Last Friday night, I somehow won best female costume at our company’s year end party. The theme was rock / pop stars, and I attempted to be Katy Perry with a blue wig and
cupcake bikini top tight pink dress (a slightly more conservative approach that still mildly resembles my character’s wardrobe choice). My victory was solely due to the non-existent competition as only 30% of the total attendees made any attempt at wearing a costume.
While I accepting my prize and company-wide recognition, I had very mixed feelings as I stood on stage under the hot lights. I couldn’t help but think: While this is technically an outside the office party, how does this affect my personal brand inside the office?
As I twirled my fake, long, blue hair, I thought: Do people think I’m fun, or do people think a little trashy? As I adjusted my tight pink dress, I thought: Are people focused on my looks now, or do they still think I’m competent and (mildly) intelligent at work?
I contrast this recognition with that of another colleague of mine. She is the head of our company’s running club. Each week, she organizes fellow runners to a marathon training session. Prior to the race, she even ordered and distributed run packs which includes a running shirt, gel, and Cliff bars. On top of that, she finished her first marathon in incredible time!
Through the running club, she’s expanded her network and created wonderful PR for herself through running. Perhaps others attribute positive qualities to her professionally because of this extracurricular activity. I, at least, think of her as reliable (as she trains with club members weekly), goal-oriented (setting time objective for her race and achieving it), organized (creating and ordering the race packs), and team-oriented (as she manages the club).
Perhaps winning a costume contest as Katy Perry doesn’t quite create the same positive branding effect as leading a running club…
The lesson learned here is: be more selective and thoughtful about activities outside the office to excel at and attract attention for. Preferably, choose activities that highlight your strengths and build upon desirable professional qualities.
On the bright side, at least I didn’t wear this (well, at least the part below the neck)…