Your work persona is what you are “known for” at work. It’s not a complete picture of who you are, but it’s how you represent yourself. It’s the perception that you craft and hone. It’s the things you want to be known for. It’s what helps make you successful at work – and define to others, what success means to you.
Many of us enter the workforce as though we are entering another classroom or a date. “Just be yourself.” You show up as you are, and get to work.
Great advice if you are dating, but it could lead you astray in an office environment… especially if you are working in a cross-generational work-space. You don’t need to change who you are, but you do need to craft your work persona.
I learned this the hard way. I showed up to my first job (ok, maybe my first few jobs), without understanding that work required a different type of package. I didn’t get it. My friends liked me well enough – why wasn’t I succeeding at work?
It took me years and several carefully delivered mentoring conversations to realize that the casual jeans and a t-shirt person I am, was not at all aligned with the type of person I wanted to be recognized at work.
Before we discuss the how, you need to understand what your future colleagues already know. (Also known as the things you should have learned in college, but were absent that day.)
The basics of being at work:
- Your casual jeans and weekend t-shirts are never ok – even if you are in a “casual” work environment. (Ditto to tank tops, flip-flops, and other beach attire)
- Getting work done is valued over office gossip – so work should always come first.
- Be respectful. At all times – you never know who you are interacting with, who is witnessing it, and really – just be a generally decent person.
- People don’t like holding your hand. Pay attention, take notes, show-up on time, ask questions – but try not to ask the same question five times. Be present and make an effort – don’t just sit back and expect things to be handed to you.
- Answering your work phone and email is not optional.
- Use complete words and sentences in your communication. Do not text-speak in emails.It’s unprofessional and gives off an “I don’t really understand the English language” vibe.
- Don’t make your boss/peer/colleague feel old – watch your responses, pop-culture references, and commentary. No one likes to be told they are dinosaurs.
Five Ways to Create Your Work Persona
1. Get to the core of the matter
There are certain aspects of our personality that we will never be able to comfortably silence. And that’s good! Sometimes we may want to turn the volume down on them, but at the end of the day, they are an essential part of who we are – they are core to who we are as human beings.
Figure out what your non-negotiables are. What are the things that are core to you, that make you tick, that are of utmost importance, that they need to shine through in your interactions?
2. What do you want to be known for?
The best part about having a work persona is that YOU dictate what you are known for. What are the marketable skills, qualities, realities and perceptions that drive how you want others to think of you? Start by observing the qualities and perceptions of people you admire at work. What do people say about them – good and bad?
These are usually qualities that you already possess – reviewing them, and taking a stand that these are the skills and qualities that I want other people to think about when they say my name. For example, if you like being a quick responder and enjoy interviewing candidates, then these are the skills that you want to start crafting a “name” for.
3. What is valued or admired in your work environment?
The success of your work persona is only as strong as the environment around you allows. If you add up all of the elements and decide that you want to be known as a boisterous political debater, who wears jeans and t-shirts to work, and never responds to email… then your office needs to appreciate these qualities in order for it to work to your advantage.
Office culture is a critical component when evaluating who you want to known as at work. You want to enhance your current skills and personality to your favor, not to your detriment. Make sure that what you are known for is valued and respected where you work and within your field, so you can craft a persona that resonates appropriately.
4. Past successes can equal future gains.
Look back at the qualities and skills that have made you successful in life prior to your current position –be it at school, in sports, or within an activity. Start building on your natural abilities and learned behaviors, instead of starting anew.
If it has been noted on a previous performance review that you seem to have a vast work-load capacity, then this can be a winning characteristic for you. Review what you’ve earned recognition for in the past, and see how you can build on that reputation even further.
5. Image is everything
There are so many sayings here… “Fake it til you make it.” “Dress as the part you want, not the one you have.” And so on. The point is that how you wrap up your work persona, the neat little package that you put it in, will play a big role in the long-lasting effects of it.
Not just the outward appearance. But your ongoing actions will continue to craft, shape and connect with the persona you have developed. So be sure to keep an eye on what persona you put out there, so you can live up to it and reinforce it, every chance you get.
This post first appeared on LifeAfterCollege.org.