Just as every business should have a strong and unique brand that differentiates it from the competition, individuals should build and develop a personal brand for precisely the same reasons. This becomes particularly important in the case of someone looking to progress or change their career and to stand out in the super-competitive marketplace.
However, personal branding doesn’t always feature at the top of job seekers’ priorities and is certainly not seen as on a par with such activities as designing the perfect CV or allocating enough time to search for suitable opportunities. It is a big shame, as the first thing many employers do when they decide whether or not to interview a specific person is to search for them online.
One of my recent clients told me that despite his great experience working for a transnational organisation, he has no presence online. Moreover, he mentioned that he didn’t realise the importance of creating a strong personal brand in his efforts to change his career path and secure a top job in the private sector.
I believe that personal branding should be everybody’s first step on the path towards securing their ideal job or simply ensuring timely progress in their current role. So what is personal branding?
Oxford dictionary defines ‘brand’ as ‘a particular identity or image regarded as an asset’. I like this definition since for me, personal branding is the process of creating one’s particular distinct image for a defined purpose – in our case, for career progression.
You may ask, ‘So how do I create this distinct image and how long will it take?’ It usually takes companies years to differentiate themselves and design powerful identities. The same is the case with individuals – you can’t expect to complete this challenging work in a week or month. I would normally suggest dedicating a certain amount of time per day to the effort of building your personal brand. If you do it regularly and consistently, you may be surprised how fast you can become known in the online and offline space. This in turn will boost your career prospects significantly.
So here come my three steps towards creating your personal brand:
- Define what you stand for. You should identify your unique strengths (and weaknesses!), values and beliefs for yourself, since if you are not clear why you are different, why should anybody else be? I would recommend conducting a short brainstorming session where you write down all the key things that make you ‘tick’ and differentiate you from everybody else. You could also ask friends how they perceive you and what they would define as your ‘unique selling points’. This would provide a different and valuable perspective and help you in your research.
- Just as companies create their own marketing proposition, you should use the things that have come out as a result of your brainstorming session in step 1 and write down in one or two sentences your own marketing proposition. This should aim to capture your essence – targeting it to a particular industry sector or company.
- Polish your online presence (LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest) keeping in mind your new marketing proposition. Your updates on LinkedIn and Twitter for instance, should be written with your proposition in mind and you should try to avoid unrelated comments and posts that can dilute your brand. You should also aim to update your professional photos as to reflect your personal brand and not to divert from it. Make yourself memorable!
In this article, I have aimed to lay a basic foundation of how to build your personal brand. I would be interested in hearing your ideas on the best ways to design your personal brand and examples of how it has helped you in your careers.