Archive for month: February, 2014

Is it time to strengthen your professional brand?

 What’s your brand at work?

And why does it matter? 

brandThere’s you, the essential person you are. 

 Obviously related, but not quite the same, is you — the professional who shows up on the job and makes a contribution.

 And then there’s your professional brand.

Originally a “brand” referred to a word or symbol indicating the owner or producer of a product.  Ranchers used hot irons to brand cattle.  And back when soap was usually just called “soap,” Pears Soap was named after the barber who invented a gentle cleaning bar.

As it’s used today, the term “brand” isn’t the same as a “brand name.”  In a branding effort, marketers try to distinguish a product, highlighting how its attributes differ from those of competitors. But a “brand” is an even broader concept than that, because it encompasses not just the qualities of a product but also how customers perceive those qualities.

Your professional brand is a reflection not only of you and what you do, but also of others’ assessment of your expertise, your work product and your character. Your brand can greatly impact your career opportunities and satisfaction.  And yet it might be quite different from either the real you or the high achiever you strive to be when you are on the job. 

In other words, even if you are a good person, and you work really hard, there’s no guarantee you’ll have a strong brand that differentiates you from the competition and brings you the career success you deserve.  So smart professionals manage their brands, using strategies like these:

  • Do research. When marketers want to pump up a product brand, they start by getting a handle on how the product is currently perceived.  They may conduct surveys or find other ways to collect customers’ views.  If you want to gauge your brand, gather feedback from other people.  On the job, this might take the form of a “360 review” in which your bosses, employees and colleagues are quizzed by a third party about your performance.  A simple approach is for you to simply ask people who rely on your work for suggestions about how you might be even more helpful. Or you might find a way to have one of your work products evaluated by the people who use it.  
  • Promote your work.  It is not enough to build expertise and do good work.  The next step is sharing the news about what you’ve been doing and learning.  This might mean giving speeches, writing articles or sending out progress reports. Or you can show what you know in more subtle ways, like by offering your services to someone who needs your help.  If you become more collaborative, you may have more opportunities to show off gracefully, by shining a light on the achievements of your whole team.
  • Look in the mirror.   People are more likely to regard you as successful if you present yourself as a person who is doing well.  In a professional world, your aura of success is impacted by your personal style. Whether you like it or not, people are influenced by the way you dress, and speak, and carry yourself.   Others notice if you resist change, have a bad attitude, or put your workplace look together like you don’t really care. If you feel like it’s time for a bit of a makeover, look around for people who appear energetic, polished, positive and powerful.  And consider small steps that might help you acquire some of their gloss.
  • Shape your online presence. The way you show up in an online search has become vital to your professional reputation.   If you want to set up a meeting or call, you must assume the person you’re trying to reach will Google your name.  You can’t get around this by doing nothing.  Your employer, your university and maybe your competitors have mentioned you somewhere.  And your absence from the blogosphere and other professional arenas may be regarded as saying a lot about you.  So if you don’t have a social media strategy, consider these starting with these basics:
    • Set up your LinkedIn profile.  If you can’t bear to share, you don’t have to complete everything.  You can project your brand to the world simply by typing in a few sentences in the summary section.
    • Post your work.  Do a little writing about your area of expertise.  Finding places to show off your work and share your insights has never been easier.   Online groups are eager to attract comments and many blog sites welcome guest posts.
    • Curate.  You can show what you know without creating original work.  If you choose to be a “curator,” it’s considered legit to collect and republish others’ articles, photos and info-graphics on a site like (of course with full attribution).

Building your professional brand does not mean being fake or manipulative.  In fact it’s the opposite.  It means becoming better attuned to how your work impacts other people, and more adept at understanding and displaying your best self.

For more reading, consider these archived items:

Strengthen your career by building your leadership brand

Code Blue: Sound like an oldster? Do you want that as your brand?

Your style is a career changer within your control


Bev’s Tips have been arriving as a zine on Tuesday mornings about 20 times a year since 2004. For more Tips, sign up for the zine, go to the zine archive or visit Bev’s blog. We’d love to hear your comments here on, or email Bev at:

Follow Bev on Twitter. Connect with Bev on LinkedIn.


When there is no “we” in faculty: 4 approaches to faculty teamwork

The old saying says there is no “I” in “teamwork.”  What do you do when there is no “we” in faculty?

Since leaving the University of Illinois in December 2010, I’ve worked at a number of universities around the world to help bring transformative change to engineering education.  Transformative change and routine business as usual are very different things.  In the usual routine setting of the university, great individual performance by faculty members is expected and often delivered.  Faculty run their courses, their labs, hire and fire their graduate students and the system proceeds.  Occasionally faculty members are required to get together and “collaborate” on committees, but even there, most university committees are less teams and more like working groups, where individuals can assemble their work product relatively independently.  The situation is so common as to not require comment; however, if you are trying to bring about change in the university, the lack of teamwork chops among faculty can be a showstopper.

In change initiatives, something new is being created and oftentimes there are joint curricular and cultural decisions to make together.  In general, there is more need for common purpose, cooperation, and collaboration than in the usual routine setting, but given the lack of experience in working together faculty members are ill-equipped to interact effectively enough to get the job done.  

So what can be done?  Here we consider 4 possibilities:

Notice & acknowledge the cultural shift.  Moving from a routine, individualistic culture to a startup, team-oriented culture can be deeply disorienting and a difficult adjustment.  To notice and acknowledge the difference is the first step to doing anything about it.  Reflecting on Schein’s model of culture (here) is helpful to understanding the obstacles to shifting gears. 

Use individual performance when possible  Getting individual performers to become great team performers overnight is difficult, especially in an individualistic culture.  To the extent possible, if the task can be broken into small pieces, do so.  You’ll play to the strengths of your actors.

Go with pairwork or very small teams to start.  Going cold turkey to large teams is often too hard.  Instead move to the smallest unit of collaboration, the pair.  I’ve coined the term pairwork and written (here) about the value of using pairs and small teams in educational and interdisciplinary initiatives.  Once people get their teamwork legs under them, you can move to larger teams. 

Provide principled teamwork training.  Faculty can be rough on fluffy trainers, so give them some red meat by talking about speech acts (requests & commitments) and some simple team ground rules to help provide some structure.  Using facilitated team meetings or team coaching is another way to go, if the resources, both financial and human, are available.

Moving from “I” to “we” in a university setting isn’t easy, but there are times when it is necessary, and some of the suggestions here should be helpful to making the experience more productive.