Are you a Mercedes or a Ford? Are you Katie Perry or Taylor Swift? An athlete or a couch surfer?
These are all descriptions that could describe you as a brand. We think of companies as brands. We’re exposed to them every day and the marketing companies for these brands spend millions on shaping how we perceive them.
You’re a brand too whether you like it or not. People have formed conclusions and expectations of how you look and behave based on how you’ve presented yourself to this point. We’re always marketing ourselves whether we’re aware of it or not. Let’s get more aware so you can be more conscious about consciously developing your brand. If you’re looking for work or wanting to grow in your career, understanding how to shape perceptions of you makes the difference between success and going nowhere. Unfortunately, people will make judgments about you before you even open your mouth.
Five things that determine how people see you:
Are you formal or casual? Colorful or muted? Stylish or dated? Pick a palette of colors that flatters your skin and develop a look that matches the position you aspire to. If you’re applying for a management job in finance, you have to dress formally and conservatively. Clothes should be unwrinkled and shoes shined. If you’re in a creative field then bright colors are consistent with the working environment and you can get away with a less crisp look.
Your physical appearance and how you move
Do you move confidently or are you slumped over? Stand up straight and walk with confidence with your head up. If you’re a tall person you have an advantage because taller people are perceived as leaders. If you’re shorter, project the appearance of tallness by standing up straight and carrying yourself with your head up and forward.
What you choose to talk about
Are you well read? Do you talk about your industry? What do you post on social media? Are you an interesting person? How aware are you of the community you live in and how involved are you in it? You want to be seen as one of the smart people in the room, not the person who only knows about the latest silly cat video.
How you speak and write
Do you enunciate clearly and use proper grammar? How many swear words populate your speech? How are your spelling and general communication skills?
The easiest thing to do is eliminate swear words from your everyday speech. Who’s going to get promoted, the person who sounds like an educated person or the person who sounds like a coarse high school dropout? This forces you to expand your vocabulary and be more descriptive. You’ll sound more intelligent and more interesting. Make this a game by putting a dollar in a savings jar every time you avoid using a swear word.
The immediate in-person impression
Eye contact, a smile and a firm handshake go a long way. These small actions create an immediate sense of friendliness and confidence. You have about ten seconds to make a first impression with someone, whether it’s a networking moment, meeting someone higher in the company or at a job interview.
Right Now Action:
Take a look at your wardrobe. Pick out at least five outfits that match your career aspirations. Don’t have any? Decide what you need to build one. For both men and women it may be a great looking jacket that can be worn with several other pieces.