4 Ways You Can Shape How Others Perceive You and Build an Outstanding Personal Brand

November 20, 2017

“I don’t think you’re tough enough for this business.”

This feedback was the big aha moment for Carla Harris. Now the Vice Chairman and Managing Director at Morgan Stanley, Carla was given this critique by a senior managing director 5 to 6 years into her career. And, this made her realize that smarts and hard work isn’t enough - she needed to work to change how she was perceived.

“A very big component of your success is the perception that others have of you,” said Carla at the 2016 MAKERS Conference. Luckily, “You can train people to think about you the way that you want them to think about you,” she continued.

And that’s exactly what she did. Now with nearly 30 years of experience as a successful woman in the cutthroat (and male-dominated) world of Wall Street, Carla worked hard to shape her personal brand as intelligent, talented, and tough.

As a recruiter, having a great personal brand is crucial for working with hiring managers, getting c-suite buy in, and attracting great talent. Below is some of Carla’s advice for building your brand at work, along with some other tips on how to build your recruiter brand online.

1. Define how you want to be perceived in 3 adjectives, and embody it

“Perception is the co-pilot to reality,” Carla says. You might be the best darn recruiter the world has ever known—but unless people see that when they look at you, it won’t matter. This can affect the decisions people make about you, like whether to accept your job offer over one from the recruiter next door.

Carla recommends training the people around you to see you in a certain light. And to do that, you have to be crystal clear on what you want them to see.

“Pick three adjectives that you would like people to use to describe you when you are not in the room,” she advises. “And pick three adjectives that are absolutely consistent with who you really are, that are also valued in your organization. Where they intersect is how you must behave consistently if you want to train people to think about you in a certain way.”

For example, when Carla knew she had to prove she was tough, she intentionally acted the part for 90 days, and used the word to describe herself to coworkers. Since she was often asked to critique a CEOs presentation before they gave it, she made a point of asking if the CEO was “sensitive” and thin-skinned, before saying “I don’t want to hurt anybody’s feeling, because you know I’m tough.” And it worked. She soon started overhearing people calling her tough.

You can use Carla’s strategy in your interactions with your boss and your candidates alike. Whether you want to be perceived as Friendly, confident, strategic, or something else entirely, you can’t assume they already see that. You’ve got to act the part—it should come across in every single interaction you have.

Candidates will look you up when they’re deciding if you’re worth responding to, so it’s important to make sure your personal brand reflects the best in you. Don’t be afraid to brag a little—use your three adjectives in your LinkedIn summary (more tips for that below), and try to embody them in the language you use in messages.

2. Understand what success looks like and match (or surpass) it

Before you can wow anyone at work, you need to know what the criteria for success looks like.

“Whenever you start a new assignment, work for a new boss, go to a new department, or start with a new company, always ask the question ‘what does success look like in this role?’” Carla advises.

For recruiters, when you’re taking down job requirements from hiring managers, you actually have an opportunity to re-shape their mindset about what the ideal candidate for the job looks like. The long list of requirements can make it next-to-impossible for us to find even a handful of candidates that match the description. That’s why it’s so essential to dig in and find out what success in the role will really look like. Ask questions like:

  1. What three adjectives immediately come to mind to describe the candidate who will be hugely successful in this role?

  2. What three qualities would immediately get a person fired from this job and why?

  3. In order to be considered for the job, what are three non-negotiable must-haves for the candidate?

You can see more questions here.

Sometimes, hiring managers might not be sure what success looks like. If that’s the case, Carla recommends telling them what you think success means, and asking if they agree or disagree. If you don’t, you’ll never be sure that you’re doing a job that will truly wow them.

3. Strengthen relationships in your workplace

According to Carla, there are two types of currency in the workplace: performance and relationships. And, performance can only take you so far. After a certain point, the people around you will become accustomed to your level of excellence, so even your best work won’t seem as impressive anymore. To counter this, you’ve got to build strong relationships as well.

“You have to put your work in context,” Carla says. “And the only way you can do it is through the relationships that you have… Your ability to ascend is a function of someone’s judgement – which is influenced by relationships.”

Investing the time to build strong relationships with your hiring manager and coworkers is always worthwhile. The effort you put into your working environment will solidify your place there as someone worth knowing, and worth watching.

4. Don’t be afraid to take risks

“If you consider yourself a leader in the 21st century, you must be comfortable taking risks,” Carla says. “The issue with keeping your head down is that you submerge your voice, and your voice is at the heart of your power.”

Every recruiter will face a risky situation sooner or later. You might need to have a difficult conversation with a hiring manager who wants to hire a candidate you don’t think is right for the job. Or maybe you want to propose an initiative to your boss that might not achieve the results you’re hoping for.

“Think about it: what’s the worst that can happen if you take a risk and it doesn’t work out?” Carla asks. “So you fail. But guess what? Failure always brings you a gift, and that gift is called experience.”

If you’re willing to take strategic risks, people will take notice—helping you to stand out from everyone playing it safe.

If you take the time to really invest in your personal brand, you’ll find it precedes you and shows everyone that you’re a recruiter to be reckoned with. It won’t happen all at once, but by following these tips, your brand will get the facelift it deserves.

*Image by Clement127

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