These days it's called "brand," but when you're not in business for yourself that might take some getting used to. We all have a personal brand, and by that I don't mean a pretty logo made from your initials, or a blog, or any one piece of the puzzle. A brand is defined as what people think of when they think of you. This one might take more brave than anything.
What People See
First, assess how people see you now. Begin to observe yourself from kind of an outside perspective in various situations - at lunch with a friend, in a meeting at work, on a weekend trip. Do you talk more than you listen? Do you appear confident of closed off? Do you dress simply or wildly, polished or haphazard? Take note of your voice, your body language, your words, your appearance, and people's reactions to you. If you're feeling super brave, ask some of your friends or coworkers to describe you in a paragraph, without the veil of flattery.
What You Want People to See
Is what you're learning from being a fly on your own wall what you would expect? Are people seeing you the way you imagined that you would be perceived? Spend a few minutes thinking/writing about how you want to be seen. I love to ask it this way, "What do I stand for?" This can be big and small. Some of my big ones read: "I stand for inspiring people to live their best lives with confidence, courage, and challenge. Fitness and wellness. Travel and adventure." And the list tapers down to things like iced coffee, lululemon, black/white/gray, messy hair, and some words I use in every day conversation. Basically what you're doing is creating a snapshot of all the things that make you, you.
Getting People to See What You Want Them to See
Here's the tricky part. Most importantly, it has to be authentic! If you just graduated college and are looking for your first job, being seen as a CEO is probably not in the realm of possibility - yet. But you can brand yourself a budding leader in business who may be CEO bound! If you're detail-oriented and plan-reliant, trying to appear as an easy-going, fly by the seat of your pants type may not be believable. (If you want to go wild and fly by the seat of your pants, fantastic. Just don't expect to be one thing and be seen as anything else.) This has to all come from deep within.
As with all things, start from the inside out: How you treat yourself, how you treat others, how you communicate (method and vocubulary), what you do in a day, what brands and activities you associate yourself with, who you spend time with, and then work your way into your body language, wardrobe and appearance. You can spend as much or as little time as you need to on any of these. You may need to give more attention to communicating more clearly and professionally, or your closet may be calling to you for a complete style overhaul.
One thing to keep in mind as you begin to make these changes today, it may take time for others to notice. A party girl can't show up in a new professional outfit to work and have everyone immediately forget her tequila shots last weekend. Changing today's usual burger and fries lunch for a salad won't automatically tell people that you're focused on health. This is more about creating a lifestyle that is tailored perfectly to you, and then living it.
Although it sounds like this is about what other people think, this is really for your benefit. When you're seen as the person you are, you'll have more hands helping you to get where you want to be. You'll have more friends who can dive into knowing and loving the real you. You'll have more satisfaction from your days of not putting on a show but knowing that being exactly who you are is just fine. Because, honestly, why would you want to be anyone else?
Thanks for all of the feedback this week on the Bring Your Brave series! This is a kind of super-succinct intro to my 8-Week Workshop. Want more? Get the details here!