How "authentic" to be at work

“Branding” is not just for businesses.

In this social media world, we all have a “personal brand” too, whether we like it or not.

The worst thing we can do is leave this to chance: let it be created by default.

Instead, we need to take ownership of our brand, and take action to define it as we would like it to be.

This could be seen to be at odds with being “authentic”, which is perceived as the only good way to be at the moment.

But being authentic is only useful up to a point. We don’t tell every client when we’ve had an argument with our husband; we don’t tell our boss that we’re a bit tired today because we went out last night. That level of “authenticity” does not support a successful career.

So the question is not whether to be authentic; it is instead how “authentic” to be in your personal brand.

This article sets out four perspectives to consider when defining your personal brand.

1. Consider your industry and your workplace

A barrister I heard speak recently said that it took her years to confess to having children - such a thing was considered a hindrance to a successful career at the bar at that time, so was best not mentioned.

But if you sell children’s clothes, having children is an advantage to your work.

When I worked in the National Crime Agency, I had a reputation for being tough.

As a much younger woman with no background in the world of law enforcement, this was not only helpful, but crucial: I needed that reputation to get seen and heard.

So the first step is to consider your particular industry, and your particular workplace.

What kind of reputation do the senior people that you respect have? What kind of reputation will help you progress?

Clarify this to yourself, and write it down.

2. Consider how someone with that reputation would act.

So, if you want a reputation for being decisive, you can’t take three days to answer an email asking for a simple decision.

If you want a reputation for being a good manager, you need to behave like one: care about your staff, make sure you set them effective goal, listen to their feedback, help them progress.

You can’t just say, “I want to be seen as X”. You become seen as X because of the things you do.

So what are those things?

3. Consider your personal skills

What are you good at? Which skills do you have that you think will help propel you forward in your career? These should be the foundation of your reputation.

It is much better to have a reputation for the things we are good at than for the things we are bad at.

And it is easy to achieve: if you are good at something, keep doing it. Get better at it. Take every opportunity to demonstrate your ability.

Having a reputation for being excellent at something can only enhance your career.

Once you have done this thinking, you will have three different perspectives on the personal brand you might want to have:

  • from what works in your industry or organisation;

  • from how you behave daily;

  • and from your personal skillset.

Add these together, and use them to define “work you”.

In marketing they talk about an Ideal Customer Avatar - you can use the same process to define your Ideal Work Reputation.

“I am xxx, and I want to be known as yyy, because this is considered important in the industry I am in, and I am good at it. What that means on a daily basis is that I do xxx.”

Be granular: break it down so your behaviours that will support the creation of this reputation are clear.

And then finally:

4. Consider the “authentic” you

Does the person you’ve defined feel like you? Does it fit with your personal values?

You will never be able to create a reputation successfully if it doesn’t “fit” with you at all.

It can reflect a particular aspect of you; it can become a particular “work” side of your personality; but it needs to sit comfortably.

That is where your authenticity can shine through.

All that’s left to be done: put this into practice, and reap the rewards!

Consistency will be the key.

As Warren Buffett said:

One final consideration: there can be an advantage to standing out.

I became well-known in the National Crime Agency because I was different:

  • I was one of very few women at my grade

  • I wore black dresses rather than suits

  • I drank wine rather than pints

  • and I didn’t attempt to look or behave like a typical law enforcement officer.

But I did embody the important characteristics for success in that organisation:

  • I took tough decisions

  • I wasn’t intimidated by anyone

  • and I worked hard to make a difference.

So I stood out - but also fitted in.

So don’t be afraid to be different - as long as it is in a way that is ultimately helpful to your reputation.

Good luck! xx

p.s. If you'd like to see my video of this article, click here!

p.p.s. And if you'd like to watch my recent webinar which includes this advice on "personal brand" alongside advice on your network and your skills, click here.

p.p.p.s. Prices are going up! Last chance to book 6 sessions of 1:1 coaching at my old price of £495 - get in touch by the end of May: