When you think about your favorite company, what pops into your head? What words come to mind when you hear “Amazon”? “Fitbit”? “Starbucks”? “Uber”? What words do you associate with “Usher”? “Kanye West”? “Eddie Redmayne”? “Emilia Clarke”?
Those words you automatically think are the brands that these companies and/or people have created. It is not an accident that you think “Amazon – get me my stuff quick”. Or “Uber – convenient” or “Kanye West – controversial”. These are the stories that they want told. What words do you want to describe you? How do you build your personal brand?
What is Personal Branding?
“Personal Branding is the practice of people marketing themselves and their careers as brands.” (Source: Wikipedia). You are defining the terms by which others view you from a digital and personal perspective. Your personal brand is the skills and causes you want people to remember you for, and how you wish to set yourself apart from your peers.
Why do you want a personal brand? You probably already have one and don’t realize it. What were you known as in high school? Class clown? Jock? Nerd? Mr./Ms. Popular? You get to own the direction of your future by controlling your own unique story while using authentic language. A personal brand will help you identify how you can solve employers “problems” and will easily connect with mentors/desired employers while identifying the work you want to be doing.
How do you identify your personal brand? Create a vision for what your future looks like by answering these questions:
• Who are you?
• How did you get here?
• What are you naturally good at?
• What do you enjoy doing?
• What makes you passionate about what you do?
• What do you want to be known for?
Once you have jotted down some answers (and they can be short and quick), start thinking about a “headline” for yourself. Review profiles on LinkedIn to give yourself some ideas. Here are some examples:
• Hack-a-thon Enthusiast and Aspiring Mechanical Engineer
• Computer Scientist focused on making the world a more connected place
• Photographer • Model Maker Emerging Product Designer
• Collaborator | Innovator | Strategist | Educator | Mentor
• Talent Acquisition | Recruitment Advertising | Career Advising
• Leadership and development specialist with an affinity for issues of diversity
• Collaborative Organization Leader
Notice that these are not job titles, but adjectives that describe who they are or what they can do for an organization.
Once you have decided what your personal brand may be, how do you market it? Go to networking events or participate in workshops or webinars. Start participating in blogs by commenting on them (in a positive way, of course) or write your own. Use the language you define yourself with on your social media platforms:
Be mindful of what you write. If you are critical or disagree with someone, do it respectfully and use well-vetted research to prove your point. Don’t just forward memes or other’s messages. Be original and thoughtful. Understand that nothing on the internet is private, even if you’ve set your settings that way. Employers can be savvy and have resources to uncover your profiles and some may do this before even giving you a call.
Your personal brand will change as you grow in your profession. You will gain skills and experiences that you will want to incorporate into your brand. Keep in mind what you want to be known for and think about who you admire and why. What is the brand of people you follow? What do you admire about them? Are their pieces of their brand that you would like to incorporate now or in the future into your own brand?
Your personal brand makes it easier for employers to understand why they want to hire you and for people to want to follow you. Be authentic. Know who you are and what you stand for to ensure you will have a fit into the organization who does recruit you. Consider reading any of Brené Brown’s books or short YouTube videos featuring her talks. She writes about authenticity and vulnerability. Once you understand who you are and what you what you want to be known for, your personal brand will be established.