All of a sudden the words “personal brand” are everywhere. In the legal profession, what does it all really mean?
When we talk about “personal branding” we are referring to establishing and promoting what you stand for. Your personal brand is the unique combination of skills and experiences that make you, you. Effective personal branding will differentiate you from other professionals in your field. In modern times everything and anything is available online, we all have a digital footprint, and access to incredibly vast professional networks make us visible in ways we have never been previously.
So essentially, you really only have two choices when it comes to personal branding: either shape and create the personal brand you want to represent you in the world, or be passive, do nothing and have something projected onto you that’s not of your making … and possible not the brand you would choose for yourself.
So what do you want to stand for in the world around you? What do you really want to be known for?
Intent is the key to successful personal branding
Intention is everything when it comes to adopting the right mindset in the workplace. Both in an everyday sense, but also more broadly defining what/who you want to be in the places in which you move. Even more so than that, creating intentionality as the foundation of your professional life also informs your personal brand, it is the rudder for that ship, because having intentionality is essential for knowing how you want to be known in your professional world.
As a first step, I generally encourage my clients at the beginning of every year to set a single ‘Intent Word’. But, given it’s now September, don’t wait for the end of the year…do it NOW. The process is super simple, I have lots of suggestions that are easy to find on our website here.
Essentially, a single word intention captures or articulates a theme for the year (or timeframe of your choice). Some intentions that clients and I have used in the past are growth, expansion, shine, development or influence. This word then becomes a compass around which all you do in your professional (or personal) life will pivot around.
So when you spend time setting it in the beginning, think about a word that would define what you want to achieve on a larger scale (macro), so that all the smaller tasks and goals that will follow during the year to come can align easily with it, and be informed by it (micro). Then you embed your intention into your everyday life.
In my experience, many lawyers tend to be very goal and task-oriented due to the nature of their practice. So, this will be a new way of working for many. However, it’s very powerful for professionals who tend to be focused this way. It gives them a different perspective from which to then expand beyond the every-day. They can begin to see the broader focus for what you are achieving daily, weekly or monthly. It allows you also to focus on something other than billable hours or managing your file load and expand out into what you really desire for yourself as a professional person.
Intent informs Purpose; Purpose informs Personal Brand
The question is no longer IF you have a personal brand; it is a matter of WHAT do you want your personal to brand to be, and what are your initial steps?
Well, setting your intention is part of this process, because your intention should be deeply tied to your purpose. Your professional purpose is more about what you are here to achieve (how you make a difference) and will form the bedrock of the “elevator pitch” which is your personal brand. That’s why it’s really important to spend time understanding what you true professional purpose is. Often people are surprised by how personal it is.
Here is an example I have seen recently from a very senior in-house lawyer: “My purpose is to be the person my clients turn to, because I make their lives easier, more efficient and more secure”. It wasn’t about being the best, it was about wanting to make their client’s lives better. I was really impressed by this.
So, you can see, when properly informed by a purpose that means something to you, personal brand is so much more than an industry buzz-word, and far exceeds something that is just “trending” right now. It’s quite literally who you are, what you want to be known for and how you want to be perceived in the professional world around you.
Importantly, it’s built by you, for you, and can change at any time according to your intention and purpose. It pivots when you do. Businesses like mine can help guide and advise you on how to shape your brand, but essentially, your personal brand articulates exactly what you want to be.
Interestingly, more so that other professions, lawyers and other professionals working within law firms (especially when they are more junior) tend to be shaped or driven by the brand of the firm for which they work. Sometimes, also by the practice area in which they specialise.
Personal brand though is something a little different than a corporate brand like a firm name. Personal brand is about informing the world around you of what you stand for, and what your particular unique offering is. Intent makes you stand out from the crowd.
Who are you, really?
Think about this scenario. We are 5 or 10 years into the future, and people are talking about you.
Someone asks, “Do you remember (your name)?”
“Of course! She/he is the one who …”
- How would you like them to finish that sentence?
- What would you like people to remember about you?
- What would you like people to be saying about you right now?
You’re fair, fun, strong, industrious, gentle, reliable, impressive …
You can see how your values are important here as you define your personal brand and reputation. When you know what you want to stand for and represent, you can set clear intent to make it happen.
Identify your best asset — what is your signature skill?
Once you have uncovered your “why,” devote some time into thinking about “what” you want others to think about when they hear your name. When you are thinking about what you want to be known for, try to choose something that relates to your natural talents and abilities. What are you naturally good at? What are some things that you can do better than others? Don’t force it, it should come easily to you, let it flow.
THEN: make a list of the areas where you truly excel.
Looking at your list, ask yourself, what’s the one thing that sets you apart from every other leader and manager in your business or even more broadly? What is your “signature” ability or skill? You will likely have a personality trait you’re proud of and which will make you a better leader: capitalise on this.
Find your area for improvement
After you have defined your intent and selected a signature skill to hone, take a good look at your current position. Are there areas that need improvement in your workplace?
Create a list of areas where you could improve performance if you took direct action and applied your signature skill.
Why write them down? Because it forces your brain to focus on these important things.
Finally, look at all of your lists.
Are there points where your lists intersect? If there is a problem in the world/marketplace that you are passionate about, and that you can solve best with your signature ability, you have reached the point of maximum alignment. Take advantage of this opportunity to make a difference!
Want to learn more about how to use your intent to help you create the lifestyle and career that you want, by design? Set Yourself Up for Success via my free online coaching program and have your most successful year yet!