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Personal branding is what people think of when they think of you; it is the process of acknowledging what makes you special and communicating this to the outside world. Building a strong brand around yourself is the most effective way to stand out among your colleagues and peers.
You already have a personal brand through our use of social media, we have inadvertently (or maybe not) presented a certain image of ourselves to the world. It is important for you to guide and cultivate your brand instead of letting your brand be defined on your behalf. Being conscious of your personal brand provides a clear focus for your career development and success.
Building a strong personal brand that demonstrates your best qualities enables others to quickly gain a good understanding about you. This will make you stand out to an employer or client and increase your chances of getting that interview or winning a client’s business. It will also boost your image in your firm and industry, portray you as a thought leader, and can lead to unique opportunities that otherwise would not have materialised.
As your brand grows, so will your confidence and status, resulting in a progressive mindset, all leading to future career success.
The first step is to understand what brand you are currently projecting. Type your name into a search engine and see what other people would see if they researched you, or ask friends and work colleagues to describe you. There should be a common theme in the qualities you hear about yourself, and this will help you evaluate yourself honestly and build your brand from these qualities.
Many companies use a SWOT analysis to assess themselves and their competitors, and to formulate strategies. This exercise can also be applied in assessing your personal brand. The purpose of this analysis is to identify gaps between your current brand and the brand you would like to portray to achieve your career goals. This will help you identify the actions you need to take to close these gaps.
Questions you need ask during your SWOT analysis include:
When you have completed the SWOT analysis, create a plan to weaken your weaknesses, reduce your threats and utilise your strengths to take advantage of the opportunities. Ensure you act on this plan. Inaction could prove detrimental to your success.
Personal branding is all about authenticity and not simply the person you think people want you to be. When creating your brand, you should concentrate on the real you: your strengths, personality, skills and experience. Creating a new brand, trying to be something you are not and branding yourself as such, will lead to losing touch with the real you, disillusionment, lack of motivation, and overall dissatisfaction.
Employers want authenticity when they hire. They want the real you to come to the interview, not the person you think the employer is looking for. You need to figure out who is the real you. Think about what you do well, what differentiates you from the rest and start to embrace your personality and skill set. Staying true to yourself leads to real success, career satisfaction, and enriches a company’s culture.
There are many groups on specific topics from various industries on LinkedIn and Facebook. You can join these groups and share your experience. Producing content for these groups is time consuming and hard work, but producing interesting and relevant content regularly for the group will build respect and authenticity for your personal brand.
Ensure the content you produce is diverse and varied. Images and questions can also lead people from your industry and background to engage with you.
Be conscious of your image on all social media platforms, as it is important to portray consistency with your brand. People who would like to learn more about you may perform a search online. A profile with questionable or inconsistent content and messaging can damage your brand and reputation.
When considering whether to attend or speak at an alumni event, a seminar, or a conference, remember face-to-face interactions can significantly benefit your personal brand. Giving a warm handshake, carrying an engaging conversation, or holding an interesting presentation can help make a connection, grow relationships within your industry and build your brand.
Both digital and face-to-face communications have specific benefits. Face-to-face interaction fosters engagement, can leave a lasting impression, open doors and lead to opportunities. Regular online engagement within your industry network will extend your audience and keep your name at the forefront of people’s minds as a thought leader in your area of expertise. Marrying the benefits of both digital and face-to-face communication will help you build a respected and authentic brand.
Spring clean: Google is your new CV. As mentioned earlier, employers can find out a lot about you by simply Googling your name. What they find may determine whether you get a job offer or not. So, how should you come across? Do you want to be seen as creative? Entrepreneurial? Ambitious? Professional? It is time to clean up! Review everything about yourself that you can find online. Check Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and YouTube, and remove anything that may contradict the impression you want potential employers to see. Have you written a blog post or an article online? Are you confident that it is something you are proud of and reflects the brand you want to put out there? What about sites where you have allowed friends to publish your picture or information about you? If you want to create a long-term personal brand, be thorough in your spring cleaning. It will likely be time-consuming, but it is definitely worth the effort if you are to take your success seriously.
Curriculum vitae: once you have done a thorough clear out, try this old-fashioned idea: re-write your CV. To capture an employer’s attention, you need to highlight your skills and achievements in the top half of the first page. Structure it so you have bulleted all your relevant work experience, key strengths and responsibilities. Highlight your profile and briefly outline your main skill sets and achievements that would be attractive to a potential employer. Once you have captured their attention they will read further.
Throughout your CV, back up your skills and experience by giving specific examples of your achievements and their impact on the company – cut costs, increased revenue, improved processes, improved customer experience etc. Keep this CV accessible and update it regularly.
A CV is a marketing tool; a document to sell yourself, rather than just a list of your work experience. It needs to include enough interesting information to provoke interest in you. Do not include arbitrary information. Everything in the CV should sell you.
Building your CV and defining your personal brand within forms the base for all your personal brand marketing. It gives a clear picture of what differentiates you from other candidates and highlights the skills you offer to potential employers. It enables you to speak confidently and clearly about your experience. You can also include the information from your CV on your online profiles to help market your brand online.
Social media: LinkedIn is likely to be the most popular site for employers, head-hunters and recruiters to check out your profile. Make sure you present yourself properly with a professional head and shoulders photo. Dress appropriately. Smile. LinkedIn will tell you that having a quality profile picture will increase your response and referral rates and it is your chance to show yourself as friendly, likeable and trustworthy. When filling in your profile using your CV as a guide, highlight your major achievements. Check grammar and spelling. Get a friend to review it for you. Ask people you know for recommendation on the site. It’s important to highlight what makes you stand out in your particular skill set.
LinkedIn offers guidance on how to build a better profile. Download this. Join relevant groups and engage in conversations to help promote your personal brand and expertise in the marketplace and among your peers. Add links to relevant websites or blogs that can draw attention to your experience.
People like to see you, not just read about you. Creating a video of you showing your knowledge and expertise in your area can have immense value and be surprisingly easy now that most of us have a smartphone. Record a video and post it on YouTube and LinkedIn. This invites engagement and can be of interest to potential employers.
Twitter can be confusing to some people and takes a dedicated person to make this work well in their favour. To make Twitter work for you, daily posts themed around your expertise are a must. The advantage to using Twitter is users’ use of hashtags. Google indexes all the tags and tweets, making it easy for employers to find you and your well-thought-out personal brand. What you need to know is which hashtags employers or indeed recruiters are likely to look for when they want to find someone with your experience. There are plenty of helpful articles online, including one from Twitter, on how to get the best out of the service.
While everyone has a personal brand, whether they know it or not, it serves you best when you are the one defining that brand. Take the time to highlight your strengths, learn from and improve upon your weaknesses, and create a personal brand strategy that will show potential employers and recruiters how valuable you are in your industry.