Personal Branding: How to Make a Name for Yourself
What is My Brand?
With the rise of social media, having a personal brand has become an essential part of how we present ourselves. It is not enough to worry about what is on our resumes or how we sound in an email; we must consider how we are perceived in the professional world, both in-person and online. This carefully crafted self-image defines our personal brand.
The official definition of a personal brand is the “perception or impression of an individual based on their experience, expertise, competencies, actions and/or achievements within a community” (Personal Brand.com). While accurate, this term can be summed up much more concisely: your personal brand is how you convey your story. Your story- your experiences thus far, your skills, training, and aptitudes- is what you present to other professionals in your field when you maximize your personal brand. Essentially, it is what makes you unique! However, building a personal brand is not as intuitive as it sounds. A comprehensive and impactful personal brand requires some effort, some soul-searching, and a little confidence.
Get to Know Yourself
Since your personal brand is all about you, the first step towards developing your personal brand is to spend some time with yourself. Determine what your “unique selling proposition” is. What makes you valuable with regards to your skills, knowledge, image, specialties, etc? You can do this by asking yourself a few questions to get some insights into who you are as an individual, as well as how you are positioned within your field. Here are some questions to get you started:
What makes you unique?
What are your core values?
How are you influential?
What company culture are you looking for?
What industry are you in, and what is your niche?
How would you like others to perceive you?
Once you figure out some of your defining qualities, values, and characteristics, you can start to piece together how you would define yourself to others. Ensure that the brand you are presenting is genuine to who you are. Your personal brand should allow you to leverage your values and strengths to help you find meaningful connections and opportunities. Being knowledgeable or skilled in a certain area, likely something you are passionate about, will also contribute to the authenticity and reputability of your personal brand. Remember to be specific with your focus and develop a niche. This will ease the process of developing your brand and sticking to it, and it can help you make a more memorable impression.
Reaching Out and Looking In
Beginning the process of figuring out what you represent is daunting, so it may be easier to look around you before digging deep. Take inspiration from mentors and famous figures whose branding and values you admire. Find people who stand for similar causes and beliefs, and who have a public personality you connect with. Of course, it can be helpful to find an example to build from, but be sure to keep your personal brand fresh and original. Going forward, you can develop your offline personal brand by interviewing and learning from industry experts, asking for recommendations from former colleagues and employers, and networking in abundance. Talking to others who have more experience in your field can provide a wealth of information about what employers are looking for in potential candidates, which can help you adjust your branding before you enter the market.
Furthermore, don’t forget about your online presence. Update your LinkedIn profile regularly to highlight your strengths, name your accomplishments, and put forward a professional image of yourself. Professional contacts can be made across social media, so be consistent with your messaging and your content across all channels - stick to your niche and provide the same promises and values from Twitter to Instagram. Any content you publish on social media should also be purposeful and consistent. Your audience should find what you create to be relevant, engaging, and valuable.
Lastly, take a few minutes to form your personal elevator pitch. An elevator pitch is a short explanation of who you are and should take under a minute to recite. As the spoken embodiment of your personal brand, this pitch is helpful when you need to represent yourself in an interview or when meeting someone new.
Impacts of Personal Branding
Although building your personal brand may seem difficult, it will ultimately provide you with so many advantages and opportunities. It can help you build credibility for yourself in your industry or profession, which establishes trust between you and potential business connections. Employers will understand more about you before they hire or do business with you, which will help you advertise yourself more effectively.
Your personal brand will also attract like-minded people, including potential employers, brands, and other professional connections. Like attracts like, and those who act and think similarly to you, and who would like to work with you in the future, will ultimately connect with you online or in-person once you put yourself out into the world. This will help you find or establish a professional community that is unique to your situation, which can get you closer to finding your fit within a company that’s right for you.
Most importantly, a personal brand gives you the opportunity to create change. Try to create a positive impact from your brand, both on a small, personal level with the relationships you create and maintain and on a larger scale with whatever is meaningful and relevant to your profession. You can stand for something larger than yourself and utilize your image to engage others with your cause, or simply to raise awareness for something you believe to be important.
Personal Branding IRL
Erica Sullivan, a CWIB alum who has become a lifestyle blogger, podcaster, and entrepreneur, has years of experience honing her personal brand. The success of her long-standing fashion blog, “What the Clique” (https://www.whattheclique.com/), led her to create “The Innovator Podcast” (https://www.whattheclique.com/theinnovatorpodcast ) earlier this year. On the podcast, she interviews impactful young women in business and discusses their careers and important developments related to their area of expertise. For Sullivan, her unique personal brand has been the core of her online presence, where “being personable and relatable was … huge for me, because all of the other bloggers… were promoting this unattainable and lavish lifestyle.” She differentiated herself from a large pool of similar sites and appealed to an underserved audience in the blogging community that she leveraged to build the foundations of her blog’s mission.
When expanding her personal brand across different social media channels, Sullivan remembers that she began to mold her blog, podcast- and now, her start up apparel company, Low UltraViolet (L.U.V.) (https://www.facebook.com/LowUltraviolet/) - to bring her audience on a journey. “You can do the same in a professional sense,” she advises, “as well through your resume and LinkedIn profile. Spend time shaping these two resources so that they show a true chronological timeline of your experience.” Her resume establishes her key characteristics, which she identifies as being creativity, entrepreneurial drive, and dependability. She stays true to these core characteristics, although her life has changed since graduating, and says that “one thing that has stayed true to my personal brand, both professionally and personally, is that I am a big picture thinker with a wealth of creativity and passion to bring to the table.”
Her podcast, “The Innovator Podcast,” recently hosted a female entrepreneur who had great insights on establishing a brand, which you can listen to here.”
Additionally, Vaishnavi Somanchi, a Technology Consultant at PwC and a panelist at the recent PwC Women in Business Panel, sums up the meaning of personal branding in her statement, “think of your personal brand like you think of companies such as Apple or Nike- you know exactly what they stand for… It is hard to advance in your company as a generalist; specializing and developing your skills, including what you stand for, helps you grow in your company.”
Branding for Life
As you grow into your profession, don’t be afraid to try something new, even if it doesn’t work out. Failing forward is key to self-development and improving your personal brand. Recognize your mistakes and your efforts, learn, and move forward with a new perspective and new insights. Additionally, we are all always evolving, which may mean you need to redevelop your personal brand here and there. Your brand is never permanent, and although consistency is key, it is even more important to push yourself, learn, and try to be better with each new day.
Your personal brand is a cultivated representation of who you are in your professional life and is a key piece to finding success in your career. Not only can it make job-hunting easier and more efficient, but it can provide you with the opportunity to do some self-reflection and understand what drives you, both inside and outside your career. Developing your personal brand can start as soon as today and can be a continuous, life-long process, so starting sooner than later may give you an advantage in establishing your career.
By: Lauren Miles