Not so long ago, the concept of building a personal brand would probably have seemed pointless. Of course, that was before our entire personal and professional histories could be discovered with a simple Google search, and before we were competing with members of the gig economy for the work of high-level executive positions. In this digital age, a personal brand is more than just an added bonus during your job search; it is becoming a necessity.
What is a Personal Brand?
A personal brand is your story. It communicates who you are, what you value, and what makes you stand out. Craft your personal brand story by telling the tale of your career progression. Where did you come from and what catalyst brought you to where you are today? What obstacles have you faced and how did you overcome them? How have the lessons you’ve learned and the challenges you’ve faced made you a better employee, better professional, or just an all-around better person? These are the qualities that make you unique and those are what should be reflected through your personal brand story.
Why is Your Personal Brand Important?
According to a study by Northeastern University, 85% of hiring managers report that a job candidate’s personal brand influences their hiring decisions. Your personal brand helps you to define what you’re looking for out of your career, which helps you to then position yourself in the right way to potential employers. It also helps you to determine your professional value and worth by defining exactly what it is that you bring to the table. What skills or talents do you have that the company you want to work for is lacking? By answering these questions and designing your personal brand, you will be able to attract the type of job opportunities that you want.
How to Build a Personal Brand
While the idea of building a personal brand may seem daunting, it is actually very doable by following just a few simple steps. The most important thing to remember is to be authentic. Your brand has to be a reflection of who you are today and who you want to become tomorrow. It should go without saying, but you never portray yourself as someone you’re not. Pretending you can do things that you simply cannot do will only lead to frustration for you and your potential employer and may well damage your reputation in the process.
Check out these five tips for building a personal brand that is authentic and will garner you appealing opportunities.
To build an authentic personal brand, you must first figure out who you are and who you want to be. Determining your personal and professional identities requires you to ask yourself some introspective questions. For instance:
- What is my past work history?
- What tasks do I enjoy doing the most?
- What do I think my best skill is?
- What have others complimented me on?
- What motivates me?
- What projects am I most proud of?
- What are my favorite types of projects to work on?
- Which tasks are the most tedious for me?
- What do I need the most help with?
- What skills would I like to learn?
- When I think about my dream job, what does it entail?
Be honest with yourself as you answer these questions. Remember, these are only for you to see, to help you to determine where you want to go with your career and how you want to present yourself to the world. Your responses to these questions will lay the foundation for your personal brand. As you grow and develop in your career, however, the answers to these questions will change, so it’s a good idea to come back to them often.
Write a Personal Positioning Statement
After you’ve answered the above questions and gotten a better idea of who exactly you are professionally and what you do and do not like to do, then it’s time to take that information and write a personal positioning statement. A positioning statement is essentially an advertisement for your personal brand. It’s a way for you to consolidate all your responses to the questions in the first step into a few sentences that you can use to answer that dreaded interview or networking question: “So, tell me about yourself.”
You’ve done the hard work for this step already. Now it’s time to consolidate your answers. Start by stating what it is you do. This could be your current job title or a more general term for your career path. For instance, “I am a product marketing director for a manufacturing company”, or simply, “I am a marketing executive.” Next describe your niche or specialty is. For example, “I specialize in digital content creation and strategy.” Then, list your top three strengths, such as “I excel at SEO optimization, social media strategy, and blogging.” Finally, write out what it is that you want to do. For instance, “I am looking for new opportunities to use my passion for digital marketing strategy to help a company expand its digital footprint and grow its business in innovative new ways.”
Putting this example together, this personal positioning statement would read: “I am a marketing executive, specializing in digital content creation and strategy. I excel at SEO optimization, social media strategy, and blogging. I am looking for new opportunities to use my passion for digital marketing strategy to help a company expand its digital footprint and grow its business in innovative new ways.”
Know (and Show) Your Worth
Now that you’ve written your personal positioning statement, it’s time to use it to help you determine exactly what it is you’re worth to a company. Keep in mind, your worth is the value that you bring to a company.
When seeking out new career opportunities, you need to know what you can bring to a potential employer that they don’t already have. In the example above, the value that this marketing executive could bring to a potential employer may be her ability to bring new traffic to a company’s website through SEO optimization, which could lead to new leads and increased profit for the company. Think about what value your specific skills would bring to a potential employer. Could you help bring in more profit or save the company money? Could you develop a new program that would save them time and energy, or make the company more efficient in some way?
Once you’ve figured out what value you can provide, it’s time to show it off. There are so many opportunities available for you to put your value on display online. Perhaps create a website or online portfolio that displays your best work, and include reviews from previous co-workers, employers, or clients.
One of the best places to display your personal brand and professional worth is on your LinkedIn profile. LinkedIn is often thought of as simply an online resume, but it is much more than that. It can provide a dynamic view of who you are professionally and can give a nice, high-level view of all that you have accomplished during your career. There are a few basic things to remember when using LinkedIn, however. First, make sure you have a very professional profile photo. This is the first thing a potential employer will see, so make sure you use a great professional headshot or at least a clear photo of you in professional attire against a solid background. Also, be sure to make use of your network when using LinkedIn. One of the greatest features of LinkedIn is the platform’s networking capabilities. Take advantage of the great connections you’ve made by leaving insightful comments on articles or posts your connections share, share articles you find interesting, and post your own thought leadership pieces. This will help give a more comprehensive view of who you are and how you think.
Network, Network, Network
For some professionals, simply mentioning the word “networking” can cause a mild panic attack. But according to a survey by Lou Adler, 85 percent of all jobs are filled through networking. In the professional world, networking is necessary and crucial to helping build your personal brand. There are many different ways to network and many steps one can take to make it less burdensome – and maybe even fun!
Networking doesn’t mean going to every industry function and handing out your business cards to as many people as possible. It’s about making intentional connections with the right people. Networking can be as simple as interacting with some of your industry heroes on LinkedIn on a regular basis. It can also be a learning opportunity when you attend an industry conference or join a local group that has regular meetings.
To make networking easier, consider these tips:
- Think of networking as meeting new friends and making genuine connections. These are your peers; they’re people you can learn from and who may be able to help you further your career. When you view these people as friends rather than as predators who are waiting to spam your inbox with meeting requests, then you will be more relaxed and open to making a sincere connection.
- Don’t dominate the conversation. A mistake many people make when networking is focusing more on themselves than on the other person. It’s easy, and quite frankly, it feels good to talk about yourself. But this doesn’t help you to make connections – and it can also be a little annoying. Instead, be inquisitive, ask them both personal and professional questions. On the other hand, when a new connection asks you questions, don’t give a one-word response. Be honest and forthcoming and respond with a follow-up question. Think of the conversation like a tennis match and lob the questions back and forth. Get to know your new friends on a deeper level.
- Don’t forget the follow-up. To really forge a connection, you must invest more time and effort than just attending a monthly group happy hour. For example, if you have a good conversation with someone at a networking event, grab their business card, friend them on LinkedIn and send them a message or email asking to meet up for coffee or lunch one day to continue your conversation. Also, share articles you see on LinkedIn that you think they may find interesting. If you know of someone else you think they should meet, connect them together. This will not only help you to make strong professional connections, but it will also build positive word-of-mouth around your reputation and personal brand.
Never Stop Learning
One final way to build your personal brand is to continue improving yourself. No matter how high up the corporate ladder you climb, there will always be something new for you to learn. Continue to hone your skills by taking classes (there are many great virtual options). If you have the time and funds, evaluate going back to school and getting a more advanced degree. If your industry has any special certifications or advanced training, consider whether those will help you advance. Even taking up a hobby like painting, yoga, or golf can help to make you more well-rounded and add to your personal brand story. Never stop growing and adding to your skills.
Final Thoughts on Building Your Personal Brand
Now that you have the tools to build your personal brand, it’s time to get started. Remember, your brand is an advertisement for who you are and what you can do. Present it with pride and start attracting the opportunities you want that will lead you to the career of your dreams.
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