If you are looking to improve your career and propel it towards a new level, one part of the equation will be building your personal brand. What is a personal brand, and how can it help you find more success in your professional career? If you have given little thought to building a personal brand, this guide will help you know why you need one and how you can get started building it.
What Is a Personal Brand?
When you think of a commercial brand, what comes to mind? For a certain retailer, it may be trendy clothes, modern home décor, and a red bullseye. For an online superstore, it might be a directional arrow that doubles as a smile that goes from a to z. These are the images and perceptions that define the brand.
A personal brand is the same, but for a person. It is the recognized perception or impression of an individual. It is based on their experience, knowledge, skills, achievements, and life experiences.
The advent of the Internet has made personal branding critical. Everything a person says, follows, posts, or promotes online becomes part of their personal brand. With a quick online search, people can easily find all of the details they want about who you are and what you do.
Why Should You Have a Personal Brand?
If you are wondering why you should have a personal brand, you are asking the wrong question. If you have an online presence, even just a Facebook page, you already have an online brand. A better question is:
What does your personal brand say about you?
This is where your personal brand can have a direct impact on your career path. Companies want to know everything they can about what people do and say, and they will find that information online. Does your personal brand showcase you as someone who would be an asset to a potential employer, or do you appear to be a potential liability?
It may not seem obvious how a personal brand could affect your career but consider this timely scenario: You have applied to a job you are perfectly qualified for, but the hiring manager has two applications with the same credentials. To gather more information to make a determination, that manager goes online. You recently posted why you despise a particular political candidate … who just happens to be a candidate the company supports through donations. Who do you think will get the job?
This is just one example of how a personal brand can directly impact your career. Remember, your personal brand says a lot about who you are and what your character is like. If you haven’t given much thought to developing it, now is the time to do so. Here are some tips that will help you develop a winning personal brand.
1. Determine Your Audience
Before starting your personal brand, ask yourself who you’re trying to connect with from a professional standpoint. Who can help you grow your career? Are you hoping to impress recruiters, or are you looking to build a story that will reach potential customers? Do you want to be noticed by other thought leaders, or is there a company you wish to impress? The answers to these questions will drive your next steps as you strive to build your brand.
For instance, if you are trying to find recruiters to help you land a great position, then focus your energy on building a winning LinkedIn profile. Research shows that over 95% of recruiters use this social media platform regularly, and LinkedIn Message Ads bring a 40% conversion rate. For reaching recruiters, this is where you need to spend the majority of your time building a personal brand.
2. Create Your Vision for the Future
As you work to build your personal brand, have an eye on the future. Where do you see yourself in five years, 10 years, or even in retirement? The answers to these questions will drive the type of brand you wish to build about yourself.
A vision board can be highly valuable as you build a vision for the future. Map out your goals, both short-term and long-term, so you can create a road map to reach them. Then, build your personal brand around those goals, and use it as a tool to propel yourself towards reaching them.
3. Prioritize Your Passions
What are you passionate about? This should be part of your personal brand. It will be easy to build a brand around your current passions and doing so will help you stick to that brand as you move forward.
When you prioritize your passions as you build your personal brand, you get the opportunity to be authentic. The things that make you excited are the things you get to share as you build your audience. It also allows you to merge your passions with your career, so your work becomes even more rewarding.
Often passions are for those areas of your life that help others. For example, someone who has a passion for working with disadvantaged youth may not see how that can help them professionally. Yet this is an area that can make the individual seem more genuine to their target audience. Adding it into the personal brand can make you seem more interesting, give others a sense that you are there to help, and elevate you in the eyes of others as someone who cares about the community.
4. Define Your Skills
While your passions are important, so are your skills. Make sure you know what you are good at, and what motivates you to continue pushing to succeed. Make a list of your skills and incorporate those into your personal brand.
As you’re considering your skills, consider also those areas that make you feel drained and tired. Even if you seem to be good at them, remove them from your personal brand. You want to know that the tasks you will end up with in your future career are those you enjoy doing.
If you’re struggling to come up with this, ask those around you what they perceive as your strengths and weaknesses, and then decide which of those you wish to incorporate into your brand.
5. Interview Experts in Your Desired Field
Thought leaders, which are experts in your desired field, are a wealth of information. Find and follow them and consider interviewing them if you can. This will help you understand what it takes to stand out in your desired field. It will also help you home in on what type of personal brand people will gravitate towards in your field. In the interview, ask specific questions about what it takes to find success in this area. Ideas for questions include:
- Should I join any professional associations in the field?
- What did you do to break into this industry?
- If you were trying to transition again, what would you do?
- What changes are happening within the industry?
- What resources do you use to stay current in the industry?
6. Connect with Mentors
One of the most valuable tools in building a personal brand is having a mentor who can come alongside and help you. You might find that you connect well with one of the industry experts you interview, and they can become your mentor. If not, you will need to start building a professional network until you connect with someone.
In order to be a good mentor, the individual should be in leadership in your field. They should also be knowledgeable in the field, and they should have a good story about how they became a leader that you can learn from. Finally, they need to be willing to serve as your mentor, because this is a role that requires a commitment of time and energy.
Finding someone who will agree to mentor you is not always easy. After you’ve identified a good candidate and determined that they could help you build your personal brand, you need to ask. To do this, first, start building a relationship. Ask for an initial interview or meeting. Use that meeting to build a relationship with the individual. After starting that relationship, simply ask. Let them know you are learning how to build a personal brand and would value their insight. Be prepared for some people to say “no,” and keep asking until you find the mentor you need.
7. Develop a Narrative
A narrative or story is essential to driving your personal brand. Everyone has a story of where they started, where they are, and the steps they took to get there. Your life experiences along the way have built who you are, so transform them into a narrative that can support your personal brand. Your narrative also lets you showcase your personality as part of your personal brand. Building a narrative also helps you design your future. By telling your story so that it propels you toward your desired goal, you will find your personal brand to be highly effective.
An active presence on pages like LinkedIn is critical. Once you have that presence, start building relationships with others in your field. Get to know them and connect on a personal level.
In addition, attend networking events. Get your face out there in the community to interact with others in your field. Build personal relationships here as well.
As you build your professional network, make sure you strive to be helpful. Relationships should benefit all parties, so consider ways you can benefit your contacts. Offer your services whenever they can help.
Finally, as you network, keep your personal brand in mind. Show your true self as you serve your contacts.
How does this help you build your personal brand? It shows your value to others in your industry and helps you build personal connections that can push you towards your next position. Remember, 85% of jobs are filled through networking, so make this a part of your plan.
9. Ask for Recommendations
If you’ve put yourself out there on your professional network, and providing help to those people on your network, you can start asking people to recommend you. This helps define your personal brand because it shows others that you are knowledgeable and skilled in your field.
So, who should you ask for recommendations?
Consider asking colleagues, former employers, and even your professors and classmates if you’re still in school. Request endorsements on LinkedIn from people you have helped or worked with in the past. Get as many people as possible singing your accolades to solidify that you are a valuable professional in your field.
10. Online Presence and Personal Website
For the modern world, you must have an online presence. This should go beyond your social media profiles. Consider building a personal website.
Your personal website lets you define exactly who you are. Make sure the story you present matches what you’re presenting on other platforms, but don’t be afraid to put yourself out there with a website. Continue growing your online presence on other platforms as well, so the more people look for you, the more consistent information they find.
What should your personal website contain? This is a place to put your resume and portfolio. It gives you the chance to build more information about who you are. If your work is visual, it gives you a platform to showcase images of what you can do.
11. Focus on Quality
No matter what you are doing as you build your brand, focus on quality. Are you adding an image to your online portfolio? Make sure it is a clear, well-lit image. Are you posting on your personal Facebook page? Make sure the post is in line with your narrative and your overall personal brand. Showcase the best of who you are and what you offer every time you share something.
12. Know Your Value
Creating a brand requires a value proposition. Ultimately, you must put value in yourself and what you bring to the table to be consistent in creating a brand around you. Take some time for self-reflection. Discover what it is that you offer and how that can impact others. Jot down some information about your strengths and weaknesses.
As you work on creating a brand, consider whether or not more education would help. Post University offers a diverse number of degrees, many of which can be completed online. Explore our options as you learn how to build a personal brand and launch your success.
Thank you for reading! The views and information provided in this post do not reflect Post University programs and/or outcomes directly. If you are interested in learning more about our programs, you can find a complete list of our programs on our website or reach out directly!