Your personal brand (or your reputation) can be one of your most powerful professional assets. On the other hand, if you’re not careful, it can also be one of your biggest liabilities.
Your mother might have preached that “what other people think about you isn’t any of your concern,” but in the workplace, this couldn’t be further from the truth. How others view you has a direct impact on how they treat you and, ultimately, the opportunities they afford you.
If you want to grow your career, you should always stay attuned to how your brand is being perceived. That way, if you need to make adjustments, you can do so quickly—before you end up with a problem.
I recommend conducting a personal brand audit on a regular basis. Your goal is to gather specific feedback regarding how others are receiving you in the professional world. This isn’t about assessing the brand you’re trying to build for yourself (your intention); it’s about evaluating the brand others are actually experiencing from you (the results). The two can be very different, and when they are, you have some work to do.
Conducting a personal brand audit is simple. Here are three activities to get you started.
1) Evaluate Feedback
Most professionals received feedback in written form at least once a year via a performance review. This can be a very helpful way of assessing your brand. Additionally, any other documented feedback you’ve received can also be included—whether it’s a letter of praise from a client or an appreciative email sent from a colleague.
Review these items and take note of the words people use to describe you. These terms define your personal brand as perceived by these individuals. Do you feel the words are accurate? Do they draw the picture you were hoping to create? Do they identify the best you have to offer? If not, ask yourself why. What words would you rather see in the future?
2) Ask for 5 Descriptors
In addition to the formal feedback you’ve received, you can also ask for more informal feedback from trusted professional contacts. Ask them to share with you the 5 words they would use to describe you. Be sure to let them know you want an honest list—not a list of words they think you want to hear.
Again, look at the list as a reflection of your brand. Which words feel like a match and which ones feel misaligned? If any seem particularly surprising, you might want to inquire with your contacts about why they selected that word. You may discover something new about how others are interpreting your presence.
3) Assess How Others Are Behaving Towards You
Finally, remember that your brand impacts how others behave towards you, so look at the interactions you’re having and see what you can learn. Are you getting the kinds of projects you want to be involved in? Are you being asked to share your thoughts and ideas as often as you’d like? Are you being treated with respect? Are your contributions valued? Do people listen when you talk?
These are all signs of how others perceive your brand—who you are, what you do and what you stand for. If you don’t like what you’re experiencing, try to figure out what perceptions have been created and how it happened. You may need to make some changes if you want different results.
Remember: Your brand appears in everything you do. In order for people to really believe in your brand, you must be consistent in demonstrating it. If you want to be seen as a leader (and treated like one) for example, you have to show leadership in all aspects of your work and character.
Whatever brand you’re trying to build, recognize that people interpret things differently. Don’t expect that everyone will immediately understand your brand the way you want them to. Conducting this type of audit regularly will help you identify problems early so you can make improvements in how you demonstrate your brand when needed.