Personal branding is a topic I’m personally passionate about, and one that’s very relevant in today’s business world—especially for assistants. Your role requires a certain professional presence after all. You need others to respect you and view you as a valuable contributor. Without the power of a positive personal brand, it’s much harder to get things done, influence others, and achieve success.
Many people wonder if it’s ever too late to change your personal brand. Here’s the good news: No, in my opinion, it’s never too late. However, (here’s the bad news) it’s a process that takes significant effort and time.
You see, branding is all about perceptions. Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon, once said that your personal brand is “what people say about you when you’re not in the room.” In short, it’s about how others perceive you, which ultimately impacts how they treat you and the opportunities they afford you now and in the future.
We all know that perceptions can be inaccurate. People can see you one way when, in reality, you’re actually something entirely different. Once they have an idea in their mind, it’s hard to shake—but not impossible.
Think of a business that has undergone a major rebranding in the past. Perhaps they wanted to appeal to a new audience or shake a bad reputation. Any company that has ever rebranded knows how difficult it can be. Still, sometimes it simply has to be done.
I once worked with an assistant who had struggled enormously in the role for about a year before she finally broke through and gained confidence in her abilities. But by then, people already had an image of who she was. They viewed her as incompetent and ineffective—regardless of the fact that she was doing quite well presently. As a result, she found that her authority was constantly undermined, her requests sidelined, and her interactions full of condescension.
She had a major project ahead of her to revise her personal brand. To do it, I recommended a three-step process. If you’re struggling with a brand that doesn’t serve you, this is the same process you should follow.
Start by acknowledging to yourself that you have a branding problem. If there were specific situations or actions that led up to this, spend some time evaluating your part in things.
It may also be useful to discuss the situation with others too. For example, the assistant I worked with spoke to her manager and said something like this: “I realize that I struggled for a while when I was first getting my feet wet here. I’m feeling much more confident these days.”
Her manager was happy to hear this and said that he had, indeed, noticed her progress.
Sometimes, I think people are afraid of publicly acknowledging their past struggles. But when you do so from hindsight, you can often help others see how far you’ve come. You can snap them out of their pattern of thinking and help them re-evaluate what they’re seeing now.
Remember that actions speak louder than words. If you want to be treated differently, you have to behave differently.
If your personal brand is that you’re frantic and disorganized, you have to stop that behavior before anyone will stop thinking of you that way. You can’t simply say, “Oh, that was the old me!” and expect others to believe you. You have to develop new, positive behaviors that project your new, positive brand.
Above all, you have to be consistent in your new behaviors. Doing something different once in a while is not enough to change perceptions.
If you want to upgrade your personal brand by elevating your wardrobe, for example, you can’t wear your nice suit on Monday and then bust out the jeans on Tuesday. People have short memories. It’s better to choose a brand you can commit to and stick it out.
Finally, it’s worthwhile noting that, once you have a personal brand that you believe serves you well in the workplace, you must do everything in your power to protect it. It’s much easier to keep a positive brand than to repair a damaged brand.
Chrissy Scivicque is a career coach and corporate trainer who believes that work can be a nourishing, enriching part of the life experience. Her website, EatYourCareer.com, is devoted to that mission. You’re invited to join the FREE Eat Your Career Resource Library where you’ll gain immediate access to dozens of tools to advance your professional skills and achieve career fulfillment.