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5 Steps to Building Your Personal Brand at Work

Emotional Intelligence moves the needle.

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Everyone wants a strong personal brand. The one where you walk into your office, the boardroom or a networking event and people think all the right things about you.

Ironically, it’s the more subtle things at work that contribute most to a great brand. And a lot of it has to do with emotional intelligence.

Of course your business skills play a key role in your brand. But all that can go to waste without emphasis on emotional intelligence and how you present yourself.

Here are some of the less obvious strategies that are equally important.

1. Your word

“You’re only as good as your word,” and that's a 24/7 commitment. One of the best ways to build your brand is to do what you promise. Positive comments about how you “crushed it,” were on time and on budget, get around quickly. And it’s always better to over-deliver than over-promise. Your brand and integrity precede you. While it takes a long time to build your brand, it can go south quickly when you break that trust.

Being reliable at the office is not something relegated to the new sales associate down the hall. It’s a living thing at every level of the org chart. Your brand transcends your job; it stretches to your network and industry. It is essential as you climb the ladder and lead others.

2. Your communication skills

Communications are the holy grail of emotional intelligence, a cornerstone of your brand (the way you interact and speak with others is core to how you're perceived).

Are you responsive to emails, texts and voice mails? When you’re swamped, do you just ignore incoming messages or do you let people know you’re busy, but will get back to them (and follow through)?

Consider how you sign off on emails and what you say on outgoing voice mail messages. You’re creating an impression and it should convey warmth. Pleasantries like “Please,” "Thank you!” and “Have a great afternoon!” count.

Take a few seconds before hitting “Send” on emails to conduct a “blanket of humanity.” If you’re about to let off some steam, take a deep breath and park your email in Drafts. Imagine you’re on the receiving end.

Haven’t we all regretted sending out a rushed note that later sounds a bit like gibberish? A clear, understandable message, sans typos, demonstrates you’re organized, professional and respectful; qualities everyone wants in their personal brand. In person, make good eye contact, stay focused and keep a good posture. All suggest you’re alert and interested.

3. Your attire

It’s nice to believe that how you dress doesn’t matter, but the way you present yourself relates to etiquette and respect, to some degree. Your industry (such as creative or high tech) is a factor, of course, but generally speaking, dressing “smart” won’t get you in trouble. Consider: Would you trust the financial adviser in torn shorts, a t-shirt and flip-flops, or the one in a nice blouse/shirt and blazer?

You can’t go wrong looking well-groomed and wearing nice accessories (great shoes, jewelry and belts can dress things up and give you many wardrobe options). They don’t have to be expensive to look great. And if you’re wearing t-shirts on casual day, err on those without questionable or controversial messages.

You can still be creative and colorful, and you certainly want to be yourself; but having a “sloppy” brand may be better left to rock stars. It’s always better to dress up than dress down versus what’s expected, if you want to get ahead, especially if you interface with clients. No one was ever accused of dressing “a little too professionally.”

4. Your network

Think about the people with whom you most often associate at work. Who do you hang with? That's part of your brand. Do you need to consider brushing up on your social skills to begin with? It's important to add here that you never want to become a social climber; those with the best brands treat everyone with equal respect.

Outside of work circles, it’s a little harder to build a brand, but so valuable to accelerating your career. In a LinkedIn global survey, about 80 percent said they consider professional networking to be important to career success. Stepping out of your comfort zone and networking, e.g., through social media, may not only enhance your current job and brand in ways you never knew. But it may also present new opportunities that could be life-changing.

5. Your authenticity

Finally, be genuine. If you’re out to impress, it will show. And what’s the point, anyway? Bernard M. Baruch said, “Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind.”

Show kindness to others. Sounds basic, but sometimes it can seem like a lost art when deadlines loom in a cell-centric world. Offer to help others when you can, and take an extra second to pay it forward.

It’s often the little things that have the most impact on the bigger you.

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