Just like companies, individuals all have a brand.
Personal branding is the art of making your unique value clear and compelling. The more you know about your personal brand, the easier it’ll be to pursue the best career opportunities and business partnerships for you.
Personal branding is a huge part of understanding how to navigate the professional landscape.
It helps you:
- Communicate your unique value on resumes, cover letters, and social media profiles.
- Serve as a confident, informed advocate for yourself by knowing what you’re worth.
- Chart a course between competing opportunities and priorities to choose a “best fit.”
People who invest time in personal branding are more confident in the face of new challenges. They know what they’re worth and people around them are more likely to, as well. That gives them more energy to take bold risks and lead creatively no matter what field they’re in.
So, what do you need to do to have a great personal brand?
First and foremost, you have to figure out what it is.
Figuring Out Your Personal Brand: 3 Steps
1. Focus on Your Achievements, Not Your Duties.
As a professional, figuring out what makes you unique starts with going back through your job history. There’s no easier way to do this than by looking at your resume, but most resumes aren’t written in a way that truly captures your personal branding.
The key is the difference between duties and achievements:
- Duties are what you did every day.
- Achievements are how you excelled.
For an easy example, let’s consider sales. You might have a quarterly quota of 10,000 widgets – meeting that quota is your duty. If you consistently sold 15,000 widgets (exceeding quota 50%), then that’s an achievement. It’s unusual and something to be really proud of!
2. Figure Out How You Got Where You Are.
Everyone’s delivered some great achievements at the workplace – whether they know it or not.
If you scour your resume and LinkedIn and ask your professional contacts, you’re likely to figure out 2-3 achievements even at jobs that weren’t quite right for you.
Now, you want to go a step further. Achievements are your unusual, striking accomplishments – but how you reached them makes up the planks of your personal branding.
Let’s look a little closer at the sales example.
If you’re the sales pro who beat quota, you might ask yourself, “How did I do that?”
Any of these could be true:
- You knew the product really well and were able to get other people excited about it.
- You understood your customers and were good at rapport, networking, or follow-up.
- You consistently built business and sought out leads in fresh territories or industries.
And dozens of other possibilities could’ve led you to that same outcome.
For each achievement, you want to zero in on exactly how you did what you did. This exercise will get you closer to uncovering the core skills and personality traits that drive your success.
3. Use the Patterns You Find to Craft Your Unique Value Proposition.
If you’re a mid-career professional, you’ve probably developed some patterns at your jobs.
Once you’ve done your quick review, you’ll likely see these three things:
- You’ve gravitated toward solving specific kinds of problems.
- You’ve used certain skills and personal traits to get results.
- You’ve had a bigger impact in some industries than others.
These three points will get you a lot closer to your personal brand – close enough to make a single, concise statement of the value you offer.
The sales pro in our examples might say:
- “I’m a B2B sales professional who consistently exceeds tough quotas by understanding my clients and finding the best way for our SaaS solutions to help them meet their goals.”
In general, you want your personal brand to be built around the things you’ve done well over and over – and the things you enjoy doing. If you find yourself crafting a statement based on skills you really hate, you might have a bigger problem to deal with.
Making Your Personal Brand Count: 5 Steps
1. Ask Yourself What You’ve Learned Along the Way.
With a strong personal brand, you’re positioning yourself as an expert.
The question is why. Why would you want to be considered an expert or leader in the first place?
Sure, there are lots of benefits to being an expert. In general, though, one thing brings them all together: They want to use their knowledge to benefit others.
In the web world, that usually means teaching people something new.
People will come to know your personal branding by the value you can provide for them. So, it’s a good idea to figure out early on what you want to communicate.
That could take the form of hard skills, commentary on recent events, or business philosophy. Whatever you choose, though, it’s vital to focus on what’s unique to your perspective.
That way, you’ll know what you can share that will be memorable, informative, and helpful.
2. Align Your Digital Presence With Your Brand.
Before people really get to know you as a person, they might run into you on many different platforms. That’s especially true of potential bosses and business partners, who might scope you out online before they consider collaborating with you.
With that in mind, it’s crucial that your digital footprint represents the best you.
- Making sure your Twitter and LinkedIn profiles are filled out and up to date.
- Reserving your username on all social platforms, even if you don’t use them.
- Grabbing your name or a variant as a domain name so others can’t squat on it.
Each one of your social profiles should link to your home on the web, whether that’s a personal homepage, business bio, or your LinkedIn account. This way, people who meet you online will always know where to go to check out your latest projects.
Naturally, the best thing you can do for your personal brand is start a blog where you post insightful content on a regular basis.
3. Get Active in Your Industry.
Your brand is only known to people you interact with. The more time you spend with others, the more you’ll be able to refine and strengthen it. That can be a challenge, but it’s worthwhile.
There are tons of ways to spend a bit more time with those who share your professional interests:
- Attend one of the major annual conferences in your industry.
- Go to professional networking mixers around your community.
- Take a short-term class: For example, a public speaking course.
- Hold your own small local events, such as coffee shop meet-ups.
As you interact with more people, you not only get a better sense for your brand, but also start to figure out where you’re most needed. This exploration phase will put you in contact with people who could turn out to be your “tribe” in the future.
4. Know Why You Do What You Do.
Most people don’t really have a personal brand – or at least they don’t take control of it.
Like so many businesses, their brand becomes whatever people happen to say about them when they’re not around. They don’t think about the why behind what they do. That makes it hard to be consistent ... and much, much harder to inspire others.
Knowing that, it’s a good idea to reflect on your own core values.
One great book on this topic is Simon Sinek’s Start With Why. It’ll provide you with a step-by-step way to process your experiences and beliefs into a coherent explanation of why you do what you do. This can be the difference between being good and being a leader.
5. Live Your Excellence – And Set Boundaries, Too.
Your personal branding isn’t just something you communicate, but something you live.
Behavior becomes habit, and habits are what the people you work with frequently will know you by. So, understand what you won’t compromise on and what can take a back seat.
For example, one coaching professional was known for being the most responsive person in his niche. He always answered messages within 24 hours and showed a keen recollection of each client and colleague, even if they hadn’t spoken in years.
How did he do it?
Here’s what he didn’t do:
- He didn’t have email alerts going off at all hours of the day and night.
- He didn’t sacrifice weekends so that he would have time for emails.
- He didn’t have a photographic memory for everyone he ever met.
What did he have? Three things:
- A CRM system that he consistently updated with information about all his contacts.
- A daily schedule that always allowed him to spend two hours a day on his email.
- Workflows that equipped him to avoid spending time on email outside those hours.
These ingredients helped to build up personal branding that others knew and appreciated. However, it wasn’t all about sheer willpower or personal charisma: Systems and processes enabled him to deliver the experience that his brand promised to others.
At the same time, he knew who he was and didn’t compromise: If he had spent all of his time with email alerts blaring, he would have been much less valuable to others, even if he had answered all the messages he received. Instead, he set limits on his time and energy.
Your personal branding is the essence of what people remember you for. What people remember about you determines when they’ll turn to you for help. Once you build that awareness, it’ll help you keep your pipeline full of fulfilling opportunities.