Professional reputations are a cornerstone of the property industry. Relationships between competing and complementary firms remain crucial, and networking remains a route to new business.
“Personalities count in property consultancies”, says Andrew Pearson, managing director of recruitment specialists Edgar Cowen. “They are customer facing, and so how you conduct yourself matters.”
This means that maintaining your professional reputation, frequently referred to as “personal brand” is an important career skill, but do you know what your brand is, and how to keep it marketable?
Unique selling points
Reputation expert Lesley Everett defines personal brand as: “impact, presence and profile appropriate for the environment, and at the same time congruent with who you are”.
Branding is about being the right “ fit “ for your employer and profession, and demonstrating your strengths (which in keeping with the marketing analogy you could think of as unique selling points). It is also about knowing how you are perceived by other people, and fine-tuning your behaviour or attitudes, without being disingenuous.
“Your personal brand is about what people say about you when you have left the meeting”, says Everett, who is founder and CEO of personal impact training organisation Walking Tall and advises regularly managing and reviewing your brand.
One of the first steps in managing your brand is to ask trustworthy peers, friends and family to select a few adjectives to describe you. If someone says “indecisive”, when you were aiming to be empathetic, then reflect on why you mis-fired.
Use feedback to help you move your brand forward by drawing up a personal development plan (PDP) which could contain simple “notes to self” such as vowing to re-read emails before you send them in order to check that you always strike the right tone.
“The PDP for your brand is not about re-branding, but more around how to be a better version of yourself”, says executive coach Dawn Bentley, author of Personal Branding Demystified.
Visible branding—get it right
Thanks to social media your brand is always visible to clients and colleagues, with LinkedIn, Twitter and corporate websites being the most obvious (and potentially brand-damaging) examples. Make sure that your tone and appearance are compatible with your career aspirations and employer’s culture.
“We need to look good when people are looking for us”, says Bob Barker who advises senior business people and large organisations on their online presence.
“Invest proper money on your photograph, spend time on your personal summary so that it tells your story, and use rich media, such as a video of you giving a business presentation, to show your skills”, says Barker, known as “a digital companion” at the Electric Dog consultancy.
A well- maintained skills base keeps your brand updated. This particularly applies to technology, whether new software is being released, or more portable devices used on site, all of which affect the way you work and how you are perceived.
“Changing work practices within the industry, often driven by advancement in technology, means that surveyors [in particular] at all levels will need to make a conscious effort to stay up to date, keeping their skills and qualifications in line with any changes or developments that take place”, says Richard Gelder, director at Hays Property and Surveying. “Attending industry events will also help to monitor changes to legislation and technology”, he says.
Develop an elevator pitch
In such a people-facing business as property it is always useful to have an “elevator pitch” (a short introduction to your career achievements and motivation) up your metaphorical sleeve. Becoming comfortable with your personal brand can help you develop an elevator pitch (which should carry an easy confidence, not a hard- sell) which is useful for personal introductions at networking events.
“Networking is first and foremost about being curious about others, understanding what they may want to learn and then focussing on how you could help them”, says brand expert Estelle Wackermann, head of business development at creative consultancy Wolff Olins.
“Being generous and useful to someone is the first step into a strong and lasting relationship. No sales pitch can ever get you that”, says Wackermann pointing out that your tone should reflect “your true personality rather than the polished corporate discourse.” In other words, it should convey your personal brand.