Developing a Personal Brand
What is a personal brand?
Personal branding might sound pretty elusive – if you’re thinking it’s a buzz phrase, you’re probably right. But the underlying concept of personal branding is actually pretty crucial for you to be able to find the roles you want with the most progressive organisations – and the reality is, personal branding has been around long before that’s what we referred to it as. Wherever you are in your career, developing your personal brand can be a key tool in your future success.
But what is a personal brand? You’ll have heard the word “brand” when talking about large companies and organisations. So, how could it possibly be relevant to you? Much like a corporate brand is everything you experience and the impression that’s left behind whenever and wherever you encounter that business, your personal brand is the way other people experience you. It’s your story, it’s what makes you unique and it’s what other people think and feel when they encounter you, directly or indirectly.
Why is it important?
There are so many ways that people can experience what you’re about. Just try googling your name, for a start. Having a clear and consistent personal brand helps you to be seen the way you want to be seen. It’s how you let people know who you are, what’s important to you and what you’re passionate about, whether you’re meeting them face to face or they’re checking out your social media profiles. With so many ways to find out about you, people can feel like they know you without even meeting you.
That’s why shaping your personal brand is so important; if you don’t take the time to think about it and influence it, you might be putting an impression out there of yourself that’s not going to help you progress your career and become influential among the right people. But if you do develop your personal brand, and do it well, it’s going to help you connect with people and shape the future of your career. As Jeff Bezos says, your personal brand is what people say about you when you’re not in the room.
If you’re wondering if developing your personal brand will really work in helping you secure your next role, think about some of the most influential people in business. Think about the places you buy from, and why. People are heavily invested in people, both personally and professionally; feel like you know a lot about the personality and passion of Steve Jobs, Mary Barra, Elon Musk or Charlotte Tilbury? That’s because they have a really strong personal brand. Want a future employer to feel like they know all the great things about you before they even meet you at your interview? Build yours.
How to develop a personal brand
Beginning to develop a personal brand can feel like a daunting task – so let’s break this down into smaller steps to give you the basics of your personal branding journey.
1. Define your career goals
If you’re not sure where you want to end up, you’re probably going to find it pretty difficult to get there. There’s a reason there’s no “pot luck” destination setting on your sat nav. By setting your career goals, you’re giving yourself your map of where you want to be and by when. That’s going to help you work out how to actually get there.
What’s your dream job? Do you want a change in company or a change in career? If you think about where you want to be long-term, say in ten years’ time, and start to work your way backwards, you can look at where you want to be in 12 months’ time, two years and five years. Most importantly, write these goals down.
2. What are you amazing at?
Write down and analyse your key skills, and the areas you have great knowledge in. How do these relate to your next career move (short term goals) and to your long term career goals? Think about any results you achieved in your previous roles, how you did it and what career accomplishments you’re proud of. Your skills and knowledge are transferable, so don’t discount something as being irrelevant if your next move is doing the same role in a different sector, a different role in the same sector or even a complete career change.
List your skills in order of how good you feel you are. List them again in order of how much you love doing them. Is there any correlation? Ultimately, the things that score highly on the list are the skills you want to use in your future career. Take another look at your career goals now and see where you can apply the skills you are both amazing at and love to do.
3. Who are you? Really, though?
Looking inwardly and objectively at ourselves is really, really difficult. But ultimately, you’re what makes you unique. Having an amazing skill set and knowledge base will get you a long way, but to get all the way to nailing that dream job (and indeed, your next job) you need to have a strong awareness of the you outside the working world, so you can bring your best qualities to the career table.
Try finding out how others perceive you. It’s not always easy to get an honest answer, but try asking friends, co-workers and even clients what they think are your best qualities, or what positive things they would say about you. You might start to see a pattern emerging. It’s also worth getting feedback on what they might think isn’t go great about you; negative feedback can be really tough to hear, but sometimes it’s necessary to help you adapt and move forward. Once you’ve established the great characteristics you’re known for, write them down, too.
4. Write a personal brand statement
Now that you know what you want to achieve, who you are what you’re good at, you can start to think about your brand message. Your message needs to be clear and it needs to be consistent; creating a brand statement will allow you to have a clearly articulated reference point that you can use as a benchmark. It’s also great for using on your CV to succinctly convey your personal brand.
Begin by thinking about what you do, who you do it for, and how you do it differently. Write these things down, and you’re already well on your way to creating that personal brand statement. Keep it short and direct, as well as memorable.
“I help busy office teams and managers stay organised and stress-free by keeping the day-to-day tasks off their desks. I’ve got a keen eye for detail and I’m great at keeping those metaphorical plates spinning so you don’t have to.”
5. Google yourself
Go on, google yourself. We dare you. Now that you’ve thought about what you want to do, what you’re good at doing and what you’re passionate about, is that visible online? If you’re applying for a job and you think your potential future employer won’t look at what you’ve put put out into the online world, trust us; they will. Take a look at your social media; is it a good reflection of you? Does it portray you to be the person you feel you are in your career?
This isn’t necessarily about the perils of posting things that can harm your reputation; most people are aware of that already. If you look at your Facebook account and it’s full of harmless cat videos, and your LinkedIn is pretty inactive, that doesn’t mean you’re good to go. Far from it. Your potential future employer has interviewed you and you’ve done well, but there’s two other candidates who have almost identical skill sets, experience and interviewed well, too. So, what next? When they look online and find your collection of cat videos, it probably won’t lose you the job but it certainly won’t swing it. But think about what might happen if they find an active LinkedIn profile with plenty of great and insightful posts in your industry, engagement with other people in your field, or even a personal branding website and a great blog? Now you’ve given your potential employer more exposure to your personal brand, and that’s what will set you apart.
6. Live it
Don’t think that you can write down your goals and what message you want to share with the world, and that’s your personal brand done. It will evolve and change as you do, and you need to make sure you live it. This is how your market yourself, and even the way you choose to dress is a reflection of you and your personal brand. When you do something, ask yourself if it reflects that personal brand image; you can’t say you excel at attention to detail if your blog is littered with mistakes. You can’t show you’re positive and full of great energy if you spend your time online complaining. Consider how you’re putting yourself out into the world and make sure that it truly aligns with your passion and your personal brand.
Tips for developing a strong personal brand
1. Set up a personal website.
This is a great way to stand out from a sea of applicants for jobs – your CV will help an employer get a brief overview, but directing them to a personal website gives them the opportunity to see more.
2. Start a blog.
A great blog will show you have a true passion for your field, and that people are interested in your opinion. It also adds another string to your bow from a communication perspective.
3. Connect with the right people.
Find ways to connect online or meet in real life with people who can help you reach your goals. This could be someone who’s in the role you want next, or someone who’s achieved your long term career goal.
4. Be authentic.
Don’t try to be something you’re not. Take a look at yourself objectively, embrace it and be true to it. Faking it won’t work and you’ll alienate people. Plus, you’ll find it exhausting. Play to your strengths and let your best qualities shine through.