Personal branding and professional identity will be one of the most valuable considerations for anyone undertaking a career transition during or after the pandemic. How can companies support departing or migrating staff to thrive in the ‘new normal’? Mandy Murphy, Coach with Transition Peak, offers some valuable insights for you to share.
Personal branding in the time of Covid
Studies show that dramatic crises have a major influence on our sense of identity and COVID-19 is no different. Our personal identity is woven from a variety of ideals like strands on a rope. For example, our identity in relationships, as a husband/wife/partner/friends, in the identity of our health and fitness, our political affiliations, our social connections, and the type of work we do. Our professional identity is a self-concept, formed from a set of beliefs, values, skills, motives and experiences. Therefore it can only be defined by oneself and evolve based on experiences and growth. It will not be surprising that the events of last year can challenge our pre-pandemic identity, the way we work and who we connect with, how we connect with them.
The pandemic forced us out of our comfort zones and disrupted our ‘normal’ routines and working arrangements like never before. For many, it challenged a sense of belonging, re-examining the value of what they do. Furthermore, there are those experiencing a new-found sense of autonomy, working from home. The shift has upended traditional hierarchies in the workplace. As a result, we change how we think about the world of work, how we see ourselves in that world, how our peers, managers or team members experience us. Now as we slowly ease ourselves out of lockdown, connect with familiar routines or set new ones, we have an opportunity to review and define our personal brand and professional identity.
Your personal brand already exists, even if you do not think about it. The most asked question in job interviews now is ‘tell me about you/yourself?’ Knowing and understanding your own personal brand will not only help you nail this question but also close the gap between who you think you are and how others see as you.
Personal branding matters because people make judgements all the time, for example about your communication, your appearance, even your zoom background. It’s a key factor in whether opportunities come your way, if people want to work with you or buy your products or services. Also, for yourself, having a strong sense of self will help you make useful choices in your career, build on your strengths and bolster qualities that will help you achieve your goals/ambitions.
Three strategies for defining your personal branding
1. Know yourself
You may have considered your skills and strengths before and feel you have a good sense of these. However, there is value in comparing your previous understanding with how things might be after the last 12 months. Do you have new skills and behaviours that have surfaced recently? Reflect on how you coped during lockdown, which specific skills and strengths served you well during this time. For example, perhaps you were good at rationalising stressful situations, organising tasks or people when it felt a bit chaotic, or acted as a good sounding board for others. Conversely, was there anything that challenged your values or caused you to need support? How did you respond in these situations? What were the things that kept you going over the last year, and what were your coping mechanisms? What was important to you over the last year? Importantly, do these answers align with your existing values, or have you discovered something new?
By exploring these questions, you can shed more light on hidden capabilities, strengths and challenges that you may not have realised before.
2. Be yourself
Next, observe how these changes show up in what you do. We are conditioned to blend in with the crowd and ‘find our tribe’ as an ancestral survival tactic. We try to be more like the people in the tribe where we want to fit in. However, this not only makes our individuality disappear but we are more accountable to others, what they want and what we think are their expectations. We often get stuck here, living someone else’s perception of us, rather than being ourselves.
How do the components of you show up in what you do? Start by being who you are naturally. Take a step back from situations and people who don’t bring out the best in you and reflect on how you want to be in these situations. Do more of what you are good at and focus on what you want to be. After reflecting on your own drivers, strengths and attitudes you can use that understanding to reach your goals more effectively. Trust yourself to benefit others in a way that helps you thrive. By being your authentic self, you can perform at your best and unravel more of your potential that way. To quote Shakespeare, “to thine own self be true”.
3. Show up
How do you connect with your network? How does your personal brand get noticed? These questions make the introvert in us shudder. However, it is important to consider whether people know how to work with you, who you are and even what you do. Generally, we tend to be careful about how we present ourselves. For example, we might behave in a way that conforms to standards we think are expected of us. Or we might dumb down our achievements, strengths, or wisdom to avoid being seen to have an oversized ego.
We are seen, whether we openly do it or not, and if you want to have the correct version of yourself out there, then being more purposeful about how you show up will be important. Sharing and showing up authentically not only benefits your wellbeing but also strengthens your relationships and supports achievement in your work and life goals.
Start with sharing what you are passionate about. Think of the best platforms to share this, whether it is locally in your team, peer networks, social media, blog posts. Contribute in meetings, share your thoughts and insights. I often refer to this as pulling up a chair and leaning into the group. You don’t have to stand on the chair, or make a big announcement, just lean in, listen, observe the group and then give your perspective. Think about the expertise you have that could be helpful to others. Be you, bring those strengths and qualities to the table, with authenticity. If you don’t know what to contribute, ask how you can contribute. Often by showing up in an authentic way you can deepen your connections, build a stronger sense of self and tighten the strands in your metaphorical identity rope.
Personal branding is a key element of ‘Self-Analysis’, a module in the Transition Peak Transition Program. If you have employees who need outplacement support, or who are going through a period of career transition, this Program may be very useful to them. Please get in touch if you’d like to chat about how we can help.