In my attempt to get fit, I swim with my friend, Marie, at her community pool on the other side of town. Last week we met at the pool only to discover the changing rooms were closed for remodeling. Not wanting to let a little inconvenience hold us back from our laps, we dove in. Although the prospect of getting into my car with a wet suit wasn’t appealing, I threw on my jeans over my suit and was on my merry way.
When I started the car, I realized the empty gas gauge light was on, so I pulled over at the next gas station. As I was filling my tank, I heard a loud voice shout “That lady wet her pants!” Just as I turned to give the evil eye to my accuser whom I guessed was about 5, I noticed more than a few people turning to Pump #4 to see what the fuss was about. I was about to address my new ‘fans’ replying, “I went swimming” when the mother turned to her son saying “Honey, don’t make fun of old people; they can’t help it.” Aghast, I now gave the evil eye to the young mom. “I am not an old person and I don’t wet my pants” was what I wanted to say, but I realized my impression was hard to dispel.
You know the adage that first impressions are lasting impressions. Have you ever wondered how you come across to people? Do you struggle with what to say when meeting someone new at a business meeting or even during a casual event? You want to be authentic but instead rely on some memorized ’30 second commercial’ because you’ve been taught that’s appropriate. Below are some points to consider …..
Do you know the perception others have of you? After all, it’s tough to be objective about ourselves. Some of you might think “I’m not a mind reader. How would I know what someone really thinks about me?” Truth is, you can and you should. The challenge, as in my gas station story, is in having control of how you are perceived before someone else does it for you.
You’ve heard it before but it bears repeating. Can you answer these questions … What is unique about me? What are my real, distinguishable talents? What makes me authentic? This isn’t about some ‘woo-woo, mind work’ as one of my acquaintances calls it. It’s no longer a nice-to-know, but a must-know in today’s market. This is about personal branding. Before you shrug at the word ‘branding’, let’s clarify the term as there is much confusion out there.
Branding isn’t about making you into something you’re not. It’s not about a slick, packaged presentation (unless that’s what you’re going for). Quite the contrary, it’s letting the marketplace know in a positive way the authentic, best you, which, in turn, gives you a sense of purpose and direction. In sales, there’s the expression “Know your product” which in your career life means knowing who you are and what you stand for. Here’s a situation to ponder. If you were in a conference with others all of your same occupation and field, how would you be different than them? What characteristics, traits, values would set you apart? Easy, huh – no way, but this is fundamental to your success.
My friend, Nancy, describes herself somewhat facetiously as living a ‘life without a goal.’ Yet, if you asked her what she loves doing it’s landscaping, gardening, and cooking. If you know what you’re passionate about, your chances of success go up exponentially. The problem is most of us ignore what we consider passion in our work because it doesn’t seem practical. I often encounter clients who have no passion for their work, nor does the work match their priorities or values. They think it’s frivolous or just luck to have passion in your work. Actually, it’s more about focused, concentrated and consistent effort than dumb luck. But it’s exactly this work that will bring you an authentic, satisfying career and life!
As in my wet suit story, being prepared from the inside out will ensure you present the best you!