Many articles on networking will advise you to start with your “elevator pitch.” Having a quick, canned, fluid introduction is certainly important. It is not, however, the beginning. First, you must understand very clearly who you are, what you want, and what you have to offer. There are a number of assessments you can take to help you become more self-aware. If you want to fully understand how others see you (your “personal brand”), you’re going to have to do some digging. Here are four suggestions to help you on your mining expedition.
Author’s note: This article is adapted from my book Network Beyond Bias: Making Diversity a Competitive Advantage for Your Career.
1. Talk to Your CHAMP Network
- Can you describe your experience in working with me?
- When my name comes up in the office, how do people respond?
- What’s the “water cooler talk” about me / my performance / my potential?
- When have you seen me at my best?
Write down the words they use. Look for themes around your strengths. Schedule time to follow up with them on “trouble spots.” (And DO follow up. But right now, we’re focused on positives.)
2. Read past performance reviews
If you’ve worked at the same company for many years, or if you are a hoarder, you likely have access to past performance reviews. These can be valuable in helping you spot year-over-year trends. Start as far back as you are able, and read them chronologically. Do you see a story unfolding about how you’ve developed new skills, resilience, or professional maturity? Have different managers given you similar feedback over time? What accomplishments make you most proud? Write down your thoughts, and return to it when you are ready to craft your elevator pitch.
3. Conduct a personal brand survey
Free survey tools abound. You can easily create a survey on Google Forms, SurveyMonkey, or other sites. Set up a quick survey. Email a link and an explanation to people you trust. Or blast it out on LinkedIn for the whole world to see. You’ll be amazed at how many people are willing to help you, if you only ask.
Not long ago, I created a personal brand survey for my network. My goal was to get as much feedback as possible about how others see me. And it worked! The words my current and former colleagues used to describe me were consistent. Their “impact statements” gave me the courage to embrace what makes me, me. As odd as it may sound. my personal brand survey gave me permission to be the me-est I can be.
Want some help with your survey? Set up some time to get acquainted. I’d be happy to help you.
4. Create a compliment journal
If you’re not good at accepting compliments, it’s time to develop this important skill. Learn to listen to the positive things your coworkers say to and about you. They are telling you what they admire about you and what they value. Keep a list of these interactions, and see what patterns emerge.
Have any of these tips helped you? I’d love to hear about it!