As I discussed in a previous post, your personal brand is a curated summation of your professional capabilities, knowledge, and experience. It helps your colleagues and clients understand who you are, what you are good at, and why they should work with you. In a professional services firm, as in most organizations, your personal brand is critical because it helps build client relationships and expand your network.
So, how do you further enhance your brand to be distinctive about your expertise? An effective first step is to think about your job and how you would describe it to someone else. But here’s the catch: you can’t default to just reciting your title, job role, or practice area.
Guidehouse’s CEO Julie Howard recently observed that these typical introductory statements often reveal very little about capabilities, experiences, or areas of differentiation. Too often, they are based on internal organization structures that are opaque or worse, irrelevant, to external clients and prospects. For example, someone might introduce themselves as a director in the financial services group. But what does that convey about the individual’s areas of expertise? Even more confusing, a director at one firm might be a senior partner (or a manager) at another.
Julie challenged Guidehouse employees to develop a personal introduction describing what they were experts at. Ideally, their areas of expertise would immediately resonate with people or organizations and clearly communicate the value they can provide to colleagues and clients.
Here’s an example that helps illuminate the value of this approach. When I first met Hasmik Alvrtsyan, one of my Guidehouse colleagues, she was introduced to me as “a data analytics expert who helps translate client business questions into solvable problems using available data.” Now that’s somebody that I need to get to know. However, if she’d introduced herself to me as a managing consultant in our healthcare practice, I wouldn’t have much insight into what she excels at.
To start thinking about and describing yourself as a subject matter expert, work on developing a concise statement that captures the essence of what you do best. Going through this exercise sometimes requires a bit of soul searching, but these questions can help you home in on what’s truly distinctive:
Where do you concentrate the majority of your time and energy at work?
How do you engage with clients?
What are you better at than anyone else on your team? In your office? At your company?
An added challenge is that when you’re so close to daily tasks, it can be difficult to get the necessary distance to be objective. Thinking about your audiences (external and internal) and what they care about is essential. And as I noted in my previous post, ensuring the attributes and talents that you emphasize are compelling, relevant, and, above all, authentic, is crucial.
That doesn’t mean you should be a shapeshifter to appeal to every audience. Instead, understanding what matters in a professional setting can provide a valuable lens to separate the things you care about from what your audience wants to know. There’s room for both in your personal brand, but never forget that in effective marketing, your focus needs to be on the audience you are trying to connect with.
As you get more comfortable in describing your areas of expertise, you’ll find using it in your introduction comes naturally. Over time, you will become recognized for your knowledge on that topic. You may eventually become an authority figure, and your point of view will be valued and even sought after.
So remember: your title tells people where you reside on your firm’s org chart; your knowledge and experience communicate how you can be valuable to your internal network and clients. Where your subject matter expertise lies is information that everyone will want to know.