When I reached my personal crossroads at 50, I started a range of conversations about my future and began to discover a whole bunch of things I should have known, but didn’t. And then it occurred to me that if I didn’t know these things then maybe others didn’t either, and the spark of an idea that has now developed into our business, Third Quarter Tribe. For example, marketing yourself is important whether you have a job, or are looking for one or are starting up your own business. Ninety-two percent of people trust recommendations from individuals (even if they don’t know them) over brands. But how many of us pay attention to our personal brand.
Here is an example. Me. Sitting in our socially distanced workspace the other day talking about branding, my business partner asked me what my personal brand was and how I wanted to look when representing our company. It was quite a shock to me to think that I didn’t know, and hadn’t thought about myself in that way even though we have been talking about how we help others brand themselves. Marketing yourself is something you should actively do. Non-verbal communication counts for over 70% of what we are saying to people and our personal brand is the most visible and immediate part of that. To be honest I hadn't given much thought how to market myself. The clothes I wear. How I speak. The way I move.
I had quietly been sitting here, reading articles, researching, and helping to write blogs and resources to help others but I had not thought about myself in the same context. So let's consider just one part of your personal brand. Clothing. You can’t judge a book by its cover. Really? In interviews, interviewers make up their minds within 4 seconds about candidates, solely based on non-verbal communication and appearances.
I suppose I had just thought that my current “look” would be ok for my new career as a life coach. But is it? Until now I have never reflected on the way that my work clothing has changed as my position changed. For most of my working life, I have always worked in an office environment and dressed in a formal, smart business manner. I wore smart skirts, blouses, and cardigans - very rarely trousers and definitely not leggings. I was promoted, and I became a practice manager so my clothing changed to jackets instead of cardigans and then, generally, skirt suits. Formal office wear was required when I worked in the corporate world of healthcare insurance. Why? For a start, as a woman working in a male-dominated environment, anything less, and I may not have been taken seriously. My personal brand was that of a senior manager. Look the part.
Then when I decided that I wanted a new challenge of working with my local community it quickly became apparent that the suits that I was used to wearing y set me apart from the people that I was working with and became a block. People didn't trust me as I looked out of place. My brand was not in sync with my customers' expectations. So I changed my wardrobe to a more casual look, trousers, tops, jumpers, and even leggings. It took me a while to be comfortable with the change in style but it was the right thing to do as it made me more approachable and trusted. After a while, it became uncomfortable to wear suits even when attending events where a suit was de rigueur. And although I still have some in the wardrobe, I have not worn them in years.
Going forward then as life coach what is the wardrobe that fits? What would you expect a life coach to be wearing? A suit? Tatty jeans and a T-shirt?
Personal branding is not trying to fool people. It’s not about being superficial. It is about creating a comfortable environment for the people you are dealing with. It is building trust. It is about creating an aura around you that says to people this is a nice person, I want to do business with her. It's about connecting with the promises made by your corporate marketing. It's telling people who you are. It's about authenticity.
I am definitely a work in progress! Any suggestions welcome. If you want to check on my progress and see what a Life Coach looks like, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org and we can have a chat and a coffee.
Lastly, personal branding goes beyond clothing. Here is just one more number. Seventy-five percent of HR departments are required to search for job applicants online. What does your online brand look like? Come and have a chat.