Steve Jobs. Anita Roddick. Mark Zuckerberg. Founders who have left legacies for their businesses that are a huge part of how people perceive them today.
Businesses aren’t thought leaders, people are. And yeah, that’s a really lame phrase (it goes nicely with blue sky thinking and low hanging fruit) but it’s what raising your professional profile is all about. Or mostly about.
There are two benefits to becoming known in your industry: you’ll get jobs/connections/investment more easily and your profile will contribute to the reputation of any business that hires you. If that business happens to be yours, job done.
I would never suggest that you start wearing a certain style of polo neck and try to make it your ‘thing’. You can’t just create a character – can you imagine trying to live it for the rest of your life?
What you can do is be yourself. The little idiosyncrasies you allow to fly free are what people remember you for. Of course, you should be yourself anyway, but it does help people remember you if you happen to ADORE bow ties or
If you’re not a kooky kind of person, that is FINE. You don’t have to be! People will remember you for that thing you do when you’re presenting, how you always ask after their family or the wonderful Christmas cards you send out each year.
It’s not about trying to stand out. It’s about letting the things that make you YOU shine. Your own personal brand is what will help make any brand you work for or found special.
Be the same you everywhere
Don’t create multiple versions of yourself online. Set your Facebook to private, sure, but then present yourself in the same way everywhere else.
Set the rules for your professional profile (maybe you don’t think swearing is appropriate, maybe you’ll avoid politics) and stick to them so you don’t get caught out. The same as any brand should.
2. Say yes
Or not even waiting to be asked. If your job is quite rigid, you have to find your growth in other places. I got there by being curious about what other people were doing and poking my nose in where it probably wasn’t wanted. If you’re constantly looking for cool things you can volunteer for, your networks will grow, your portfolio will grow and your toolkit will grow.
Over the years, I coached people who were struggling to meet spelling and grammar requirements in my website team – I even got a certification in mentoring through my company – I said HELL YES to an NVQ in business administration purely because it was free, I volunteered for a corporate responsibility project that involved working with local charities, I documented processes in my teams, I covered manager holidays. Last year, I ran a workshop for new copywriters in my own time and on my own dime. I was a total joiner and a nerd.
…and make sure everybody knows it
Every tiny, random thing I did, I spun into a story and put on my LinkedIn profile. I posted photos on Twitter, linked to articles mentioning me – I bled every experience dry.
Sometimes it this may require being creative with the truth. Launching a startup or running a small business can be far from glamorous but things that seem unglamorous behind the scenes give you a raft of dreams to start building on. You sold one product? Record sales month! You won a crappy award you nominated yourself for? KILLING IT!
Few things are cool when you’re doing them (that garage in Silicon Valley probably felt pretty bleak to Steve Jobs at the time). It’s all in the telling.
3. Make friends
Partly just because it definitely eases your way (having a Whatsapp group of people you can turn to in panic is useful) but also because it gets you connections.
I thought copywriters didn’t really mix, just sat alone behind their typewriters guzzling gin. But it turns out they actually use computers. The gin… I was right about the gin.
When I was a tiny, tiny copywriter, I stumbled across the hashtag #amwriting, which led me to the hashtag #copywritersunite on Twitter. It showed me who to follow in the community and I started interacting with people I could learn from. I went to one of their meetups and I met three people I still talk to every single day in my Twitter DMs. We’ve helped each other through how to ask for a raise, what to charge clients, how to phrase emails, how to spell the word ‘zshuszh’…
As well as this support, I also met a lot of people I needed to impress. If I could capture their attention, they were the kind of people who could give me work when they had too much on. I’ve had portfolio advice, covering letter feedback, lectures on my fees, and a copywriting project with Compare the Market through this ‘networking’. Free.
Twitter is the perfect place to track down where all the people like you are. Where they’re meeting, what they’re talking about, books or courses they recommend. It’s like stalking only better for everybody involved.
4. Hassle your heroes
Everyone loves their ego massaged, especially in industries that don’t get a lot of celebrity like plant machinery hire or traditional plaster moulding.
This could be as simple as mentioning their Twitter handle while you’re reading something they did or you could go full-on and email them or send them a message on LinkedIn. Open with something of theirs you admired recently, say what you liked, ask a question relevant to it and end with a small bit about you. Mentioning people in a complimentary fashion on Twitter is great because you’re very likely to get a retweet to all the other people like them that follow.
That said, I did not follow this guide and sent a copywriter I worshipped a message on his site that just said: “You write like maybe you’re my real dad”. He’s been a mentor to me for three years now. Sometimes you’ve just go to go with your heart.
These relationships, these under-the-wing takers are the organic stuff you can do to raise your professional profile. Get on these people’s radars. They are likely to invite you to things, recommend other people to follow. Become active in your community and show interest in what others are doing.
A professional profile is a story
- Join Twitter chats related to your industry to find accounts to follow
- Go to meetups to meet people in real life
- Comment on LinkedIn articles and write your own
- Approach people you admire without an agenda beyond gaining inspiration
- Collect your ‘cuttings’ – photos, certificates, publications – to tell your story
- Seek discussions you can learn from and shine in
If you spend enough time appearing to be a big deal, eventually there’ll be no difference between the performance and the reality.