Building Your Personal Brand

What does THAT mean? 

Everyone is familiar with brand names like Coke, Amazon, Apple, Starbucks… You can probably name 100. And when you think of a brand name, certain images or impressions come to mind, right? For example, when I think of a brand like Old Navy… I think inexpensive or sales; low (but passable) quality; play clothes (jeans, shorts, t-shirts, sundresses, flip flops) kids clothes; easy to shop; playful or fun. 

When it comes to shoe retailer brands, you probably have very different impressions of DSW vs. Zappos.com vs. Famous Footwear vs. Payless. MOST those brands impressions (the positive ones) are very deliberately created and reinforced by their marketing department in all of their communications and ideally, also in the way they run their company.

Companies are thoughtful and deliberate in building their brands and you should be too!

So, let’s say you are going to market your own brand, Brand [insert your name here]. In your personal and professional life, what words do people associate with you?  What words do you WANT them to associate with you? 

Building your personal brand means that YOU make an effort to influence what people associate you with, because whether you want them to or not, THEY WILL ASSOCIATE YOU WITH SOMETHING. So you should take control of it.

Personally, colleagues might think of me as fun, loud, outgoing, caring and smart.  If you knew me, you’d figure most of that out in a few minutes. But professionally, I also want them to think of me as a marketing strategy expert, a skilled workshop facilitator, a dedicated mentor/career advice provider, reliable, passionate and dedicated…etc.  Those are things that you would be quick to discern about me.

So, I have to make sure that, whether they’ve worked with me OR NOT, they believe these things about me. These are the things they associate with me when they hear my name, receive my resume or job application or even if they ask someone about me. 

Things that make up our personal brand are:

  • Skills and experience:  expertise, education, training, certifications, past jobs
  • Work habits, e.g. meticulous, prompt, efficient, creative, inspiring
  • Personal traits/emotional appeal:  Outgoing, passionate, thoughtful, decisive

Consider unique words or ways to present these things. For example, instead of saying you are “hard-working”, say you are “dedicated” or “passionate.”  When you stand back and think about your personal brand, make sure it is compelling. If not, find words that inspire you (See Karen’s list, third page of the attachment below).

Beyond just living and working your personal brand, there are two ways to communicate and build it, once you have identified it.

Channels that you have total control over, like your resume, LinkedIn page and other social media channels (especially those an employer might see).

Make sure they reflect you and that the messages you are sending out about yourself are CONSISTENT.   Anything about you can contribute to your personal brand, including your email address, how you dress and present yourself, including your mannerisms like handshake, eye contact and speaking style!   

Impressions people build of you based on direct experience.  What people think of you and what they say about you can include endorsements or recommendations on LinkedIn but they can also include things someone might say about you when asked. These things might not be so good, so make sure that you are living up to the brand impressions that you INTEND.

For example, if you are always late, or cancel on people all the time; If you are are lazy, or gossipy, complaining/bad attitude or careless in your work, over time, from job to job, these impressions can stick with you. Of course, you will be given time to grow, learn and make mistakes, but the more you are aware of your brand perceptions, the more you will be able to work to cultivate what you want and who you really are.

If you are not sure what your personal brand is,
ask your teachers, bosses or mentors
to give you some feedback on your strengths and,
while you are at it, opportunities for growth.

The things other people say about you can also help you better understand what you are good at and what you should work on. 

Consider asking friends, family and colleagues five words that come to mind when they think about you or your work.  Story: I was surprised recently when I talked to several colleagues about my performance.  Three of them said something I hadn’t considered: I’m very good at taking in a lot of information, perspectives and opinions… and summarizing and articulating the broader themes and conclusions.  I didn’t even realize I was doing that.   What a great thing to communicate to potential/future clients/employers.

Attached below are a few worksheets that Karen has generously provided for you if you want to try them out for yourself. 

It is also worth noting that employers are increasingly using personality tests to find candidates that are a good fit for their culture. While there are many out there, I recommend that you invest in a book called “StrengthsFinder 2.0” by Gallup and Tom Rath. (You should be able to find it easily for $10-15.)

I love this assessment. It won’t help you choose a career (more on the Holland Code in our upcoming “How to Choose a Career” blog) but it will help you understand yourself and identify strengths that will help you articulate your brand.

Okay, get to it:  BUILD BRAND YOU!

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