Every individual has a brand that incorporates both their personal and professional image, background, and identity. It is important to cultivate a positive brand amongst your colleagues and your industry, as perception often becomes reality.
Branding is done both online and offline. Your online brand consists of your LinkedIn and other social media profiles, membership in online forums, blogs, etc. These are often emphasized today, perhaps overmuch. As people become more concerned about their online image, they tend to ignore the ways in which they must present themselves and their brand when they meet people in person. This offline image, which will be very much in evidence when you attend industry functions or job interviews, must be developed just as much, if not more.
To generate a positive offline image at business and social functions, use the following techniques:
Attire: You must dress properly and age appropriately for whatever business or social setting you are in. These days, the boundaries of social, personal, and business are often blurred. However, the simple rule to follow is that your attire should be reflective of your surroundings, the occasion, and most importantly, your image. A wardrobe malfunction is an event that will likely stay with you for a long time, especially when you are noticeable, so dress conservatively.
Start a conversation: Make an effort to break the ice rather than standing around waiting for people to come to you. When you meet people, engage them with professional inquiries or discuss industry news at first, focusing on what you might have in common. Keep the conversation going and stay professional until you are comfortable and can exchange more direct and personal anecdotes.
Volunteer: This is an important way to give back to your network and open up opportunities to be involved in professional forums and industry bodies to demonstrate your expertise. Volunteer to give lectures, mentor students, host webinars, write columns, etc. for relevant business groups.
Extend your value: Make yourself available for discussions outside of business hours. Share your skills with people and illustrate what you can do for them, so they in turn think of what they can do for you.
Be consistent (in a good way): What do you want to be known for? Being late all the time? It is important to stay confident and focus on maintaining positive characteristics (punctuality, reliability, approachability, etc.).
Coaching: Some professionals hire coaches to help them build and sustain their brand. Though it’s not required, a coach can provide useful insights, including strategies to employ and areas you may have overlooked. And they offer a critical eye to point out inconsistencies.
Personal image is all about making a positive impression and the best way to make a lasting impression is to wear a big smile, make people feel good, enjoy a healthy sense of humor, and most importantly, say what you mean and mean what you. Offline branding is an art and a skill and to avoid tarnishing your personal brand (since it can be so difficult to redeem), you must take all the necessary precautions to create a positive image and consistently reinforce it throughout your professional career.