Every individual is unique – we all have our own personal branding, but it is likely that we haven’t defined it, or developed it, into an element that assists us within our work environment.
Personal branding can influence your relationships with colleagues, will affect which clients you win or lose, and will determine the outcome of promotions or a new job.
It is time to take the reins of your personal branding and steer your legal career in the right direction…
• Understanding your Personal Brand
As individuals we are all different, have diverse talents, abilities and personalities. In order to appreciate yourself at greater depth, and gain insight into your unique personal branding there are a few basic questions you should answer:
1. What are you good at? – Are you naturally scientific or forensic? Does campaigning or activism come easily to you?
2. What drives you? – Do justice and fairness propel you into action? Or, are you driven by the possibility of high earnings?
3. What are your strengths? – Do you have a great ability to elucidate simply? Can you lead others? Have you an innate sense of mindfulness for others?
4. What is your reputation? – Are you known for your ability to meet tight deadlines? Or, taking time to help others? Are you frequently late? Do you return calls when you say?
5. What is your standard behaviour pattern? – Are you often short-tempered or rude? Can you maintain an unfailingly courteous demeanour at work whatever else is happening in your life?
To answer these questions you will need to be completely honest with yourself. Write them down and consider them over the course of a typical week. How do you instinctively react in certain situations? Are you being authentic and genuine?
Personal branding can be developed through self-assessment and judgement, and by exploring the best possible version of yourself.
However, branding is also about how you appear to others, what people feel about you, and what they think you stand for. Relying on your own perceptions of yourself can give an incomplete view of how others see you.
Ask colleagues, friends or family members that you trust, to give you feedback about how you come across to others. Ask them to give you an appraisal that is honest, supportive and constructive – don’t ask someone who may take the opportunity to rip you to shreds unless you’re sure your ego can handle it! But, likewise, don’t brush off what others say if you disagree with their assessment of you – people will see you differently depending upon their outlook.
Try to form a rounded, informed view of yourself from your own, and others perspectives, then really assess what has been said and put it to good use in creating your unique brand.
• Take Control of your Personal Brand
All law firms have a brand identity, and as lawyers our branding is often amalgamated with that of our firm. For example, if you are a lawyer based in London for a global firm you would be expected to convey a certain amount of prestige and power. Alongside this there is also the branding that is attached to the profession of lawyer; honesty, client-focused, respectable, and so on.
However, your personal branding should stand alongside this profession based branding, giving you a unique features that others can recognise.
To build a positive personal brand will take time and effort. You can control how others perceive you by monitoring your behaviour in certain settings and remaining mindful of your personal branding at all times. A negative experience with others will reflect negatively upon you and can be difficult to overcome; we all remember those colleagues who drink too much at work conferences, or behave badly in front of important clients before realising who they are. Take a look at some of the most famous lawyers, both current and in the past, and you will see that branding can make or break careers.
• Managing your Personal Image
Your image is the packaging for your personal branding. It should be consistent with the aspirations you have for your brand.
Consider what impression your image gives to clients and colleagues. Are you always well-dressed? Do you cut corners with your appearance when you think you can get away with it? What can others infer about you from your social media accounts?
Stay conscious that even in your private life your image can reflect upon your professional branding as you never know when you may meet a potential client.
• Maintaining your Brand
Good branding isn’t so much about moulding yourself to fit a perceived form, but more about utilising your existing strengths and positive attributes, then working to harness those into everyday activities until they become second nature in any situation.
By considering your natural personality, and playing to your strengths, you can become consistent in your behaviour and others will learn to look to you when this particular attribute is required. For example, if you are adept at diffusing highly tense situations you are more likely to be called upon in these type of circumstances.
• Applying your Branding
There are many things in life that are outside of our control; age, gender, family, and so on, however, there is something about our unique presence, or personal credibility, that gives each of us the ability to be an exceptional person, a one-of-a-kind.
Thorough understanding of your personal branding will highlight your beliefs, strengths and skills, all that’s left to do then is remain constant and true to yourself.
Your branding is worth the investment of time – it will stay with you throughout your career and lifetime, paying dividends if you give it the attention it deserves.