Define Your Personal Brand
Ask yourself this question: What is it that you do best in your career? You may find this is a difficult question to answer. Chances are you have never thought about it, focusing instead on how you can do everything expected of you in a job. But the thing you do best — this is your own personal brand.
Knowing what your personal brand is and being able to control it is a great way to achieve goals for yourself and for your career. A personal brand is an up-front guarantee of the quality of your work and your skills. With some self-examination and understanding of what your passions are, you can lead yourself to the career you want, instead of a job to pay the bills for today.
Even if you don’t know it, you have a brand. When people think of you, strong words may come to their minds. Those few-word impressions could be anything from “always using new technology,” to “handles angry customers best,” to “always late.” It’s up to you to take control of those impressions.
And it doesn’t take much to make an impression on someone. For example, if you have had one big “hero” moment in your career where you had a very pleased client or a new product that dominated the marketplace, people will remember you for this probably more than anything. But, by the same token, be late just once or disappoint someone, and people will always remember this. From then on, just as you might think of “refreshment” when you see a logo for a soft drink company, a person’s one-word description of you will be “late.”
Now, consider all of your skills. Maybe you think of yourself as a jack-of-all-trades, but there are probably one or two things at which you really excel. It might be training other people, or understanding what clients need, or being gifted at creating elegant designs appealing to everyone.
Then take those skills and think about what is really going on behind them. For instance, if you are exceptionally good at training other people, what actions are involved? Can you sense if someone doesn’t understand and adjust your presentation to compensate? Perhaps you are good at getting people to open up and discuss the material. You could be a pro at creating the training itself, which is not simple when you have to take something and break it down into understandable and teachable terms.
Once you have these basic actions listed, you’ll be able to understand what personality traits allow you to excel at them. Using the same example of being a great trainer, some skills you may have are patience, empathy, confidence and excellent speaking skills.
Lastly, write a statement to combine all of this information into one or two sentences. Using the example of someone who is a gifted trainer, her statement might be “I use my 10 years of experience in training diverse groups of colleagues at three organizations to create educational programs and present them in an appropriately paced, highly collaborative environment.”
Even if you do know what it is differentiating you from the crowd, does your company know it? Does it say it on your resume? Your resume objective is one place where your branding statement needs to stand out. Your experience, memberships in organizations and professional skills must also reflect your brand.
If your resume needs work to reflect your brand, some actions you can take to strengthen it are:
- Join organizations. This may seem obvious, but many people never take this step. It is easier than ever to join an organization using the Internet. You can take advantage of the perks of membership from your home computer. Not only is membership a benefit to you by listing it on your resume, an organization devoted to your career field will give you invaluable opportunities to meet other people in your same career, and allow you to continue your education through their books, articles and other resources. Open a search engine and start looking, because this is one of the simplest ways to build your brand.
- Volunteer. Sign on to help out a professional organization related to your field, or use your skills to benefit a nonprofit. For example, if you often visit a farmers’ market and are familiar with one of the vendors — and you’re a Web guru — offer to build a Web site for them. It will allow them to reach more customers and the project will build the diversity of your experience.
- Teach. By taking information and skills that you know, researching them and creating a lesson from them, you are strengthening your own understanding by volumes. There are community colleges and universities offering online courses, so you may be able to do this from home.
- Start a blog. Typically, a successful blog is focused on one particular topic, for instance, photographic lighting techniques or newly published business book reviews. Creating a blog and keeping it updated with specific content about your focused interest or skill will give you credibility.
If you don’t have time to build your brand in these ways, work off of what you have done to this point and write that 1-2 sentence statement summarizing your personal brand. Without defining your brand and controlling it, others will do it for you. Establishing it yourself is a powerful tool for defining and achieving your goals.