So, you want to create your brand, ‘eh? Well, before we wander down that rabbit hole, let’s explore a handful of well-known brands. Apple asks the world to “Think Different.” Nike urges everyone to “Just Do It.” Dunkin’ has us convinced that “America Runs on Dunkin’.” The Alabama Crimson Tide inspires fear on the gridiron with their “Roll tide!” battle cry. Over the years, these marquee slogans have evolved into household phrases that everyone and their grandmother knows. Each phrase sets the tone for how each organization communicates and identifies itself within its industry.
These slogans tell a story and shape how people perceive the associated brands. Together, they showcase the power and potential created by effective branding. However, branding is no longer just for businesses. Professionals have their own stories to tell and a unique set of goals, skills, and expertise to share. In our day and age, you must create your brand. A personal brand isn’t icing on the cake, it’s 100% necessary.
What is a Personal Brand?
In many ways, a personal brand is similar to a corporate brand and so is the way in which you create your personal brand. Your brand embodies who you are, what you stand for, the values you hold dearly, and the ways in which you express these values. Similar to how a business’s brand helps to convey its values to customers and differentiate itself from the competition, a personal brand does the same for individuals. When you create your personal brand, you develop a unique identity and establish clear value to potential employers or clients. In short, when you create your personal brand, you share your store in just a few simple words.
Why is It Important to Create Your Brand?
Your personal story can play a massive role in priming your career for takeoff. In fact, 85% of hiring managers report that a candidate’s personal brand can hold sway over their final decision. Your personal brand should highlight your strengths, establish your reputation, build trust, and communicate your unique traits. When crafted correctly, your personal brand signals to employers whether or not you’re the right individual for the job.
Personal branding is also extremely important if you’re prepping to enter a new field. Employers will want to know more about why you’re making the shift and how your skills and experience will translate over to your new industry. Paired with a strong resume and a sound cover letter clearly outlining your transferable skills, your personal brand helps you share your story with potential employers.
Creating your personal brand might sound challenging. However, there are steps you can take to build your field-specific credibility. Here are ten tips to help you create a genuine personal brand and boost your career in the process.
Ten Tips for Creating Your Brand
1.) Figure Out Who You Are
If your goal is to build a personal brand that accurately reflects your personal and professional identity, you need to understand who you are. This requires you to step back and be introspective. You should create a list of your personal strengths and weaknesses.
You can start by asking yourself the following:
- In which areas of my work do I excel?
- What motivates me?
- What characteristics have my peers complimented me on?
- Which projects have others had to help me with regularly?
- Which roles seem to drain my energy?
- Which projects can I spend hours on without feeling overwhelmed or tired?
If you find yourself struggling to answer these questions, ask friends, family, and colleagues to describe you. Once you’re more aware of the various elements of your personality, you can then decide how best to meld them together and build your personal brand.
Remember, most people struggle to select a specific niche because they don’t want to limit themselves. This is why you need to realize that your personal brand, like most corporate brands, will evolve as your career grows. The best strategy is to select a particular area you’d like to focus on and let it develop with time.
2.) Determine What You Want to Be Known For
Your personal brand is way more than an illustration of who you are today, it’s a forecast of who you plan to become down the road. You not only want to highlight your current skills and competencies, but you also want to explore your strengths and weaknesses as they relate to the industry you wish to enter next.
In doing so, you’ll discover the skills and traits that make you unique. You will also identify the areas in which you need to improve or gain new knowledge in order to advance. Speculating where you want to be in five or ten years – and the traits you want to be known for – can help you outline what you need to do in order to get there.
3.) Define Your Audience Before You Create Your Brand
Before you start creating your personal brand, you need to identify your ideal target audience. Are you looking to connect with thought leaders in your new industry? An individual at a specific company? Recruiters? The quicker you define your audience, the easier it is to craft your story since you’ll better understand the type of story you need to share.
For instance, if your goal is to connect with hiring managers and recruiters, you could start by creating or updating your LinkedIn profile. Why? Well, 92% of recruiters rely on social media to identify potential candidates.
On the other hand, if you’re a graphic designer trying to woo current clients and attract new business, you could opt to share your story via a personal website or a portfolio. This route is often a better means to express your wide range of skills.
4.) Research Your New Industry & Follow the Experts
While you map out your career, it’s helpful if you do some serious research on the experts in your new industry. Find out who the thought leaders are in your new field and do more than just ‘follow’ them. Do some digging and find out if they have a blog or a place where they contribute their thinking. Seek out people who are successful and study what they’re doing. Imitate what they’re doing and then take it a step further.
When building a personal brand, your goal is to stand out. However, before you can stand out, you need to take stock of who’s already there and what they’re doing.
5.) Ask for Informational Interviews as You Create Your Brand
As you form a list of organizations you aspire to join and industry leaders whom you admire, consider reaching out to these professionals and asking for an informational interview.
These quick-hitter meetings take 20 minutes but are extremely valuable. Don’t shy away from asking anyone you’re interested in learning more from. It’s genuinely amazing what a simple outreach email can accomplish.
When you connect with these individuals, ask questions that will help you gain new insights into your desired field. A few sample questions include:
- How did you break into your industry?
- What steps would you take if you had to make the whole transition over again?
- How do you see the industry evolving?
- How do you stay current with industry trends?
- Are there any professional associations that I should join?
Informational interviews come with an added bonus, you learn more about what it takes to enter the field, but you’re also sharing a little bit about yourself over the course of the dialogue. In short, you’re building your brand.
While there likely isn’t a potential job on the line, there very well could be one day. You want that employer to think of you when they envision the ideal candidate.
6.) Prepare (and Perfect) an Elevator Pitch
As you begin to refine your personal brand, you’ll want to spend some time crafting an elevator pitch. An elevator pitch is a 30-60 second story about who you are. Whether you’re attending a networking event or a casual gathering, having an elevator pitch at the ready makes it easy to efficiently describe what you do and where you’re going – or where you’d like to go – in your career.
You need to develop a short, concise statement that frames what you offer in the right light.
It’s essential that you keep your elevator pitch brief and focus on a select handful of key points. This could include what you’re looking for in a new role, your strengths, and even your goals.
7.) Embrace Networking in Order to Create Your Brand
As you further develop your personal brand, it’s important to network on a regular basis in order to grow your professional circle. You want to connect with peers and industry thought-leaders by attending formal and informal networking events.
The larger your circle of connections and the more value you provide via your interactions, the more likely people are to recognize your brand. Seeing how 85% of jobs are filled via networking, and regularly attending events will help you build your brand and advance your career too.
At these events, don’t hesitate to ask fellow attendees to meet again for an informational interview or a casual conversation over coffee. Remember, if you don’t get a chance to connect at the event, reach out via email or LinkedIn to ignite a conversation.
8.) Ask for Recommendations as You Create Your Brand
Seeking endorsements from current and past peers and managers is one of the easiest and most effective ways to define your personal brand. Similar to how businesses pursue customer reviews and testimonials for use in sales and marketing materials, you should aim to gather personal reviews in the form of recommendations.
LinkedIn is a great place to ask for endorsements since these recommendations will naturally catch the eye of hiring managers. Don’t forget to ask the people endorsing you to act as an actual reference during your job hunt. A LinkedIn endorsement is relatively empty if the referrer isn’t willing to speak to a potential employer or write a genuine letter of recommendation if necessary.
Struggling to come up with people to ask? Former managers who mentored you are ideal and other connections can serve as effective references in a pinch.
9.) Grow Your Online Presence to Help Create Your Brand
One of the most critical elements to creating and building your personal brand is making sure your online presence is engaging to hiring managers, colleagues, and others – even if you’re not actively looking for a job.
There are a number of social media platforms out there today, so your online presence will vary depending on the platform you select. Your story should match across all social networks, but once you identify the platform where your target audience spends the most time, you should double down your efforts and expand your presence within that network.
10.) Remember that Your Brand Isn’t Just Online
Your brand is more than your online persona – it’s how you carry yourself at home, in the office, and in your community. Your reputation is literally everything. The more opportunities you have to work with peers, volunteer for projects, and showcase your leadership skills, take them. These all contribute to your overall brand.
Remember that leadership isn’t limited to the c-suite. Strong leaders exist at every level throughout an organization.
The story you share, combined with your everyday actions, ultimately defines your personal brand.