The importance of personal branding
Apple challenged the world to “Think Different. ” Nike encouraged people, regardless of age, gender, or fitness level, to “Keep it simple.” Dunkin Donuts persuaded busy professionals that “America works with Dunkin’.” Over the years, these recognizable slogans have been transformed into battle cries, setting the tone for how each company communicates and identifies itself in the marketplace. For those, today we show professional advice to build a personal brand.
In just a few words, these slogans have told a story and influenced how people perceive the organizations behind them. Together, they represent the power and potential of the brand. “Branding is what companies stand for,” says Dr. Sean Gresh, faculty member of Northeastern’s Master of Science in Corporate and Organizational Communication program.
“IT IS REFLECTED IN HOW THAT COMPANY ACTS, HOW IT SERVES PEOPLE, THE VALUE THAT THE COMPANY SHARES AND HOW THE COMPANY PROJECTS THOSE VALUES.”
A strong brand stands out from the crowd, and as a result, you get more sales, greater awareness, and better customer experiences.
But branding is not just for companies. Each of the professionals has their own story to tell and goals, skills and experience to share. In today’s increasingly digital world, a personal brand is no longer a nice thing to have; expected.
What is a personal brand?
A personal brand is, in many ways, similar to a corporate brand, Gresh explains. It’s who you are, what you stand for, the values you embrace, and the way you express those values. Just as a company’s brand helps communicate its value to customers and stand out from the competition, a personal brand does the same for people, helping to communicate a unique identity and clear value to potential employers or clients.
Or, as Gresh sums up: “Personal branding is your story.”
That story can play an important role in establishing or advancing your career. In fact, an overwhelming 85 percent of hiring managers report that a 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 you bring to your current (or desired) industry. If cultivated well, your personal brand will tell employers whether or not you will be the right person for an open position. Tips to build your personal brand
Developing a personal brand may seem like a challenge, but there are gradual steps you can take to build credibility in your field. Here are ten tips to help you create an authentic personal brand and amplify your career in the process.
Ten tips to develop your personal brand
1. Find out who you are.
To build a personal brand that accurately reflects your personal and professional identity, you first need to know who you are. Be introspective and create a list of your personal strengths and weaknesses. Ask yourself:
- In what areas of work do I excel?
- What motivates me?
- What characteristics have others complimented me on?
- What projects have others had to help me with repeatedly?
- What roles seem to drain my energy?
- What projects can I spend hours on without feeling overwhelmed or tired?
If you have a hard time answering these questions, ask your friends, family, and co-workers how they would describe it. Once you are more aware of the different facets of your personality, you can decide how best to mark them.
Keep in mind that many people struggle to choose a specific niche because they don’t want to limit themselves. Realize that your personal brand, like many corporate brands, will change as your career grows. The best strategy is to choose a particular area that you would like to focus on and let it evolve over time.
2. Determine why you want to be known.
Your personal brand is more than a reflection of who you are today; it is a roadmap of where to go. In addition to understanding your existing skills and competencies, Gresh suggests assessing your strengths and weaknesses relative to whatever industry or career you want to venture into next.
By doing this, you will discover the skills and traits that distinguish you, as well as the areas in which you need to improve or acquire new knowledge 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 to get there.
3. Define your audience.
Before you start building your personal brand, you also need to determine who you are trying to reach. Are they other opinion leaders in the industry? An individual from a particular company? Recruiters? The earlier you define your audience, the easier it will be to craft your story because you will better understand the type of story you need to tell (and where you need to tell it).
For example, if your goal is to reach hiring managers and recruiters, you can start by creating or updating your LinkedIn profile. Why? Because 92 percent of recruiters take advantage of social media to find high-quality candidates, and of those, 87 percent use LinkedIn.
On the other hand, if you are a graphic designer trying to impress existing clientele and attract new clients, you may choose to tell your story through a personal website or portfolio, where you can better express your wide range of talents.
4. Research your desired industry and follow the experts.
As you begin to chart the careers you want, Gresh recommends gathering research on experts in those roles.
“Find out who the thought leaders are in whatever field you’re interested in and don’t follow them,” he says. 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 are doing. Imitate them and then make a better one. “
When building a personal brand, your goal is to stand out, but you can’t make it to the top without taking inventory of who’s already there.
5. Request informational interviews.
As you begin to list the companies you aspire to work for and the industry leaders you admire, consider contacting these professionals to request an informational interview.
“They take 20 minutes, but they are great value,” says Gresh. “Don’t be afraid to ask anyone you are interested in learning more about. You will be surprised how genuine and generous the people are. “
When you meet with these people, ask questions that can help you gain new knowledge about your desired field, such as:
- How did you break into the industry?
- What steps would you take if you transitioned again?
- How do you see the evolution of the industry?
- How do you keep up with industry trends?
- Is there a professional or trade association that I should join?
According to Gresh, informational interviews come with an added benefit: “You are learning about what it takes to enter the profession, but you are also sharing a bit about yourself in the course of this dialogue. What you are doing is building your brand. “
Although there may not be a job at stake in one of these interviews, one day there might be, and you want that employer to think of you when they are envisioning the ideal candidate.
6. Prepare a personal speech.
When you start to conceptualize your personal brand, spend some time crafting a speech – a 30- to a 60-second story about who you are. Whether you are attending a networking event or a casual party, having an elevator pitch prepared makes it easy to succinctly describe what you do and where you are going (or would like to go) in your career.
“You have to think of very short and concise things to say, stories to tell, that frame your attributes in the right way,” says Frank Cutitta, founder of the Center for Global Branding and a Northeastern University graduate professor who teaches a course. about personal branding.
Keep your elevator speech short by focusing on a few key points you want to emphasize. This could include that you are looking for a new position, have strengths in a particular niche, or have recently increased the value of your current department or company.
7. Embrace networking.
As you cultivate your ideal personal brand, it’s important to network regularly (and effectively) to grow your professional circle. Connect with industry peers and thought leaders by attending formal and informal networking events.
The more connections you make and the more value you can provide in your interactions, the more likely your personal brand will be recognized. And, considering that 85 percent of all jobs are filled through networks, attending these events regularly will help you not only build your brand but also advance your career.
At these events, feel free to ask other attendees to come together for an informational interview or informal coffee chat. And remember, if you don’t have a chance to connect at the event, reach out via email or LinkedIn to start a conversation.
8. Ask for recommendations.
Having current and former colleagues and managers behind you is one of the easiest and most effective ways to define your personal brand, allowing others to communicate its value for you. Just as a business can cultivate opinions and customer testimonials to use in marketing and sales materials, you must also cultivate your own opinions in the form of recommendations.
LinkedIn is a great place to request endorsements because these recommendations are likely to catch the eye of future hiring managers. But don’t forget to ask your supporters to act as a real reference during your job search, making sure they are willing to speak to a potential employer or write a letter of recommendation in good faith if necessary.
Not sure who to ask? Former managers who mentored you closely are ideal, but other connections can also craft effective recommendations, including professors and leaders from the organizations you belong to.
9. Grow your online presence.
One of the most important aspects of personal branding is making sure your online presence is attractive to hiring managers, coworkers, and others, even if you’re not looking for a job.
With so many social media tools available today, your online presence is likely to look different depending on the medium you choose. While your story should match across platforms, once you know where your target audience is most likely to be heading, you can redouble your efforts to tell your best story there.
Also, 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 find information that could harm your chances of landing a job. Here are some platform-specific tips to help you effectively build your personal brand online.
LinkedIn serves as a professional social media tool and is the ultimate place to define your brand. The best way to use this network is to participate in groups, make presentations with the people that interest you, and ask (and give) recommendations. Some other tips for telling your story effectively through LinkedIn include:
- Focus on key industry skills – Recruiters will often search for keywords that relate to the role they are trying to perform, so it is important to include industry terms in your profile, whether in your title, summary or job description, and explicitly state your skills. For example, if you have a communication role, focus on your area of interest and key qualifications, such as public relations, social media, or crisis communication.
- Quantify your achievements: Saying you are “results-oriented” is not as effective as your actual results. Quantify your accomplishments when possible, whether it’s the number of articles you’ve written, the dollars you’ve raised, or the deals you’ve closed.
- Complete your profile: While this may seem obvious, it is not uncommon for users to leave sections of their LinkedIn profile blank. Recruiters want to see what work experience you have, your educational background, and a detailed list of accomplishments, so be sure to show the big picture. Convince them that you are the person to hire.
- Use a professional photo: LinkedIn users with a professional photo in their heads receive 14 times more profile views than those without. Upload a current photo that is very close to your face. Remember, you must be the focal point, so avoid busy backgrounds and smile. The more welcoming you look, the more likely recruiters are to contact you.
Take advantage of this platform to stand out and leverage your industry expertise. Try incorporating your personal branding into your Twitter bio by using hashtags to focus on your niche, following leaders in your field, and retweeting top industry stories. Don’t forget: what you tweet is still part of your image online.
Personal website or portfolio
If you are in a marketing or design field, it is especially important to have a personal website or portfolio that provides essential information about who you are and helps to visually highlight your work. You can create your own site using Squarespace, Wix, or WordPress, among others. Small brands and business owners can also take advantage of helpful design resources like Canva and Venngage’s logo templates to get started creating brand-specific content.
10. Remember that your personal brand is not only online.
Your brand is more than a person online; this is how you behave at home, in the office and even on your daily commute.
“Your reputation is everything,” emphasizes Gresh. “Those who frustrate or annoy others, that will come back to haunt them. The more opportunities you have to work with others, volunteer for projects, and establish yourself as a leader, take advantage of them. That is part of your brand. “
Leadership is not reserved for senior executives. There are strong leaders at all levels of the organization.
“Leadership comes from how you behave, how you act, and how you inherently interact with people,” says Gresh. “That is real leadership.”
That story you tell, combined with those everyday interactions, ultimately defines your personal brand.
Reinvent your personal brand as you grow
As the digital ecosystem changes and your career evolves, so will your personal brand. Adjust your personality accordingly as you meet different people, find new networking opportunities, and grow in your career. As long as it reflects your professional life, feel free to create a brand that allows you to shine.