Personal Brands: Did You Trick or Treat?

Lady-gaga-corsetInhibitions are gone when the costume is on.

Last Sunday night, you may have taken on a new identity in search of a pillowcase filled with candy. Or, perhaps like 52 million adults, you dressed up in search of a romantic partner in a bar filled with Lady Gagas and Jersey Shore’s Snooki. Those were number one and number two, among the most popular costumes this year.  Given that those two look like it’s Halloween every day of the year, and the endless celebration of their characters (not character) we endure, how could they not be top of mind as you exchange your identity for something bigger, better, or perhaps radically different than you are?

Getting into character

My parents took my sister and me to the theater often, starting way back when they were a young married couple in Manhattan. It was the Mad Men era, or more accurately the time of The Man in the Grey Flannel Suit as author Sloan Wilson sketched the lives of discontented businessmen and their cinched-waist wives. As their children, we were dressed up in miniature versions of that era’s women, with tiny white gloves, small hats and shirtwaist dresses over crinoline slips.

Despite the fact that we were just barely getting by financially, or perhaps because of it: we literally dressed up for an evening of theater. Nothing about being poor then or its stepsister “broke,” ever, has undermined that legacy of a not minor amount of glamour being de rigueur on occasions.

Up until June this year when my mother died, there was never a meeting, presentation, seminar, brunch or evening out where we failed to have the “dress up” Q&A. She would ask, “What did you wear?” And, with all the hopefulness of a person who did everything she could when she was still in charge, came her follow-up query, “Did you put lipstick on?”

My DNA often shows itself when you see me during the occasions where I am on-purpose. I dress in “costume” for keynotes, seminars, and meetings and just about anytime it would serve my standing to look smart. Because it is smart to get into character – which shows your character – when you are creating and taking full advantage of opportunities that make the difference between your getting the gig or applause, or not. I put on a smart-looking suit or dress, and I put on make-up. Recently, I spurge on getting my hair done, since my audiences are increasing larger and so are their expectations, plus there are cameras that record my every word and wrinkle.

As a career coach, I am meeting way too many people who haven’t yet leveraged everything they have, to get everything they want. Now is the time to expand on your brand. Personal Brands: dress the part. That will help you “get over yourself.” That will get you beyond being self-conscious about promoting yourself, and doing it relentlessly.

Are you one of the amazing and worthy people who can’t stand talking about your own brand? With nearly every new coaching client I am compelled to say:

“Okay, if you can’t bear to promote yourself to people who are the gatekeepers to what you want: stop thinking this is about YOU. Think of YOU as a product, something you must package attractively, since you are the ‘product specialist.’ Deal with being a personal brand, because you are also the brand manager.”

Some people have an awfully debilitating “aw shucks” attitude, preventing themselves from presenting a highly polished image, gleaming with strengths and achievements. They don’t see themselves as a proud and hopeful inventor and investor, who birthed and reared this brand – and now deserve the riches that come from other people “buying it.”

Dress the part

Personal brands: if you do only one thing differently as Q4 2010 reels toward its end, dress up for the role you want to play in business. Get a jacket and tie on (it looks cute on women, too), get a good haircut, and gender appropriately wear lipstick or lip balm.

As my grandfather once said, “First they look, then they listen.”

Staging yourself to “look the part” may feel like a trick, but you will love the way you get treated.

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