Own Your Professional Brand with Thoughtful Descriptors

I am really proud to partner on this post with Quintessential Careers for their Job Action Day 2012 resources. 

What are the terms you would use to describe yourself as a professional – or, more specifically, what are the terms you hope people associate with you as a professional?

If you’re like most of us, the terms you think of fall within a core set  that includes things like “good communicator,” and “team player,” and “dependable.”

But here’s the problem: we don’t spend nearly enough time thinking about the descriptive terms associated with our professional brand and acting to reinforce and communicate them accordingly.

The result? You lose control of your brand’s message.

We Describe Everyone…

Whether we like it or not, people who encounter us every day are assigning little descriptive phrases to their impression of us.  And usually, there is only room in someone’s mind for 2-3 descriptors per person: “John is reliable and meticulous, Jane is flighty but dedicated.”

Don’t believe me? Next time you walk down the hall in your office or school, observe the first impressions that come to mind when you see people you know. I’d bet money what emerges initially are just some phrases and terms, no linear thought. Then, after that initial millisecond of recognition other narratives might start.

The funny thing is that we do this even with folks we don’t know – think about it the next time you walk through your supermarket.  I will go double or nothing those instantaneous descriptors pop up as you pass people in the aisles or check out: “Loud,” “Rich,” “good mom,” “mean mom,” “geeky,” “skater chic, etc.

Sure, it stinks that this happens – in our socially conscious world such immediate descriptive terms smack of stereotypes and judgment.  But the truth is that humans are programmed to do this, down to our most basic core.  It is part of our defense and survival mechanism: the ability to instantly assess and form a perception of someone helps us determine friend from foe, safe place from dangerous place, potential mate from “I’m going to pretend last night never happened.”

But in our modern world, this function doesn’t turn off when we’re not trying to gauge whether we should fight or flee – it is with us all the time.

And one unintended consequence is it directly impacts our professional brands.

…And Are Being Described By Everyone

If we aren’t clear on the descriptors we want associated with our brand, and by clear I mean could list them off without hesitation in a second, how can we hope other people will get the brand message?

As you continue on with your week, I encourage you to take some time to brainstorm the top three words you want associated with your brand – and then ask yourself if how you are behaving, dressing, speaking, doing supports and reinforces those words.

I’d love to hear some of your initial descriptor thoughts – share what you’re currently working with in the comments, and we can help each other refine and craft!

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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