You've heard the old adage that you can’t judge a book by its cover, but in the world of work, all bets are off. First impressions count. With Spring upon us, it may be a good time for some Spring cleaning of your brand image.

Unfortunately, you only get one chance to make a first impression. And that’s true when you’re job searching, meeting a new manager, client, team member or networking. Like it or not, people are judged by their body language, tone of voice, communications skills, professionalism, grooming… and how they’re presented on social media.

Dreamstime
Source: Dreamstime

On the job, you're in contact with a wide range of people – including coworkers, managers, clients and key vendors. That’s why personal branding is so important – it often “arrives” before you do. It works the same way as corporate branding. Chances are before you put on that pair of Nike shoes, you have an expectation.

How you present yourself is not a one-time, fixed idea, but an ongoing series of impressions. Paying attention to how you present yourself can be life changing when it comes to a job search, promotion or even a casual meeting that could alter the future direction of your career.

Here are some tips to create and sustain the brand you want to attain:

Know Thyself

What exactly do you want to achieve? The answer to this question is different for everyone and depends on your core values, strengths and goals. Be realistic. If you’re an introvert, for instance, concentrate on what you do best – perhaps it’s your analytical thinking or ability to build strong one-on-one relationships with clients.

Keep your brand positively you

As Oscar Wilde put it, “Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.”  

It’s great to model your mentors – but not too closely. If senior management is big on red suspenders or red scarves, you don't have to be. Observe your company’s dress code, but champion your individuality to exude confidence. You don’t have become a fashion icon at work to dress with a little flair. And that can help make you feel empowered, while sending the right message.

Support the company’s brand

At the same time, be mindful of your employer’s brand. If your company strives to be conservative and follow tradition, this may not be the time or place to develop a “no-fear, edgy brand,” with a plan to blow up current practices. Take it down a notch and become known for creative ideas that blend with the company’s brand.

You don’t require a “Wow, that’s going to revolutionize everything!” impact to have a successful brand.

Get in the trenches

Pull up files of those recent performance reviews and consult trusted colleagues (the ones who will tell it to you straight) – to determine how you're perceived. You may decide to take your personal branding in an entirely different direction after you identify your real strengths and weaknesses.

Speak up

Spending time to develop your personal brand all goes to waste if you act like a wallflower at work. You don’t want people thinking, “She’s a real pro with our financials, but what’s her name again?” This may mean stepping out of your comfort zone and sharing your ideas openly in meetings.

Also have that elevator pitch ready when you network: who you are and what you're about – in 15 seconds or less. If you find this difficult, you may have some planning to do. Be ready at any time to promote your brand clearly and concisely, in two to three sentences.

Leverage social media

Think about your online presence. Keep your social media up to date and monitor your online presence via Google alerts. Take charge and post original ideas on industry blogs where you gradually build industry recognition.

Posting on your own blog and being active on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn also can lead to new contacts and clients. The process will help you stay current on trends, boosting your career advancement opportunities. As your personal brand evolves, over time, you may be recognized as the go-to person for seminars, webinars, panel discussions, or video blogs, for example.

Perfect that posture

It seems simple enough, but remind yourself to stand and sit straight. Your parents were right! It’s so simple, but what an impact it has on your image. You may have terrific jobs skills, but someone who slumps can be seen as less confident than someone who has great posture. It’s healthier for your body - and taking stretch breaks and brief walks to recharge will help.

Reinvent your personal brand as needed

To stay relevant, it’s a good idea to reinvent yourself now and then. We often have new interests, skills and passions that we want to pursue. That helps build out your skills arsenal – just take the time to map out your personal brand 2.0.

Maybe you were known as the go-to person for IT help in the office - but now have the ability to lead formal software training classes. Don’t wait for people to uncover your untapped talent. Be proactive in your new branding endeavor.

With the new season upon us, perhaps this is the time to accurately and positively project the latest "brand new you."

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