Every action you take and every conversation you have plays its part in creating your reputation.
In my last blog I discussed how important it is to understand your personal brand, to communicate that brand clearly and to do so from the perspective of the people you want to meet, rather than from your own. I shared Simon Sinek's 'Golden Circle', as discussed by Jon Harrison in a talk earlier in the week, showing how to create your message based on why you do what you do and why that should be relevant to others.
Once you have crafted your personal brand, it's not then a simple matter of telling your network what you want to be known for. People don't normally create their own logos and advertising campaigns. Instead, your actions and your relationships will determine what people say about you.
During his presentation, Harrison shared the following diagram to illustrate the point.
Understanding how the past, present and future work together will help you to ensure that the message you have crafted reaches the right people.
People will look to your track record for evidence of what you excel at and, indeed, where you fall short. Look back to what you have done in the past and identify what fits with the reputation you are trying to create. And what could damage that reputation.
It may be the case that your past does not support the image you are now trying to convey. If that is the case you may need to take a longer-term view. Start doing today what you should have been doing yesterday and stop doing anything that may damage your credibility.
Ask yourself what people currently know you for. Does that fit your personal brand? If not, how can you demonstrate different qualities? We all know the adage that 'actions speak louder than words'; don't tell people what you excel at, show them. Understand that you probably won't be able to change your reputation overnight, you need to demonstrate strong qualities consistently to develop a reputation for being good in one area.
The strength of your network will be a key factor in determining how far your new reputation travels. Many people believe that if you keep your head down and do a good job, you'll be noticed. But that ignores the importance of strong relationships and inter-personal trust in developing champions for your cause.
Many large organisations now encourage the role of 'Sponsor' to help people progress their careers. Put simply, a sponsor will help their protégé progress their career by advocating for them in senior levels of an organisation.
It's a tremendous benefit to have someone in the upper echelons of your company fighting on your behalf and raising your profile for you. But, while finding a good sponsor is definitely worthy of consideration, you don't need a formal relationship for this to happen.
The stronger the relationships you develop with your peers and your bosses, the more chance that your reputation will spread. And you shouldn't just look to people in your own department. Get to know people across your organisation and across your industry. The broader your network, the more your presence can grow. As long as you build strong relationships with that network, rather than just connecting on LinkedIn.
A note of caution: this isn't a one way process. Don't just connect to people with a view to having them advocate on your behalf. They have to want to, which means that they feel that you are equally likely to support them and others in your network. Be as willing (if not more so) to give as to take.
We come back to where we started for the final piece of the jigsaw. Once you are demonstrating exactly what you are good at and have a network of people willing to talk about you, it's important to be clear about who you want to hear about you and why they would want to do so.
In other words, going back to my last blog, why are you relevant to them?
It's one thing for people higher up in your organisation to hear good things about you, but there is no impact if they don't see those qualities as something they need. What difference will you make to their role, their objectives? How will you help them overcome the hurdles in their way?
Be clear not just what you excel at but who should know and why. Help your network understand who they should be talking to about you and why. When most people ask their network for help finding a new role they tend to talk about why they want to work in that area. Be different and have a greater impact by talking about how you will benefit the person recruiting and how bringing you into their team will lead to better results. It's about them, not you.
Be clear about the reputation you want to create and then be proactive in making sure that what you do, the relationships you build and the message you share combine to elevate you to the next step in your career.