Be mindful of your personal brand reputation . . . it's critical for career success

Ellen Keiley
BridgeTower Media Newswires

Know that everything you do affects your brand, good or bad, and has a lasting impact on others.

Acting with integrity, exercising common courtesy, being a team player, helping others, and showcasing your unique strengths — with regard to both personality and expertise — all contribute to a great personal brand and will help you excel in your career. Missteps will stand out and remain in others’ minds.

Here are tips to consider when thinking about your personal brand:

• Be proactive, be a connector, and help others.

You can be helpful to others in so many ways. Even the smallest gesture can go a long way. Just recently I drove by two attorneys in a garage before attending an event. They went out of their way to stop me and direct me to an ideal parking spot. I will now remember that every time I see them.

In addition to small gestures of kindness, be proactive and be a connector. When you hear others say they need help with something, find a resource for them. It could be anything from referring clients to another lawyer in a different practice area, to referring them to an electrician.

People like going to trusted resources and will likely appreciate the referral. I’ve even connected two people because they had very similar personalities. There doesn’t have to be a business reason. Just simply try to be thoughtful and help others.

• Know the etiquette to event invitations.

If someone you know invites you to an event, at least respond, even if you cannot attend. Otherwise, it will likely be awkward when you next see that person. More importantly, don’t respond that you will attend and then not show up without any notice. This happens more often than one would think. Also, don’t make it a practice to regularly cancel at the last minute. You may miss out on receiving future invitations.

Of course, unforeseen circumstances may arise beyond your control. However, when accepting an invitation, really give it some thought. Ask yourself if it’s something you truly want to attend and if you have the bandwidth. Before committing, check your schedule that entire week to make sure you are not spreading yourself too thin, which may cause you to cancel at the last minute.

• Relationships should be mutually beneficial.

Don’t just reach out to others when you need something and then forget about them after. Just recently I was surprised when I reached out to someone I had helped numerous times and she didn’t even bother to respond. People eventually will stop helping people who engage in that type of behavior. It shows a lack of respect and appreciation.

• Show gratitude.

Gratitude is really important, particularly in referral situations. After all, you want those referrals to continue. Even if the client doesn’t come through, show appreciation. Additionally, make a conscious effort to refer matters to those who refer to you. It’s a good practice to develop mutually beneficial referral relationships.

Referral situation or not, if someone goes out of his way to help you for any reason, thank the person. Take him to lunch, send a handwritten note, or call. At the very least, send a thank-you email.

• Don’t burn bridges internally or externally.

Be mindful about how you are communicating with others one-on-one, in meetings, and via email. If you have an issue with someone or something, take a pause before you react. Consider your tone and put yourself in the other person’s shoes.

Ask yourself how others might perceive your communication and what the long-term implications will be. Once you burn a bridge, it can take a long time to repair that relationship if at all, so pick your battles and address them in the right way. Don’t forget, you may need help from others down the road.

• Act with integrity.

Be a role model for others. Do what you say you are going to do. Practice what you preach. Get back to people. To the extent possible, show up to meetings on time and don’t hold up a group.

Lastly, take the high road in any situation and always act ethically and respectfully when interacting with others, including with attorneys on the other side of a matter and with the competition.

The really successful and likeable attorneys who stand out in the legal community excel in the above areas. While many of these things seem obvious, we get caught up in our work and busy lives. Sometimes things fall through the cracks, or we don’t handle a given situation in the most ideal way.

I often see and hear of situations that could have been handled better if the person had just asked himself: “How can this affect my personal brand if I act this way or don’t act at all?”

Make a conscious effort to ensure your personal brand is always perceived by others in the best light possible. It’s a good practice to be reminded of this from time to time when engaging in self-reflection. A good personal brand will help with business development and other opportunities.

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Ellen M. Keiley is president of EMK Consulting Group, which offers business development coaching and consulting, public relations, and training for law firms. She can be contacted at ellenkeiley@emkconsultinggroup.com.

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