Gone are the days when personal branding was only for celebrities or executives. Personal branding is a way of establishing and consistently reinforcing who you are and what you stand for in your career and life. Everything affects your personal brand: What you wear, how you speak, even how you compose an email.
“Personal brands aren’t reserved for CEOs. A company’s rank and file employees should capitalize, too. It allows professionals to differentiate themselves, and also angle for the promotion that best suits them.” – Stacey Cohen, CEO of Co-Communications Inc.
In the past, your reputation may have been familiar only to those you actually know, such as friends, family members, and colleagues. But the Internet has made everybody’s reputation that much more accessible. Wondering how to be proactive about building your personal brand? These tips are a great place to start:
Evaluate Your Strengths
What makes you stand out? Spend some time evaluating yourself thoroughly and honestly. What roles have you excelled in? What projects have interested you most? Pick an area and specialty to differentiate yourself in—and define yourself by it. Try to identify something that is valued by your company, and make it your brand. This step is often overlooked, but it’ll be super helpful as you find your voice in a sea of professionals with similar experience. This evaluation helps you have a clear vision of your USP, or “unique selling proposition,” which is just a fancy term for the value you offer to your target audience.
Determine your specialties
Specializing in a skill that is relevant to your field, and being vocal about it, will help you stand out in the crowd. Companies call this a point of differentiation—consider how your brand (in this case, you) is different from everyone else “on the market.” Why should people choose you over everyone else? Remember to be niche— If you try to appeal to everyone, then you end up appealing to no one. Figure out who your target audience is and serve them. If you can’t think of a skill that’s your specialty, then learn one. This usually means that you have to learn on your own, but that’s easier than ever before—take classes, read industry-specific publications, add a passion project, and volunteer for projects that will help you develop your niche.
Connect with your influencers
Get to know the leaders of your company in various disciplines—and actually build relationships. Who are the top five people in your field? What do they have in common? Do they all write for major publications? Do they sell courses? Do they appear on podcasts? Try to find a common thread. Reach out and ask if you can get a few minutes on their calendar to meet and get to know more about them, their role, and their career. One of the best ways to amplify your personal brand is to leverage the reach of journalists, influencers, and industry leaders.
Share your ideas publicly
If you keep a low profile and let your work speak for itself, you may indeed develop a good reputation among the people you work closely with. But that’s a relatively limited number of people. Individuals in other departments or leaders many levels above you may not be aware of your contributions. And any staffing changes might disrupt the hard-fought reputational capital you’ve built. Your new boss or colleagues, lacking personal experience with you, may have no idea whether you’re any good.
With social media groups, consider actively engaging in discussions on relevant LinkedIn, Quora, or Facebook groups. If you want to get your voice featured in relevant industry coverage, you could make yourself available as an expert commentator amongst journalists covering your particular trade. However, don’t try to master all social media channels. Pick one or two to focus on. And be consistent. Make sure you’re using the same voice across your channels.
Do good work and stick to your brand
Your work and actions speak volumes about your personal brand—and you, as an individual. You can say you hold certain values, but your actions, your experience, and your words have to embody them. Keep an eye out for projects that you know you can ace. The more you can find ways to add value—especially voluntarily—the stronger your reputation will become. And, the more people throughout the organization who get to know you and what you’re capable of, the more your name will come up when opportunities for promotion arise.
Being aware of, and ultimately in control of, your personal brand is an essential component of building a successful career. It’s essentially a guiding statement that can help you make personal and professional decisions. A solid personal brand helps people understand who you are, what you offer, what you value, and the quality of work they can expect from you.
Marietta Gentles Crawford, author of From Nine to Thrive: A Guide to Building Your Personal Brand and Elevating Your Career.
Tom Ward, contributor, Forbes
Joseph Liu, career strategist and host of the Career Relaunch podcast
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