A good personal brand is your most valuable asset. Before the internet, only celebrities needed to worry about personal branding, but these days, reputation management needs to be a high priority for everyone. Your personal brand is more than a reflection of who you are today; it’s a roadmap of where your career can advance, even if it’s with your current employer.
Your personal brand begins with a strategic plan to take your reputation and career visibility from normal and expected to highly noticeable. People don’t care how much you know – until they know how much you care.
According to Wikipedia, a personal brand is the conscious and intentional effort to create and influence public perception of an individual by positioning them as an authority in their industry, elevating their credibility, and differentiating themselves from the competition. The goal of an individual’s personal brand is to ultimately advance their career, increase their circle of influence, and have a larger impact.
What is Personal Branding?
Just as a company’s brand helps to communicate its value to customers to stand out from the competition, a personal brand does the same for individuals. Personal branding is who you are, what you believe in, the values you hold close, and how you execute your ideals. Telling your story should showcase your strengths, but it’s also about establishing a reputation and building trust.
When your story is seen and heard, your personal brand will signal to employers whether or not you’re right for an open position. Personal brand storytelling can show off your personality if it’s authentic and not an advertisement. You can focus on three segments: your history (what led you to where you are today), your current story (the one right now in the making), and the unwritten story (what you’ll accomplish in future moments). The good thing about storytelling is you don’t have to be a degreed content writer to create your personal brand: I often use the free version of Grammarly to make sure my choice of words is used best.
Who Do You Think You Are?
A good place to start is by asking yourself questions to assure your personal brand accurately reflects your professional identity. Take a moment to reflect introspectively to identify your true strengths and weaknesses:
- What characteristics have others complimented me on?
- What inspires me to move and get things done?
- Which roles drain my excitement?
- Which projects can I spend hours on without feeling overwhelmed?
Sometimes it’s hard to answer our own questions, so ask a friend or family member how they would describe your true superpowers. Once you have these facets determined, you can decide how to best promote them. Also, be kind to yourself and recognize that, much like a company’s brand, a personal brand will change as your career grows. Just because it was in alignment five years ago doesn’t mean it has to represent who you are today, especially if it overwhelms you or no longer motivates you.
Don’t Be Afraid to Ask
Reaching out to a professional you’re considering working for with a request for an informational meeting – not a formal interview – positions you as an assertive, continuous learner. Asking them industry-related questions such as “How do you see the industry changing?”, “How do you stay up-to-date with industry trends?”, or “What professional associations or groups would benefit me as a growing leader?” While you’re listening to understand, you’re giving them an opportunity to see your brand in the making, keeping your personal brand top-of-mind for when a position does require someone of your character.
How Do You Introduce Yourself?
It’s easy for anyone to introduce themselves as name, title, and where they work. However, take time to craft a concise message of who you are to add color to your story and frame your attributes in the right perspective. Identify what you do that no one else does and what problem can you solve. This could also be the perfect opportunity to include that you’re looking for a new role and you have strengths in particular areas. “I’m Jill Jones, the Senior Marketing Specialist at Bemis Manufacturing. I recently published a new e-book for the company; if you’re creating one, I can offer suggestions I learned through the process.” These words demonstrate a skill set, but it also shows you’re not afraid to show a little vulnerability by revealing something honest, and that perhaps the entire process wasn’t hiccup-free. It communicates an experience and enthusiasm which may prime others to respond in kind.
After you’ve updated your opener, practice it on two or three people you know well. Then, after a few days, ask them ‘What do you remember most about my intro?’ Their response a few days later will tell you what is most memorable about your intro, what you could alter, and what you might lean into when saying it again.
As an obvious side note, pay attention to your nonverbal cues and body language. When introducing yourself in person, it’s easy to get wrapped up in your words that you forget about what the rest of your body is saying. Maintain eye contact, relax your shoulders and arms, and master a firm handshake!
Tips to Build Your Personal Brand
- Be true to yourself. What are your strengths and skillsets? Remember to think about what makes any brand strong and successful, and see if you can apply it to yourself.
- When’s the last time you Googled yourself? Find the images, articles, or videos of you out there that are telling the story of your brand. If you don’t like what is online, you can edit privacy settings on social media and generate new content to better represent who you are.
- Review your social media accounts to ensure they best reflect you as a professional. You want anything public to be an accurate representation of how you want to be seen. At lightning speed, you can positively or negatively impact your personal brand, so make sure you’re using those superpowers for good.
- Use LinkedIn like a pro. Make sure your profile summary is full of great SEO-rich content. This section is visible to everyone, not only your connections. This copy is a great place to let your personal brand shine! As you write it, think about what you would say to someone you’d just met to get them to think highly of you and what you do.
- There are many ways to generate publicity coverage about yourself. You could appear on a podcast as an expert, seek professional awards or recognitions, or participate and speak at industry events. You can create a blog or vlog to generate your own content where you are in complete control of your brand. It’s important to have your name come up on more than just one or two websites after a Google search.
- If you have a common name, like Joe Smith or Emma Jones, be sure that people can find you rather than someone else with your name (especially if the other people with your name don’t have such a good reputation). Again, the way to do this is to make sure that you appear on as many different sites as possible.
- Managing your personal brand is ultimately about self-pride. While you don’t want to come across as vain or arrogant, you do want people to believe you can be a contributor and add value to their lives.
- Think. Post. Before you post anything online – from a tweet to an article – stop and think about how it reflects your brand. Always remember that youare your very own personal brand ambassador, so protect it!
Time to Act for Impact
Be a keeper, not a sleeper. Personal branding is about standing out while being yourself – your best self. You can do this through professional persistence that gets you noticed. The important thing to remember is to craft your own style and framework for how you will grow professionally over time. Each person’s style should be authentic and customized to your individual personality, strengths, and even weaknesses.
If I can leave you with one thing, let it be this: have conviction in something bigger than yourself. If you don’t stand for something, it’s tough to get others to follow.