There’s really no reason, at this stage in my life/career, to worry about what my “brand” is. (When I hear the word, the image of Chuck Connors as the disgraced soldier in the really bad old-time TV show Branded always pops into my mind’s eye and ear.*)
And yet I am inevitably drawn to articles about defining your personal brand. (Perhaps part of my brand is that I’m like a metal shaving on the shop floor that can get sucked up if it’s anywhere within range of a magnet. Hmmmmm. Good thing it’s too late to worry about it.)
Thus I clicked right over to see what Peter Post had to say on the topic.
Peter Post, for those who don’t typically read advice columns, is the great-grandson of the great twentieth century manners doyenne, Emily Post. (Note to self: if you ever want to brand yourself as a columnist or expert, make sure that you have an illustrious ancestor whose name you can trade on. Not that all those Rogers, Trainors, Wolfs, and Folkers weren’t illustrious. Just not illustrious enough, I’m afraid.)
The importance of the perspective that another person has about you is one of two core concepts we teach at the beginning of most of our business etiquette seminars. (Source: Boston.)
And to think of all the time I wasted in seminars learning how to think out of the box, or think inside the box, to trust my colleagues enough to close my eyes and fall back in their arms, to build helicopters out of Tinker Toys, to structure a business plan, to give a better presentation.
Business etiquette would have been so much more fun!
Post it notes – sorry, couldn’t resist (and no, my personal brand would not be punster…) - that, when it comes to building your brand:
Basics matter. Think in terms of appearance, actions, and words.
I guess it’s not surprising that, given his lineage, Peter’s first mattering basic would be appearance. But given that, in this digital age, you’re often working virtually, and the person you’re face-timing with is probably not examining your nails, appearance matters less and less. But obviously, if you are working and/or interviewing in person, you do want to be neat, clean, and understated.
Post has, apparently, not spent a ton o’ time in the high tech workplace. While the marketing folks I’ve worked with don’t need advice on being neat – neat is how marketing rolls – a lot of the techies I know don’t really care about:
Clothing with no wrinkles, tears or holes and that fit well; shoes shined and in good repair. Well-groomed hair, hands, and nails.
And I suspect that the people who should be concerned about clean aren’t reading Peter Post:
No stains or odor on clothes. No odor on your body or your breath.
We are also advised to:
Err on the side of conservative dress rather than loud flashy colors or designs. Minimal or no perfumes or colognes.
Okay. It might be best not to show up for a job in a zoot suit or a muumuu, but doesn’t this kind of depend on the type of business? Creative types get to wear retro Hawaiian shirts and techies get to wear whatever they damned well please. Within reason: at one company I worked at, one fellow showed up in a rumpled pajama top with holes in it, and what appeared to be blood stains on the back. Ewwwww. I was friendly enough with this guy to ask him not to wear that particular PJ shirt again…
Peter keeps appearances up in his brand advice about actions: Don’t slouch. Look folks in the eye. Stop twitching.
Advice that’s bound to get a nervous brand wannabe quaking in her boots.
Finally, words matter. Maybe not as much as appearances, in terms of the real estate they’re given in Peter Post’s article. Still:
A word or expression that might seem innocuous to you could be offensive to the person you are trying to impress.
This bit of duh advice reminds me of a funny informational interview story that someone told me years ago.
My friend, who happens to be gay, was meeting with a man who struck my friend as straight. Not that it mattered, but my friend’s gaydar wasn’t going off.
As the interview was running down, the prospective manager leaned across the table and said, “Just between us girls…” Which, according to my friend, is a phrase that gay guys will facetiously use among themselves.
My friend got a good laugh out of it, that’s for sure.
Peter ends with advice on how to get a grip on your brand:
… to gain an appreciation for the difference between how you perceive your brand and how others do is to try a simple exercise. Do it with a colleague with whom you have a friendly working relationship. Start by writing down three words that you think define how other people think of you: driven, team player, helpful, easy-going, considerate, reliable, honest. While you write down your three words, ask your colleague to write down three words that he or she thinks define you and your brand. Then take the time to compare how you see yourself with how your colleague does.
Come on, Peter. All that build up about how important it is not to smell, not to gnaw on your cuticles, not to say really offensive and stupid things, and all you can come up with are terms like driven, helpful, and honest.
Still, this wouldn’t be a bad little exercise.
I’ve actually done it a couple of times. I always think I’m going to get “witty” but as often as not someone comes back with “reliable.” At least I’m never gotten “slovenly” or “lettuce in teeth.”
*Doubt my word that this was a really terrible show, even by 1960’s standards? Check this video out.