The connection between ever-present office politics and personal branding may appear to be something of a stretch. Closer examination reveals their interdependence.
Dr. Kathleen Kelly Reardon is an expert on navigating office politics. In her book, The Secret Handshake – Mastering The Politics of the Business Inner Circle, Dr. Reardon’s research validates the importance of personal branding.
She writes about a young woman who declined her mentor’s advice regarding the importance of attending a company picnic where senior executives would mingle, play baseball and get to know new people. The young woman outright refused to attend – she didn’t see the value.
Although her abilities were never in question, when the next cycle of promotions came around, much to her surprise this young woman didn’t move up. She was competent, but not connected. No one knew her. It was a tough lesson to learn. Corporate social events represent an excellent venue for building relationships.
This is not to suggest that failure to attend a single corporate social event can play havoc with career aspirations. The point is that actively circulating and networking to showcase your personal brand by building your reputation is part of corporate life. This is especially true for women.
Marketing strategist Dorie Clark makes this very clear in her recent HBR article, How Women Can Develop – and Promote – Their Personal Brand. She presents three distinct strategies to ensure women engage in targeted self-promotion:
a) Network outside your organization, not just inside: many women place too much emphasis on internal relationships with women who are like them. It’s far wiser to cultivate a broader network that increases your options.
b) Map out a clear “elevator pitch” that condenses your experience and value to shape people’s perceptions about you: don’t expect people to interpret your personal brand on their own.
c) Publicize your ideas to a wide audience.
These three strategies apply, as well, to many men. There is a fine line between shameless self-promotion and personal branding that comes down to Executive Presence. Braggarts and limelight-grabbers fall into the first category, ambitious professionals who consistently reflect their expertise and value, the second,
Dr. Reardon makes the point that it’s critical to develop important relationships with people who can best reward your intelligence and creativity. When a decision that could impact your career is on the horizon, it’s important to ask yourself three things:
a) Are there people I can speak to who will help me get promoted
b) When and how should the idea of my being promoted be advanced?
c) Whose toes should I avoid stepping on?
Clearly, directing these questions to the right people requires solid connections – relationships that have been nurtured and built around your personal brand.