You are your #1 Champion. Period. As you aspire to new or higher level roles, you will work hard and acquire new skills. You may even return to school to obtain an additional degree or secure another certification to sharpen your skills in a particular domain.
You work long and arduous hours. In fact, you have no regular schedule at all. You’re online with a consistency that makes purported workaholics look like slackers. You operate with a level of excellence, taking pride in your work and challenging others to do the same.
If you’re a team leader, you’re generally admired and considered one whom others should emulate.
With this description, your very natural expectation is that you will receive the spoils of your victories. That may mean a promotion when due, a salary increase, a high visibility assignment, the next leadership challenge, or all of the above.
The best leaders and influencers I know, are their own best self-advocates. They understand the critical importance of building their own personal brands. This doesn’t mean self-aggrandizement, arrogance nor putting your own interests before those of your company’s. Not at all. It simply means recognizing that, for a variety of reasons, you will often not be top of mind for those in power and authority. Further, you may be so good at what you do that it appears ‘easy’, leading others to – perhaps unintentionally – take it for granted. And, if you’ve grown accustomed to operating with a healthy degree of humility believing that ‘your work will speak for itself’, you may soon find yourself fading into the woodwork.
Don’t mistake self-advocacy for obnoxious arrogance. They aren’t the same. They can be fueled by two very different motivations. As you self-advocate, you are taking the hard truths into account: if you don’t sell yourself again and again – reminding people what you’ve done (or can do) for them lately – no one else will.
In the August 18th online publication of Forbes, an article by Shama Hyder entitled ‘7 Things You Can Do To Build An Awesome Personal Brand’, the very description of one’s personal brand was offered: A digital footprint in the sands of time and space crowd sourced by friends, colleagues, and bosses. Though the author highlights the effects of social media, an online presence and personal websites, the common thread woven throughout the article is the management of consistent and compelling personal messages. This concept, in my view, is transferable to that of professional messages. What do you need others (colleagues, bosses, direct reports, vendors, key stakeholders) to know about you in your line of business? What message do you want front and center – always – as you conduct your business? Being clear on that is the first step. It’s your own personal brand story (your personal elevator pitch, if you like). It should articulate what you stand for, your key accomplishments, and your passions.
That personal brand story can be shaped and molded based on your audience. For example, if you’re dealing with a prospective vendor, you’ll want to showcase your passions and non-negotiables as a leader even while you discuss services and costs. If you’re having a one-on-one check in with your boss, you’ll want to constantly remind him/her of the trajectory you’re on, your recent accomplishments and the relevance for the work you’re doing now. Make sure they always know how valuable you are. It’s not bragging, it’s being savvy. It’s shaping your personal – and professional – brand. And, it’s necessary.
Rest assured, if you’re not your own best self-advocate – no one else will be. And, when it comes time to reap the benefits of your hard work, you could come to a very rude awakening: no one remembers.