrate on showing your progression. How you've expanded your reach. How you've grown your business knowledge and professional expertise. Know what you are working for and stay true to it. Review this regularly. People change. So will you. It's how you build your brand.

Get 30 free career tips from our Success Secrets audio series at

Career advancement expert and mentor Linda M. Lopeke is a leading authority on how to succeed on the 21st century workplace and the creator of SMARTSTART Mentoring Programs: Success-to-go for people working @ the speed of life!

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