I am always inspired by our clients–not just the work they do, but who they are as people. That kind of affinity has become a hallmark of modern brands, so I think it’s important that founders and executives are seen as individuals and not enigmas running a faceless organization.
Anyone who knows me knows I am a champion for raising the profile of professionals who continue to be underrepresented. It’s the focus of both our Executive Thought Leadership Program and our Executive Visibility work for clients. And it’s inspired by what I’ve seen and what I’ve experienced.
As a young professional looking for a job, I couldn’t gain traction as “Erin.” But when I became my nickname, “Mack,” it confirmed for me just how much names–and the assumptions about the possible gender, age, ethnicity or country of origin of the person behind that name–have the power to either propel us forward or hold us back.
The bias is real. The pay gap is real. The lag in leadership roles for women and people of color is real. Even when female, BIPOC, AAPI and/or LGBTQ+ professionals earn executive status, they sometimes still have to prove themselves “worthy” of the achievement and its accolades.
What better “proof” than to make a name for yourself? Top brands do it. For example, Nike doesn’t conjure up images of the Greek goddess for whom it was named; it’s grown beyond that, beyond even a product-specific focus to become a lifestyle brand. The larger-than-label approach is a proven win for companies, athletes, and entertainers that somehow hasn’t proved popular in the professional world.
The fact is, it’s not “selfish” or “showboating” to promote yourself as an individual. It’s just smart business. But in the Instagram-ideal-driven, us-versus-them, over-stimulated world in which we live, how do you become someone whose name stands for something?
- Be strategic. Ask yourself (and answer) honestly about your motivation and goals so you can plan accordingly.
- Grow your network. Everyone knows someone, and forging connections in safe spaces like professional groups for members of marginalized populations can help you gather tools to reach a wider audience.
- Invest in your success. Gather a team of experts to help you develop content and secure visibility opportunities. Freeing yourself from the tactical gives you more room to be creative.
Whatever your mission–elevating recognition in your current role or looking for something new–the power in shaping who you are and how you are known lies in your hands.
Read more about the importance of building your professional brand in my recent Fast Company article.