Creating Trust in Your Professional Brand

Trust is such a funny thing – it can be earned or lost within the space of one gesture, one word, or one action.  It is something that once earned, requires reinforcement and reassurance; yet once lost is hard to reclaim.

I don’t think consciously about trust very much – like anyone, I have people I trust and people who I don’t really trust.  But, also like everyone, I tend to operate under the assumption that people generally trust me for one specific reason:

I understand the integrity or meaning behind my words, actions, and gestures and I believe that intrinsic meaning shines through.

But you know what they say about assumptions…

This trust train of thought was inspired by reading Chris Brogan’s blog post last week on why his book, Trust Agents (aff link), did well.  And while his post focuses on trust in the context of get-rich-quick schemes, it got me thinking about trust in the context of our individual professional brands.

Trust and Our Brands

When we apply for a job, ask for a promotion, or put ourselves out there for a new gig, we do so under the assumption that people can recognize not only our value but also our desire to do the best work we can (and I myself am making an assumption that because you are reading this site doing your best work is one of your goals).

We ask people to trust that we are who we say we are, and can do what are asking for an opportunity to do.

But in economic times like these, this kind of trust is more important – and more fragile – than ever, and companies just can’t take a risk when that trust is not there with reinforcement.

Ironically, even though this kind of trust is made more important by our current job market, it is easier than ever in such conditions to remove ourselves from the personal responsibility it calls for.  If we don’t get the job, promotion, or gig, we chalk it up to the circumstances at large (“well, it’s to be expected in this job market”) instead of examining what we are doing – or not doing – to foster or deepen trust in those we are trying to serve.

Communicating Trust

Trust, or lack of it, can make or break our professional brands.  And it is made up by big things (nailing the client presentation) and the small things (logging onto the conference call on time).  But at its core, it can be boiled down to a few elemental principles…and how we are able to communicate them to our audience:

  • Commitment – making commitments and honoring them so people can anticipate what to expect from you (making deadlines, bringing tasks to completion, being where you say you’ll be when you said you’d be there)
  • Consistency – acting in the same manner in similar situations so people can anticipate what to expect from you (maintaining quality of product, level energy and tone, regular communication)
  • Transparency – honestly sharing where you are, what you need, or what hasn’t been done so people can anticipate what to expect from you (clear and regular project reporting, acknowledging mistakes, managing expectations)

Today, I ask you to think about these three elements when it comes to building trust in you and your professional brand and ask yourself:

  • Am I working in a way that reflects these three elements?
  • How am I communicating my work in these three elements to my target audience (recruiter, employer, client)?
  • What I am assuming people understand about me when it comes to trust?
  • How can I be more clear today about what I offer and why I should be trusted? What does that look like?

I will be thinking about these things along with you – my life has had a bit of “crazy” induced into it over the last year, and I realize I have assumed that you (my dear blog readership, the wonderful Uncommoners) have trusted that my lack of consistency, commitment, or transparency has been due to extenuating circumstances.  If you have, I greatly appreciate it. And if you have felt your trust in me waiver, I ask you for a little time to try and regain that trust.

To see a little bit about what I’ve been doing with my time away from the site over the last year, I invite you to pick up a copy of my new book, The Finch Effect (Jossey-Bass), and read about the role adaptation plays in the success of all our careers.

Now it’s your turn: What does trust in your professional brand mean to you?

Here’s to your Uncommon Life,

Written by Nacie Carson

Nacie Carson is a the author of The Finch Effect (Jossey-Bass), founder of The Life Uncommon, and CEO of Working Life Media, LLC.

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