Just as a company’s brand sets the tone for how it is perceived in the market, a personal brand tells your story. It’s what you stand for, your values, goals, skills, and knowledge. Your personal brand is what sets you apart.
In the job market, it’s essential to set yourself apart in this way. Fortunately, your personal brand communicates your identity and value to potential employers. This can influence the decision to hire you! Your strengths, reputation, and unique traits show employers whether you will be the right fit for the position.
So how do you build a personal brand? What does that even mean? Here are some questions for you to think on to help you develop your personal brand.
1. Who Are You?
Before you put your persona out into the world, you need to know who you are. There are two types of people: first, those who hear that and think, “that’s easy!” and second, those who hear that and have no idea where to start. Hint: Most people fall into the second category.
To figure out who you are (or who you want to be), take an introspective look at yourself. Make an honest list of your personal strengths and weaknesses and what motivates you. Ask your family and friends how they would describe you.
YOU are your personal brand, no matter what position you are in currently. Aim to be as authentic as possible. Not only does this make it easier to manage your personal brand and the content you create, but you’ll leave a positive impact on others. Your reputation is a huge part of your personal brand.
2. What Do You Want To Be Known For?
It’s not unusual to struggle with finding your focus. A common problem is trying to be “all things to all people” and offer too much of yourself. The key is to focus on a niche that you excel in, and stick to that messaging. It will be easier to create on-brand content consistently and it will help others define you when speaking on your behalf.
Consider this exercise as a roadmap of where you want to go. Where do you want to be in five or 10 years? What do you want to be known for? If you can work backwards from that, you’ll have a plan as to what your niche should be.
Do understand that just like a corporate brand, your personal brand will change over time. As your career grows and you gain more experience, you’ll have an easier time keeping your focus and narrowing down your niche.
3. Who Are You Trying To Reach?
Consider why you want to put yourself out into the world. Is it to advance your career and reach recruiters? To reach industry thought leaders (and become one yourself)?
You have to define your audience before you start writing your story. Knowing who you are speaking to will guide your voice and the platforms you should use to reach your audience.
4. Where Will You Reach Your Audience?
Once you know your audience, you need to decide how to reach them. For business dealings, job opportunities, and professional development, there’s nowhere like LinkedIn. You can participate in groups, share content to your own page, and ask for (and give!) recommendations. Tip: Make sure your profile is packed with industry keywords so that you can get found by recruiters and thought leaders.
While LinkedIn is your best outlet to promote yourself, your personal brand is made up of your entire presence–online and in real life. If you have other social media accounts, make sure you follow through with your branding or create privacy settings to ensure that you’re limiting your audience. You also should be aware of your personal presence when networking and interviewing. Something as simple as using a specific color in your resume and even in your wardrobe can help make you memorable.
5. What’s Your Story?
Now that you know who you are, what you want to be known for, who your audience is, and where to reach them, you need to craft your story. You need to create a narrative around your brand that your audience can engage with and follow. Basically, personal branding is the story people tell about you when you’re not in the room. So make sure you take control over that narrative!
The best place to start is to draft an elevator pitch–a 60-second mini-story with a sharp focus on a few key points. This will be very useful for networking, and can be the basis for any content you put out into the world. Remember, you want to be authentic in your brand, and what better way to do so than to stay true to your real life.
Your content should be consistent and relevant, but you can mix up how you present that content. Try posting video clips instead of just written posts sometimes. Apply to present at a conference or join a roundtable discussion. Anything that you can do to put yourself out there is a continuation of your brand.