Is your HR brand sticky enough to sustain a satisfying career?
Why unconscious personal branding can damage your HR career.
Coming up with a convincing personal brand is flouted as essential to sustaining career momentum.
As HR professionals, we know the importance of standing out in the job market and keeping tabs on where the industry is headed.
We frequently dispense quality career advice to employees and candidates, but in the busy world of HR, we are often the first ones to neglect our own career needs.
Does this sound familiar to you?
In my work as a career counsellor, I shudder when the term personal brand is thrown around. It makes me feel like I should be creating a sales pitch, just like an infomercial selling the latest non-stick frying pan.
However if you develop your personal brand without deep thought or by default, your assumed personal brand can quickly disconnect you from your values, strengths, interests and what actually gives you an authentic sense of meaning and enjoyment.
Often we are encouraged to come up with a brand that may suit the needs of our employer or we accidentally develop reputation in an area of HR that we have no interest in.
Also, a lot of artificial effort can go into developing a personal brand, especially if we feel compelled to remain competitive in the HR market.
Whether we like it or not, we all have a personal brand because we are constantly judged by the quality of our work, our communication style and the level of engagement with our stakeholders.
Doing nothing to control our brand can be damaging to our HR career in the longer term, especially if we become caught in a specialisation that does not come naturally.
We may also become pigeonholed by organisational constraints, limiting our career options in the future. For example, it’s hard to develop a personal brand in best practice organisational development or sustainability, if our company does not provide budget to work on these projects.
My favourite views on personal branding is that it can be defined as taking conscious action to develop a reputation and getting known for something that we genuinely want to be doing and enjoy.
The emphasis here is on what we genuinely want – it’s important to remain true to who we are, where we actually want to be going in the future, and doing what gives a sense of inner freedom.
This advice is not new, as we often tell employees this.
But applying it to our own personal life as HR professionals is a different ball game. We become so good at meeting the HR needs of the organisation that we may become disconnected from our inner needs in the process.
Here are 5 tips to help you dig deep in discovering your authentic brand and career direction:
1. Listen to your body – I frequently notice that my clients become disconnected from their body. We become so over-worked and stressed, that we begin to ignore the adverse impact that work is having on our health. Feelings of anxiety, depression, stress and dread are invitations to transform our career. Take notice of the HR tasks and projects that make you feel sick in the stomach or stressed.Our bodies have an innate wisdom which is now verified through the latest research in neuroscience and psychology. Sunday afternoon blues or Mondayitis is not normal, despite being told that we should be grateful to have a job.Research suggests that when we align to genuinely enjoyable work, our levels of optimism, well being and energy will naturally increase without effort. Feeling dread about going back to work on a Monday will dissipate when we do a job that we actually like.
2. Know your strengths – getting in touch with our strengths is critical. Strengths generally come naturally and feel good to do. We experience a sense of energisation when we do them. We tend not to second guess if we are in the right role and notice that we have higher levels of enjoyment.HR work does have routine elements and challenging aspects, however when these aspects create stress, it may be helpful to check how many of our daily tasks are aligned to our strengths. Research suggests that having four primary role functions aligned to our natural strengths will improve wellbeing, creativity and innovation. Our day will feel easier and we won’t feel so drained at the end of a working day.
3. Align yourself to a genuine interest – so much of our daily HR workload may be doing functions that we have no interest in. The employee lifecycle, performance management, compliance and HR strategy may pull us away from our genuine interests in HR.Although this advice may not be new, it does serve as a reminder to gravitate our HR careers towards our key areas of interest. Becoming known by our interests is the best form of authentic branding. It makes branding effortless, as it becomes a natural expression of who we really are.
4. Make courageous decisions – feeling disconnected from our interests, values and strengths is an invitation to realign our career. It may involve having conversations with our manager to take on other job functions or projects, leaving an organisation or seeking a contract role in an area aligned to our interests. It could also mean looking at other areas of our life that feel out of balance, such as health, relationships, family responsibilities and finances. Our work may adversely impact our life, so it’s important to continually seek ways to restore more balance, well being and freedom.
5. Get known for something you like –It’s important to discover and do something that we actually enjoy speaking, writing and working on. It’s very easy to be caught up working on HR projects that we have no interest in. Branding is more about sharing what we feel interested in and that can make real difference to people in the workplace and the organisation. Find ways to express your interests, such as projects, writing articles, starting a blog, joining HR interest groups or tweeting about the areas you like. This makes branding authentic and fun.Discovering what we enjoy makes it easier to direct our job search and seek out opportunities aligned to a career direction that we actually like. Starting a blog, writing an article or working on a project in an area that is important to us is far more enjoyable and will create a huge return on investment, both for ourselves, the people around us and the organisation. Research suggests that organisations who encourage employees to align to their personal values perform above industry norm, have high quality interpersonal relationships and increased psychological safety in the workplace.
I’d like to advocate that personal branding is an embodied expression of who we naturally are. Aligning to our strengths, interests and what gives us an inner sense of meaning and enjoyment becomes a natural form of branding. It’s an organic form of life transformation where we actually live out the type of life that we genuinely want and take conscious effort to transform our world of work.
We don’t have to become that next non-stick frying pan sales person if we don’t like really Teflon and scrambled eggs. Let our brand become healthy green smoothies organically percolated and sustaining, instead.
We’ve got a free professional branding and LinkedIn webinar coming up next Wednesday. For more information >>click here