By Jessica Bowers, Published November 2, 2014
Lessons I’ve Learned About Building My Influence and Personal Brand While Building My Career
Since I took this job, I have spent a lot of time thinking about my personal brand. That is, the way I portray myself in the office, out in the community and online.
As a digital marketing professional, I need to be active on social media. However, because I had long ago established my Twitter personality, I tweet about more than just my job. I muse about life and brag about my alma mater’s (currently) top-ranked football team. But I also want to use my online presence to share informative industry-related articles.
I constantly strive for the right balance of personal and professional tweets. If I suddenly only share digital marketing and content creation-related items, I will alienate my friends. (Plus, that’s not the reason I joined Twitter in the first place.)
On the flip side, if I only share personal information, I will never gain any clout in the industry to prove my capabilities to future associates and employers. In other words, I will not gain any influence over my current job, my career path or fellow marketers.
5 Lessons I’ve Learned About Influence
I’ve been thinking about the word influence a lot lately. An influence is someone or something that has an effect on actions or behaviors.
I recently attended a webinar on ways to boost your personal influence. In thinking about developing leadership skills, as well as developing my personal brand, building influence makes a lot of sense. Not only does being an influencer help build up a reputation for being knowledgeable, it also helps when mentoring and leading others.
Here are five things about influencing that I’ve learned, not only as a result of this recent webinar but also as a result of the scores of marketing-related blogs and articles I’ve consumed over the past few months.
1. Your personal brand should not change drastically, even though your career might
Just because you change jobs or change industries, you shouldn’t dramatically change who you are, what you believe, or what you are capable of doing. Of course you will learn new things in a new job that you will want to share online. But learning and sharing new things should not affect who you are at your core.
Professionalism, listening, reliability, and even the fact that –in spite of today’s digital age—I still choose to carry around a massive spiral-bound day planner are all elements of what I consider to be my personal brand. But these things do not change with my job title.
Your personal brand should be built on the qualities you value. Sites like The Good Project can help you determine your values and how to incorporate them into your daily life.
Using a spiral bound day planner, like the Day Designer by Whitney English,is an important part of my personal brand.
2. How you behave in meetings and conversations affects your influence over others
Do you ever sit in meetings, afraid to speak up because you worry no one will like your idea, or that you’ll be perceived as the One Who Talks Too Much? Me too. But what a waste! It’s important to speak up in meetings, else why are you there?
Meetings are a great place to build influence and demonstrate your willingness to contribute to the team, even if an idea or task falls outside your wheelhouse. If you act afraid of sharing ideas or afraid of taking on new tasks, you’ll be viewed as such, which may lead to you getting passed over to lead new projects or get promoted. Instead, be confident and direct, and your ideas will resonate with others in the room.
Photo by John Benson
3. Listening can be more powerful than talking
I have always prided myself on being “a good listener”. By that, I mean, being someone that others can trust to share their problems with. In fact, earlier this week, a colleague sought my opinion on an issue because I am valuable as a sounding board. Because I listened first without being too quick to interject my opinion, then carefully weighed my thoughts before responding, I was able to share thoughtful feedback, which proved helpful to the person in this situation.
Active listening engages you in conversation and helps you build rapport with the person. Through active listening, you can really understand a person and his situation. Plus, being valued as a sounding board is a great way to build trust amongst coworkers and friends.
4. Networking is a hard, but necessary, practice
Twice lately I have attended networking functions by myself, without the crutch of a friend or coworker beside me. Talk about scary professional moments! From both events, though, I made some great connections. Will these turn into lifelong friendships or bring in new business? I don’t know. But either way it was great experience to get out there, meet new people and practice telling my story and sharing my brand. Networking functions are great opportunities to practice talking about yourself, your job and your personal brand. Plus, the more people you network with, the more your circle of influence grows.
5. Mentorship can just be leading by example
In college and the early stages of my career I was fortunate to be guided by several outstanding women. Whether they realized it or not, these women were mentoring me through life and job responsibilities. They challenged me to try new things, to think in new ways and to search for answers on my own.
In my current leadership roles, I try to emulate these women as I manage teams and develop the skills of young professionals. Mentorship is important to my personal brand, but it’s not a complicated or formal process. Instead, I subscribe to “mentorship-by-example”, striving to make a similar impact on others just by living out my values. Hopefully, by doing this, I will serve as a mentor to others as well.
Share Your Influences
I’d love to hear your thoughts on gaining and exerting influence, both personally and professionally.