Having a personal brand is important for an entrepreneur because now more than ever, it’s important for CEOs and founders of companies/brands to come out to the forefront and connect with their audiences. People connect with people. – Kevin Stimpson
People reinvent themselves all the time—to take on a new challenge, shift into more-meaningful work, or beat back perceptions that have hindered their career progress. Sometimes the rebranding is subtle or evident. Taking control of your personal brand may mean the difference between an unfulfilling job and a rewarding career.
A personal brand is, in many ways, similar to a corporate brand. It is who you are, what you stand for, the values you embrace, and the way in which you express those values.
Just as a company’s brand helps to communicate its value to customers and stand out from the competition, a personal brand does the same for individuals, helping to communicate a unique identity and clear value to potential employers or clients.
An overwhelming 85 percent of hiring managers report that a job candidate’s personal brand influences their hiring decisions. Your personal brand should highlight your strengths, establish a reputation, build trust, and communicate the unique attributes that you bring to your current (or desired) industry. Cultivated well, your personal brand will signal to employers whether or not you’ll be the right fit for an open role.
Developing a personal brand might sound challenging, but there are incremental steps you can take to build credibility in your field. When you have a personal brand that clearly articulates who you are, what you do, and how you help others, it makes it easier for other people and entrepreneurs to see value in connecting with you. You can leverage your personal brand to build your network, both online and offline, quickly and effectively.
Building a personal brand that positions you as the go-to expert in a specific industry or niche helps you to attract more of your ideal clients. When you’re positioned as an expert, it’s also easier for people to refer clients to you. Having a strong personal brand helps justify charging premium prices for your products and services. Without a brand, you become a commodity that competes on price. And there will always be competitors that can beat your price.
Over time, your business will evolve. You may even start multiple businesses in different industries over the course of your career. Your personal brand stays with you as you move from one venture to the next. Having a personal brand helps to build trust with your audience, and position you as an authority and a thought leader in your industry.
The Brand Building Process
The first thing you have to do to identify your personal brand is to know who you really are. You have to sit back and reflect on your values, abilities and passions. What you like to do and what you’re great at. Then you include very important skills you have, and those things that really interest you, what you like to talk about and what you always want to find more about. Being clear about your values is very important when creating your personal brand. If what you do is not in line with your values, you will not be happy with your work or your business and you will probably end up quitting. Sit down and reflect on what is important in your life, what makes you feel happy and fulfilled.
1. In which areas of work do I excel?
2. What motivates me?
3. What characteristics have others complimented me on?
4. Which projects have others had to help me with repeatedly?
5. Which roles seem to drain my energy?
6. Which projects can I spend hours on without feeling overwhelmed or tired?
If you’re struggling to answer these questions, ask friends, family, and co-workers how they would describe you. Once you’re more aware of the different facets of your personality, you can decide how best to brand them.
Your personal brand is more than a reflection of who you are today; it’s a roadmap of where you to go. In addition to understanding your existing skills and competencies, it is important to assess your strengths and weaknesses as they relate to whichever industry or career you want to break into next. By doing this, you’ll uncover the skills and traits that make you distinct, as well as the areas where you need to improve or gain new knowledge in order to advance. Forecasting where you want to be in five or 10 years—and the attributes you want to be known for—can help you better determine what steps you need to take in order to get there.
What you offer and the kind of person you are will interest a certain kind of people, not everyone. You have to be very clear about who those people are. Study your audience and address them with your message. If you help your audience achieve their goals, they will help you achieve yours. At first it can be a bit complicated to know exactly who your target audience is. It will take you some time to get to know the type of audience that is interested in what you offer, however, this is essential in order to be able to attract the kind of people you can help and who in turn will help you. The main thing here is to understand the motivations of your target audience, what worries them or what interests them. This will allow you to better design the content of your blog, podcast or marketing emails in order to attract the attention of the right audience.
As you start mapping out the careers you want, it is recommended to compile research on experts in those roles. Find out who the thought leaders are in whatever field you’re interested in, and don’t just follow them, go online and find out if they have blogs, or where they contribute their thinking. Look for people who are successful and examine what they’re doing. Imitate them, and then do one better. In building a personal brand, your goal is to stand out—but you can’t rise to the top without taking inventory of who’s already there.
As you cultivate your ideal personal brand, it’s important to network regularly and effectively to grow your professional circle. Connect with peers and industry thought-leaders by going to formal and informal networking events. The more connections you make—and the more value you can provide in your interactions—the more likely it is your personal brand will be recognized. And, considering 85 percent of all jobs are filled through networking, regularly attending these events will help you not only build your brand, but potentially advance your career, too. At these events, don’t be shy about asking fellow attendees to meet again for an informational interview or a casual coffee chat. And remember, if you don’t get a chance to connect at the event, reach out via email or LinkedIn to spark a conversation.
Having current and former colleagues and managers endorse you is one of the easiest and most effective ways to define your personal brand, allowing others to communicate your value for you. Just as a business might cultivate customer reviews and testimonials for use in sales and marketing collateral, you too should cultivate your own reviews in the form of recommendations.
One of the most important aspects of personal branding is making sure your online presence is engaging to hiring managers, co-workers, and others—even if you’re not on the job hunt. With so many different social media tools available today, your online presence will likely look different depending on the medium you choose. While your story should match across all platforms, once you know where your targeted audience is most likely to turn, you can redouble your efforts in telling your best story there. Additionally, if you want one of your sites or profiles to be exclusively for friends and family, adjust your privacy settings to ensure that potential employers don’t stumble upon any information that could potentially harm your chances of landing a job.
Your brand is more than just an online persona; it’s how you carry yourself at home, in the office, and even on your daily commute. Your reputation is everything! The more opportunities you have to work with others, volunteer for projects, and assert yourself as a leader, take them. That’s part of your brand.
Leadership isn’t reserved for C-suite executives. Strong leaders exist at every level of the organization. Leadership comes from how you behave, how you act, and how you inherently interact with people. That’s real leadership. That story you tell, combined with those everyday interactions, ultimately define your personal brand.
Your brand is your public identity, what you’re trusted for. And for your brand to endure, it has to be tested, redefined, managed, and expanded as markets evolve. Brands either learn or disappear – Lisa Gansky