What's the best way to succeed in the world of business? One answer to that is to invest in your personal branding.
Of course, the concept of personal branding has been around for a while; management guru Tom Peters discussed the subject in a 1996 article. But in these uncertain employment conditions, it could be especially useful – not least in getting ahead of rivals who don't know about it.
So what is personal branding? In a nutshell, it's about thinking of yourself as a corporation, and improving your self-packaging along the lines a company might follow.
For example, a company has products or services to sell. In the same way, you have skills, behaviours and values.
You can (and should) update your products by continuing to match them to what employers want. This improves your brand and helps you to stay marketable.
The idea behind personal branding is that everything you do at work makes an impression. If that's so, isn't it only sensible to make that impression as favourable as possible? After all, the way employers, managers and rivals perceive you is vital.
We could easily write this whole newsletter about personal branding; the subject is being researched and updated constantly. But let's just look at the topic of marketing communications.
The way a company markets itself is essential. Other things being equal, the more successfully marketed companies win out over those who don't promote themselves effectively.
In the same way, investing in your own marketing communications can pay big dividends.
For an individual, these come down to four core areas, and four lesser but still significant ones.
The four key areas are your verbal skills (what you say and how you say it); your listening skills; your writing skills; and your technical skills. Each of these has a tremendous impact on how the rest of the world views you.
The four secondary areas are your appearance (personal grooming, cleanliness, dress, etc); your social skills; your body language; and your emotional maturity (especially in times of stress).
It's not hard to see how important these are: and in many ways, they are more important than your qualifications.
An employer recently interviewed around 70 graduates for several posts he had to fill. On paper, they were all excellent candidates. But when it came to the interviews, a different story emerged. Many of them arrived late or dressed inappropriately. Only three of them greeted him by shaking his hand: the rest just "ambled in". It's not hard to imagine what that boss's impressions were of most of these hopefuls!
This might sound like an extreme case, but similar instances can be seen in offices and workplaces every day.
Putting some time and effort into improving any weaknesses you have in these eight areas could reap big rewards. Remember: you can't change the fact that everything you do will make an impression, but you can improve the impression you make.