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Personal Branding : Journey or Destination?
19 January 2017
Recently I was going through photos and I was amazed at how my personal style evolution started from such a young age.
One of my earliest recollections of when I thought about my style was when I was ten years old. I loved wearing my black patent ballet flats. I seemed to have a natural affinity to an elegant black and white tailored style. This has stayed with me over the years and as you can see below is part of my signature brand.
What I have come to recognise is that creating a Personal Brand is really an evolution. It's not something that you just set and forget. Why? Our lives and subsequently our wardrobes go through cycles (typically anywhere between 2-7 years).
Identifying your personal brand is about having a deep self-awareness that allows you to ask the hard questions and being brave enough to listen to the whispers. It takes intention and focus to build an effective personal brand.
Many people often confuse marketing with branding. Marketing is the technique you use to acquire customers, but branding is what draws colleagues and customers to you in the first place and keeps them coming back for more.
Many clients often tell me that they have tried dressing like other women but haven't been able to pull it off (surprise surprise). Whilst you can get inspiration from looking at other women, the only woman that counts for you is the one within.
For me there were significant moments during my personal style evolution that had me reflecting my own personal brand which was:
1. When I left my corporate role to start my business, Image Consultants.
I needed to firstly discover my WHY and secondly, learn how to communicate it visually and verbally.
2. When I had my two children. Practicality and comfort reigned supreme
Not only did I need to dress for my new role as "Mum" but I also no longer needed matching suits to host my corporate personal branding workshops.
At this point, my wardrobe was a mishmash of traditional suits, jeans, tailored blazers, shorts and t-shirts. I had completely lost my identity. I no longer knew who I was. My lifestyle had changed, my body shape changed and I'd evolved as a person.
Many clients over the years have expressed similar feelings. They'd taken a career break from their high-level position to pursue having a family. In the process, they lost all confidence in how to dress. Many feared going back to work because they no longer knew who they were and what their personal brand was. They also realised that corporate dress standards in Australia had shifted markedly and the safety of wearing a matching suit was no longer an option.
The ultimate in personal branding is dressing in a way that is truly you supported by your values. This is when you'll feel most like yourself and when you will succeed at the highest level. This is the gift I give my clients and the gift they give me during the personal brand development process. Seeing a client see herself for the first time in a long time is a moment that I honestly can't put into words.
So how can you fully realise your personal brand? Here are seven steps I personally went through during my personal brand journey.
1. Review past and present photos of you in outfits that you've loved. Write down what it is about these outfits that you're drawn to? Is it colour, fit, print, fabrics etc. If you are drawn to a lot of colour and print then you may have a creative spirit about you. If you like structured pieces perhaps that indicates that you are about "getting the results" and "making things happen". If comfort is important to you then your relaxed and friendly nature could become part of your brand. Once you have gained some insights go to Pinterest and search for styles that encompass what you're drawn to.
2. Write down your top five values that are non-negotiables. This will help you communicate and dress in a way that aligns with your values
3. Be self-aware. Don't be afraid to dig deep and accept the real YOU. I always wanted to serve others but for some reason, I thought of this as a sign of weakness. Since fully embracing this, it has formed the basis of my business and has given me an enormous amount of meaning to my life. Click here to read our values
4. Be consistent with your image. I was challenged by this. When I'm in the park with the kids I look completely different to what I look like when speaking and presenting. So as a compromise, I'm consistent with my image WHEN IT COUNTS!
5. Be visible. Grow and share your expertise. Who needs to know you and are you reaching them in a meaningful way?
6. Ask for feedback. We all have blind spots including me.
7. Be relevant. Knowing more than your role is important in today's competitive environment. When I started in my first corporate role as a medical representative the National Sales Manger expected that we would all know the latest sports results and headline news. Why? Because most clinicians were interested in sport and that was our way of establishing a relationship and being relevant. Equally as an Image Consultant what I suggest women wear to the office is vastly different to what I recommended 10 years ago. Dress standards have shifted and it's important for me to demonstrate to my clients that I am ahead of the kerb and understand what they need to create a killer personal brand that helps them get the positions they deserve.
If I were to ask your clients or professional colleagues what it’s like to do business with you, whatever they say next is your brand. For me, some of the key elements of my personal brand that clients have shared with me include: warm, engaging, knowledgeable, professional, great presenter, delivers, puts people at ease, passionate and enthusiastic. I find myself thinking of these words when getting dressed for work.
Having clarity around your brand will not only help you when shopping but getting dressed for work becomes a breeze.
If you'd like to learn more about how to build your personal brand that reflects the confident career woman that you are, click here for our Sydney workshop.
Styling Your Success