“Your personal brand is a promise to your clients… a promise of quality, consistency, competency, and reliability.” Jason Hartman, Author of “Become the Brand of Choice"
Think of the brands we have all come to know so well. We hear some brand slogans and understand what they are. California Milk Processor Board: "Got Milk?", The New York Times: "All the News That's Fit to Print", Dunkin' Donuts: "America Runs on Dunkin'". There are many, many others. The same stories need to be told for professionals, stories that effectively highlight talents and skills. It is these talents that will set you apart from others, IF you can create a compelling brand.
Your brand is YOUR STORY. The story you tell, and the resulting perceptions about you, play a crucial role in your professional life and overall career trajectory.
We all know that the digital and technological landscape is expanding; technology, after all, is ubiquitous. The digital world will continue to advance and grow; as such, a personal brand is imperative to ensure you communicate value and stand out. A good brand influences others, much like the Dunkin Donuts brand resonates with millions of coffee drinkers.
Your brand can influence a hiring manager to believe that you are the right person for a job or influence a potential client to engage you for a project. Your brand communicates your unique value proposition, builds trust, and highlights how your talents and skills will impact a company.
So, how do you build a personal brand? Here are ten golden rules to help you build, manage, and maintain a personal brand that will get you recognized.
The first step to building your brand is determining who you are – what you stand for. Your brand needs to build trust and value and communicate what you offer quickly. Taking an inventory of your strengths and weaknesses is a great starting point. Write down your answers so you can use that information as part of telling the story of YOU. This exercise will also support your job search efforts, and allow you to share your talents and specific situations where you made a lasting and measurable impact. Next, make sure to ask other people how they perceive you. Go to friends, colleagues, and family members. All of the input will allow you to create a solid brand “recipe.” Once you have all of the information, you can begin the process of branding.
An essential part of building your brand is creating the narrative around your positioning and how others perceive you. Your brand will change and evolve. This is a good thing! Nothing in life is stationary; your brand is no different. As you grow as a person and a professional, learn and apply new things, and develop your ideas, so too will your brand. As part of this journey, you have control over how the outside world views you. Your interpersonal communication, how you deal with challenging situations, the decisions you make – all of these things impact your brand. Your self- exploration and understanding of areas where you need to grow and those areas where you have a particular competency will set the tone in the minds of others. Self-monitoring and self-awareness will play a big part in ensuring that you are positioning yourself for short- and long-term success. As you create your roadmap, you will likely uncover opportunities to expand your knowledge to advance your career and make you distinct.
Once you have created the infrastructure of your brand, part of the building blocks include understanding your target audience. Is it a hiring manager? A recruiter? Your peers? Industry pundits? Defining your audience is an important step that will enable you to create a story that will resonate with your target audience, how you tell it, and the forum for your delivery.
For example, let’s say you are looking to reach a hiring manager at a particular company. One of the first things you should do is look at your social presence. What do you see on your LinkedIn profile, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram page? Is the photo of you consistent across the platforms? What types of content are you posting? Is the information relevant to your brand? Does it set you up for success? We know that hiring managers and recruiters use LinkedIn extensively to identify and pursue high- quality candidates. In fact, 87% of recruiters use linked in to find candidates. Take the opportunity to review how you are positioned on social media and exercise good hygiene. Google yourself periodically. What do you find? It is EASY for people to find things just by using Google. Make sure you understand what comes up about you should someone Google you or go to your LinkedIn page. As the saying goes: “Knowledge is Power.” That is so true in the world of social media and directly applicable to your brand.
You might be wondering why I am asking about research. I regularly – and I do mean regularly tout the value of research. You’ve heard this before: “Research will set you free.” Research is critical to understanding your industry as well as any company to which you are applying. As you begin the process of your search, the research will give you an upper hand.
For example, maybe you are applying to company X for a marketing role and, through your research, learned that they are about to launch a new product. As part of your outreach, you might mention this and offer an idea or share something that you think might help the hiring manager. This isn’t to say that you should give away your intellectual capital. Demonstrating that you are aware of a company’s goals, trends, and market positioning connects to your brand. If you show that you have done your research, it clarifies that you are focused and diligent. These traits are positive and connect to your brand value.
Similarly, your research will also allow you to possibly uncover a contact, a hiring manager’s name, or someone else who might be able to assist you in getting the right connection to a decision- maker. We all know how challenging it is to get the name of someone during the application process. Research can make this much easier. Look at the company on LinkedIn, identify any first-level connections or someone in your network who might assist you. It is a well-established fact that networking is a crucial component of job search. A lot of hiring is done through the process of networking. It will serve you much better and be faster than applying blind and hoping someone pulls your résumé from the sea of resumes submitted through a company’s applicant tracking system [ATS].
There is no better way to learn about a company, its culture, mission, and values than informational interviews. You want to talk about getting intel? This. Is. The. Way! An informational interview can go a long way in providing you with a good view of the company and serving as an opportunity to build relationships. Think about it. If you go on this type of interview, there is another connection for you. Stay in touch and build the relationship bridge that might result in a referral for an open opportunity or an introduction to someone else. This is a learning opportunity for you and allows you to share and promote your brand value. Some things you might ask during an informational interview include the following:
Now that you clearly understand your brand and the message you want to convey, it’s time to write your elevator pitch- a short [30- to 60-second] story about who you are. Your concise and tailored message will make it easy for you to describe what you do and the areas where you excel. Next, focus on a few key points that you want to leave with your audience. For example:
“I am a digital marketing leader with a history of developing programs that have allowed my clients to double their sales revenue to $12M in as few as 6 months.”
“I am a private equity professional with a history of identifying and presenting new deals ranging in size from $5M to $25B that have increased company valuations by 10X.
Your elevator pitch will serve you well to deliver information about what you do and how you drive results. Being crisp and succinct also highlights a positive brand image via your powerful accomplishment-focused statement.
We all have stories about a friend or a friend of a friend that secured a new role because someone served as the referring party. Building, managing, and maintaining a robust network is not only helpful to your brand but will also help to facilitate your job search efforts. People will only make referrals if the person they are referring is someone they can vouch for. Here is where your brand value comes into use. Your powerful and positive brand has no doubt left an indelible impression in the mind of the referring party. Now, she has no qualms about making an introduction because your brand demonstrates that you are capable with the right skills and attitude to get the job done.
Build your network in both online and offline channels. On LinkedIn, join some groups where you can share ideas via the channel. Avoid posting controversial things, such as politics (unless you work in politics), religion, and sex. LinkedIn is a business medium. It is fine to discuss business-related topics and even have a good debate about an issue as long as it is related to the business at hand. You will not change someone’s mind about their political affiliation, and these types of discussions quickly escalate – not good for your brand.
Consider attending small or even large networking events where you can build connections and follow-up afterward to meet for a coffee. Good relationships start this way, and they can work for you throughout your career.
Securing a positive endorsement on LinkedIn is a great way to have other people support your brand. A good recommendation is validation for you. Don’t be afraid to ask co-workers, supervisors, or subordinates to write a recommendation for you. The recommendations area on LinkedIn is the place where recruiters and hiring managers go to learn what other people have to say about you. Those recommendations can stack up quickly and boost your brand profile as further evidence of the quality of your work and ability to get the job done.
I mentioned earlier how important it is to maintain an understanding of how you appear online. Another important aspect is to build that presence in a meaningful way. Become a thought leader in your area. Don’t be afraid to post a blog or share an idea on LinkedIn. By doing this, you will drive engagement and dialogue. It might take a little bit of time to build your engagement, but it will be well worth it. Joining and participating in groups and connecting with people with whom you might have common interests and complementary backgrounds. Some tips to using LinkedIn:
The headline should not be your title at your current company. The headline area is free marketing for you! Don’t waste that space with your title. Instead, think again about your brand. You’ve established what you are known for at this point. Put that in the headline and make your brand continue to work for you. You have 120 characters to build that brand right at the top!
Below the headline, you have 2000 characters to write about yourself. Don’t leave this area blank! Talk about your achievements in this area, and be sure to provide quantifiable information where possible. Also include keywords that represent your most valuable skills.
Make sure you have a professional image of yourself on LinkedIn. People want to know who they are engaging with on the platform. According to LinkedIn, people with a profile picture will get 21 more profile views than profiles without a photo.
Do not leave your profile incomplete. Complete the history and the education sections. Do not put your résumé on LinkedIn. Instead, you should provide people with an “appetizer” of who you are – enough for them to want to engage with you and start a conversation. Remember, it will take effort on your part to drive engagement. You can do it, though, and watch your networking skills enable you to realize amazing things!
Networking in person has excellent and long-lasting benefits. The relationships you can build by actively engaging with people in person are well-documented. Think of the people with whom you have worked in the past. I am sure you have a friend (or maybe more) that you met from working together. I can tell you firsthand that it happens. For example, I met a person who is my best friend at work. We met the first day we started at a company; it’s been more than 18 years now! She has helped me in more ways than I can count on all of my fingers and toes.
Pay close attention to what you are doing and the goal of growing your personal brand. Like the digital world in which we live, your brand will also develop and evolve over time. Provide the proper care and feeding, and you will see the benefits (and outcome) from your network and beyond.
Debra Wheatman is the President of Careers Done Write, a Certified Professional Resume Writer (CPRW) and Certified Professional Career Coach (CPCC) with more than 18 years' corporate human resource experience in guiding and directing global clients in determining career goals and identifying gratifying career choices. She works with a diverse group of clients to help them pursue and successfully achieve career success.
Core Areas of Specialty Include:
Financial services, including private equity, hedge funds, venture capital, and investment banking, management consulting, legal, technology, biotechnology and academia, among others.