There can be a tendency to air our vulnerabilities, for example “I’m a procrastinator” or “I need to be better at delegating.” It’s never a good time to promote what you think your weaknesses are, but especially when you’re living the Cram it all in Years (CIAIY) when you may be feeling a little less on your game or you’re conscious of a perception of being less committed than you were. By creating your personal headline, you’re defining what you want said about you. Like all great tag-lines, if it resonates with reality and if you repeat it, it will stick and become associated with you. Leverage it to your advantage.
In our influencer-obsessed world, it seems like everyone’s working on creating their own personal brand. In a work setting, forget it. It’s too much work for you and for those you want to influence. Nobody wants to hear the brand vision you’ve defined for yourself or your personal story. You really only get a headline and maybe a few supporting points. You want to make it easy for people to support you, and one easy step is to create the headline that you want said about you. It’s self-advocacy, not arrogance. So, define it, repeat it, live it and it will stick.
You have to build a reputation for something and say it loud and say it to people. People want to help but it’s yours to define what it is.
What To Do (Bites)
Start with a list of what you’re really good at
It doesn’t have to be unique or something that no one else on the planet can deliver, it just needs to be something you’re really good at. It has to be something you’ve demonstrated in your role, relevant and provide forward momentum rather than get you stuck. It must include impact or outcomes, not just activities. Create a list of those areas without editing. Add to your list by seeking insight from others who have seen you in action or heard about your work. Now, push yourself to describe those skills in a way that adds texture.
- Driving cross functional alignment across complex projects to get things done
- Connector of ideas to create new/innovative solutions
- Delivers the impossible by consistently navigating around barriers
- Inspires teams to deliver what others might feel is impossible
Cross that list with what the organization values
It’s time to edit your list. Can you link the skill to outcomes the organization values? If not, de-prioritize it as an option. Also, be careful of attributes or competencies that are valued (e.g. developing direct reports, interpersonal savvy) but not career-advancing. Most often, you want to be associated with the areas that the organization recognizes as driving it forward. This lens may also open up possibilities that you didn’t consider. For example, do you have a Subject Matter Expertise (SME) that the organization values? New product launches? Tax specialization? Digital transformation?
Package into a headline with supporting bullets
Make it brief but complete. “Ideas person” is empty without impact. Compare that to “connector of ideas to formulate new solutions.” Add supporting evidence to validate your headline, i.e. prove how you’ve impacted the work. What three things prove that this is true? Don’t be tentative in headlining your strengths and accomplishments. You can’t rely on others to get it right.
Don’t make your headline about how hard you work. Worker bees are acceptable for entry level roles, not as you progress in an organization. And, if working harder is your strategy, it’s not sustainable, especially in the CIAIYs.
Once you define it, stick to it. Making it effortless to others is easier when it doesn’t change. It has to stick to make it effective. The end goal is to have someone influential say it about you when you’re not there. To do so, they have to remember it first.
Don’t repeat the things you don’t want said about you. We’ve heard lots of admissions that are undermining things that are hard to unstick: “I’m a procrastinator,” “I’m bad with numbers,” “I’m pulling back because I’ve just got too much on my plate” (instead, “I’m a fierce prioritizer focusing to get what really matters accomplished”).
Make it easy for people to be supportive of you. Pick what you want said about you and tell people.
Hope you found this helpful! Got a topic you’d like some wisdom on? Let us know.