What is Personal Branding
Personal branding is similar to corporate branding in many ways. It is who you are…what you stand for…the values you embrace and the way in which you express those values. A company’s brand communicates its value to customers and helps the firm rise above the competition. Personal branding does the same for individuals. A individuals brand helps convey a unique identity and clear value to potential employers and the public at large.
Your personal brand can play an important role in both establishing and boosting your career. It shouldn’t come as a surprise, but 85% of hiring managers report that a candidate’s brand influences their hiring decisions. A strong personal brand showcases your strengths, establishes a reputation, builds trust and communicates the unique traits that you bring to your current (or ideal) profession. When fostered, your personal brand will tell employers whether or not you’ll be the ideal fit for an open role.
Developing a personal brand may seem challenging, but there are small steps you can take to build credibility. Here are ten tips that will help you create (or enhance) a genuine and authentic personal brand. Who knows, doing so may even help you improve your career in the process.
Understand yourself before shaping your brand
It is essential to truly know who you are before you even begin to develop a brand that genuinely reflects who you are personally and professionally. One way to make this happen is to take an introspective approach and create a list of your personal strengths and weaknesses. One way to go about doing this is to ask yourself the following questions:
- In which areas of work do I excel?
- What motivates me?
- What traits have others complimented me on?
- Are there any projects or tasks that others frequently help me complete?
- Which roles seem to drain my energy?
- Which projects can I spend hours on without feeling overwhelmed or tired?
If you find it difficult to answer these questions on your own, ask your friends, family, and co-workers for a little help. You can then begin to brand yourself once you gain a better understanding of the different elements of your personality.
Remember that most people struggle to choose a narrow enough niche because they don’t want to limit themselves. However, it is critical to realize that your personal brand will change as your career grows and evolves over time. The best method is to select a specific area that you’d like to focus on and let it develop with time.
Determine what you want to be known for with your personal brand
Your personal brand is far more than a reflection of who you are today. It’s a roadmap of where to go. Furthermore, it is critical to assess your strengths and weaknesses as they connect with whichever industry or career you wan tot break into next.
In doing so, you’ll uncover the skills and traits that make you distinct. You will also discover the areas in which you need to improve or gain new knowledge in order to advance. Picturing yourself in five or ten years can help you figure out what steps you need to take to get there.
Define your audience to refine your personal brand
Before you even begin to craft your personal brand, you will need to figure out who you’re trying to reach. The sooner you determine your audience, the sooner you can craft your story since you’ll better understand the type of story you need to tell (and where you need to tell it).
For instance, if you’re looking to appeal to hiring managers and recruiters, you should likely update your LinkedIn profile. Why? Well, 92% of recruiters make use of social media to find qualified candidates and, of those, 87% use LinkedIn.
On the contrary, if you’re a graphic designer trying to attract new customers, you’re likely better off sharing your story via a personal website or portfolio. Such options allow you to better express your wide range of talents in a visual and media-friendly way.
Research your desired industry and follow the experts
As you map out the career that you desire, it is also a wise idea to start compiling research on industry experts. Your ultimate goal is to stand out when it comes to building a personal brand. However, you cannot rise to the top without taking into account those who are already there.
Ask for informational interviews
As you start developing a list of companies you wish to work for and industry leaders you look up to, consider reaching out to these professionals for an informational interview. These quick-hitter conversations can take as little as 20 minutes but can be extremely valuable. When you meet with these individuals, ask questions that will help you gain new insights about your desired field, such as:
- How did you break into the industry?
- What steps would you take if you had to make the transition all over again?
- How do you see the industry evolving?
- How do you stay up-to-date with industry trends?
- Are there any professional associations that I should join?
Informational interviews are of further benefit since you’re learning about what it takes to make a name in the profession. Furthermore, you’re also sharing in the course of the dialogue a little bit about yourself. What you’re doing is the very core of building your brand.
Even though there may not be a job on the line today, tomorrow could very well be a whole different story. On that note, you’ll want that employer to think of you when they’re envisioning their ideal candidate.
Prepare an elevator pitch
Make sure to develop an elevator pitch – a brief 60-second story about who you are – while you conceptualize your personal brand. It doesn’t matter if you’re attending a networking event or an informal party, having an elevator pitch ready makes it easy to succinctly describe what you do and where you’re going (or wish to go) in your career.
Keep your elevator pitch brief and focus on a few key points that you want to emphasize. This could include that you’re looking for a new position, have strengths in a particular niche, or recently increased the value of your current department or company.
While you cultivate your well crafted personal brand, it’s important to network regularly in order to grow your professional circle. Connect with peers and industry thought-leaders by going to formal and informal networking events. The more connections you form – and the more value you provide in your interactions – the more likely people will recognize your personal brand.
Take a moment and consider the following – 85% of all jobs are filled via networking. That being said, regularly attending networking events will help you not only build your brand but also advance your career. While at said events, don’t be afraid when it comes to asking fellow attendees to meet again for an informal interview or a chill coffee chat. Also, remember that if you don’t get a chance to connect at the actual event, you can always reach out via email or LinkedIn to spark a conversation!
Ask for recommendations
Fewer things speak greater volume than an endorsement from current and former colleagues and managers. Having others speak on your behalf is one of the easiest and most effective ways to define your personal brand. LinkedIn is a stellar place to ask for endorsements since these recommendations will catch the eye of future hiring managers. Make sure to ask the people endorsing you to serve as an actual reference during your job search. This means that they’re willing to speak (or write) on your behalf with potential employers.
Grow your presence online
Your online presence is one of the most important elements of personal branding. You want to make sure that your online presence is engaging to hiring managers, colleagues, and others. This is true even if you’re not currently seeking a new position. There are many social media tools and platforms at your disposal these days and your digital presence will vary depending on the medium you choose. Your story should remain consistent across all platforms. Once you know where your target audience is likely to turn, you should make an effort to tell your best story there. Furthermore, if you want one of your sites to be exclusively for friends and family, make sure to adjust your privacy settings so that potential employers don’t come across any information that could potentially harm your chances of landing a job.
Here are a few platform-specific tips to help you craft your personal brand online.
LinkedIn serves as a professional social media platform and is arguably the best site for defining your personal brand. The best way to get the most out of LinkedIn is to contribute to group discussions, make introductions with people of interest to you and ask for (and give) recommendations. Other tips for effectively sharing your story via LinkedIn include:
- Focusing on key industry skills: Recruiters often search for keywords that relate to the role they’re looking to fill. That being said, it is important to feature industry jargon in your profile – whether it be in your headline, summary, or job description – and make sure to clearly state your skillset.
- Quantify your accomplishments: Saying you’re “goal-oriented” isn’t nearly as effective as actually sharing your accomplishments. Quantify your achievements whenever possible, whether it’s the number of articles you’ve written, the dollars you’ve raised, or the deals you’ve closed.
- Complete your profile: This may sound obvious, but it isn’t uncommon for individuals to leave sections of their LinkedIn profile blank. Recruiters want to know about your work experience, your educational background and a detailed list of your accolades. That being said, make sure that you’re providing a full picture. Convince them that you’re the right person for the job!
- Use a professional photo: LinkedIn users with a professional profile photo receive fourteen times more profile views than those without. This is why it is important to upload a current photo that’s closely cropped to your face. Remember, you should be the focal point, so make sure to avoid busy backgrounds. Also, make sure to smile! The more welcoming you look, the more likely recruiters are to contact you.
Twitter is a great way to highlight and enhance your industry expertise. Make it a point to incorporate your personal brand into your Twitter bio via hashtags that are relevant to your niche. It is also a great idea to follow leaders in your field and retweet top industry stories. Remember that what you tweet is still a part of your digital personal brand.
Personal website or portfolio
If you’re in a marketing or design field, it’s of the utmost importance to have a personal website or portfolio to provide essential information about who you are and why you would be a great new hire. You can create your site using WordPress, Squarespace, or Wix, among others. Small brand and business owners cna make use of helpful design resources such as Canva and Venngage’s logo templates to get started on their brand-specific content.
Remember that your personal brand isn’t just online
It is vital to remember that your brand is more than just an online persona. It is how you carry yourself at home, in the office, and even on your daily commute to and from work. In short, your reputation is everything. The story you tell, combined with your daily interactions, ultimately define your personal brand.
Reinvent your personal brand as you grow
Your personal brand will continue to grow and change as the digital frontier evolves and your career develops. Adjust your persona as needed as you meet different people, discover new networking opportunities, and grow both personally and professionally. As long as it reflects your professional life, don’t hesitate to define a brand that lets you shine.