Career goals: give your personal brand a makeover in 2018
Just like companies have brands, you have your own personal brand as a hospitality professional. Your brand is the image you present to other people at work or when you apply for a job. Your brand is also on display in other situations where people you work with or people you might someday work with see you or learn about you: at networking events, at informational interviews, at a bar socializing with colleagues, at charity functions, on job search site profiles, and on public social media accounts.
The start of the New Year is a good time to reassess your personal brand and see how you can improve it in the months ahead.
Why your personal brand matters
Why is it important to have a strong personal brand? People who are in a position to promote you or hire you look at your personal brand and take it into consideration when they make decisions that affect your career. Even if they don’t mention the phrase “personal brand” when interviewing you or evaluating your performance, the fact is that they’re aware of the image you project. They want to work with people who exhibit professionalism and teamwork, and they’re less likely to offer opportunities to people whose brands suggest they might be difficult to get along with or a potential liability for a hotel.
A strong personal brand can help you stand out from other job seekers or employees. People are impressed by a positive, consistent brand, and they may keep you in mind for job openings or opportunities to advance.
Improving your personal brand
Your personal brand should be unique, but there are some general guidelines that can give you ideas for making it better.
- Be a real person. It’s okay for your hobbies and interests to have a place in your brand, as long as they are appropriate for a professional setting. Feel free to mention that you have pet hamsters and you love watching basketball. You may even find that you have some interests in common with people you network with and that your hobbies can be conversation starters. And don’t feel that having a brand means you have to sprinkle your conversations with corporate buzzwords; just use language that’s respectful and appropriate for work.
- Be consistent. A new contact should form a similar impression of you whether they meet you at an event, get your phone number from a colleague, or connect with you on social media. For example, if you’re looking for a position as an operations manager, state that on all your online profiles, and bring it up when networking or requesting informational meetings. Think of your top strengths, like being guest-oriented or being a natural leader, and make sure that they are apparent whether someone meets you in person or follows you on Twitter. Don’t have some avenues where your brand shines through and others where people are left guessing about who you are.
- Avoid PR pitfalls. You won’t see a hotel’s official Twitter account taking a stand on controversial political or social issues, and your public Twitter account should probably steer clear of controversy too. Don’t tell potentially offensive jokes at work. In general, avoid saying things that would be a PR nightmare if they were publicized. That goes for social media, emails to colleagues, and in-person conversations with anyone in the industry.
- Be positive. In conversations and social media posts, highlight achievements, things you like about your current employer, or things you appreciate about your past experience in the industry. In job applications and job search profiles, emphasize your strengths; don’t dwell on qualifications you lack. Refrain from griping about your boss to your coworkers or posting on Facebook about your pet peeves. If you need to vent about your job, talk privately with your friends or family. Don’t air grievances at a public event or write them on social media where they could be forwarded to your employer.
- Be easy to get in touch with. Have you ever tried to contact a company’s customer service department, only to find that your emails go unanswered and the phone numbers listed on the website are out-of-date? If so, you probably formed a low opinion of that brand. A good brand is accessible, whether it’s a corporate brand or a personal brand. Add contact information to your email signature so colleagues have multiple ways to reach you. Make sure that your contact information is current on all professional networking and social media sites, and that you are actively checking messages on all sites where you maintain a profile. When networking, hand out business cards with your email address and phone number. Try to respond to calls and emails within a day or two, and set up an out-of-office email response for the days you’re on vacation.