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It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.
– Warren Buffett
This post is inspired by what I experienced today after someone requested a meeting with me and then cancelled 15 minutes before the meeting was to take place with no real excuse. Honestly, it is hard for me to take that individual seriously after that.
One of the many lessons I’ve learned in my career is that in every interaction you have with someone, whether in a professional setting or other, you are always communicating your brand. This is why I try to remain professional in my interactions with people – especially people whom I do not know well. Here are a few tips to make sure you don’t tarnish your personal brand.

1. Always be Punctual

Nothing can ruin the start of a good thing like being late for your first official encounter with someone. Make sure you both are clear on the date, time, and location of your meeting. Always arrive at least 10 minutes early. If you are going to be late, let that person know as soon as you know that there is a possibility that you will be late. Don’t wait until you’re already late to say something! At that point, it’s obvious that you’re late! People appreciate a notification of a late arrival a lot more than waiting around for someone, unsure if they are running behind or is a no-show.

2. Keep a Calendar and Set Reminders 

Since I began grad school, I have always kept a calendar with me, whether it’s an app on my phone or a physical calendar that I can refer to. This ensures that I am abreast of my schedule and allows me to properly plan my week. A calendar app is very helpful because you can set multiple reminders to ensure that nothing slips your mind.

3. Always Follow Up

This is something that I always tell students and that I am constantly working on, myself. Sometimes we forget that we are not the only ones that are busy. So when someone doesn’t respond to our e-mail, call or text, we leave it undone and believe the ball is in the other person’s court to make the next move. Sometimes, we have to put our pride to the side and just send one more email following up on your last communication. This will communicate that you are serious about whatever you are talking about and shows initiative on your part. I’ve mostly received positive and sometimes apologetic responses when I reach out to people a second time. This just confirms my theory that most people aren’t intentionally ignoring you, they are just busy!

4. Always Dress the Part

The old saying goes that you must “Dress for Success.” One thing I always say is people will treat you the way you treat yourself. It may seem silly to some, but if you look like you don’t care about yourself, it will be difficult for people to care about you or take you seriously. This is why it’s important to always be well groomed. A huge myth is that it costs a ton of money to maintain a well-polished look. This is simply untrue. Check out my post on ways to build a professional attire on a budget here.
 

5. Remember Decorum

Sometimes people can do really well with being punctual and dressing the part, but forget that you must remember that your vernacular must conform to your setting. If you’re not sure how formal your interaction will be, it is best to err on the side of professional rather than too comfortable. This way, you can test the waters with the other person and gauge your behavior based on theirs. This goes for all communication including emails, phone calls, and text messages. Be weary of any shorthand writing or use of exclamation marks unless it is clear that the communications are less formal in nature.

6. Be Yourself! 

Although most people aren’t professional by nature, which causes you to have to change some aspects of your personality in a business setting, you must remember to stay true to yourself in everything you do! Your brand is YOURS and yours alone. You want your professionalism to be a part of your foundation, but not everything in and of itself. Everyone is unique and you should never hide that. Therefore, you should try to let that uniqueness shine while also remaining poised. This will allow you to remain confident in what you are doing and what you are talking about.
I hope these tips will provide a little guidance in whatever your career may be. You want people to know how awesome you are, so don’t distract them from your greatness by having a lack of professionalism.  Please feel free to share any additional tips that you find helpful in maintaining your brand in the comments section!