Branding. Upon first hear this word, companies and their marketing strategies come to mind. Corporate brands create images, backstories and company values to sell their product or service to consumers. However, branding can also be applied to individuals. Professionals should work to curate a personal brand for themselves, which is essential for today’s career opportunities.
So what exactly is personal branding? It is the story that you create around your own professional and personal life - and the one that you can present when making a career change or going for a new promotion within your current company. A personal brand story includes experience, education, soft skills, work ethos and personal achievements that bring your professional story to life.
To develop your personal brand, it’s a matter of sitting down to find out: who are you and what do you offer that is unique from everyone else?
For an example, look at the entrepreneur Richard Branson. When you think of the founder of Virgin Group, his story and public image come through loud and clear - and as such, is a perfect example of an effective personal brand. Richard Branson is forward thinking, entrepreneurial, a philanthropist and an innovator. He stands out from other entrepreneurs, not just for his business success, but for the personal brand that he has cultivated and presented to the public.
Granted, not everyone is a Richard Branson, but the important takeaway is that personal branding is not just for entrepreneurs, or big names in any given industry. A strong personal brand for any professional can be the key the factor makes your profile stand out in a stack of CVs - or it can put you at the front of the pack for a promotion, or to lead a larger team.
Use the following to ensure your personal brand story is consistent, strong and compelling for when you apply for the next great job vacancy.
Focus on a common thread
As an experienced professional, you should have a common thread that links all of your experiences and interests. Even if you have changed industries or made a bigger change in career direction, there is still a thread that links it all together. It’s up to you to find that thread and bring it out. Think of transferable skills, education, similar roles or similar tasks. You can choose which parts of your career and background to focus on, which to highlight and let that thread lead to your next promotion or new role.
Curate your social media presence
Use social media to establish your presence as a thought leader within your industry. LinkedIn is an excellent place to share industry insights, write thought leadership articles and join community discussions. Your activity on social media influences how people see you, and contributes to your overall brand story. Within your LinkedIn profile, arrange your experience and skills in a way that furthers the narrative you’ve chosen for your brand story.
Use networking and industry events
Look out for networking events or conferences and seek out panel speaking opportunities to help build your profile as a subject matter expert - which will in turn build your personal brand. Become a mentor for an aspiring group of people within your industry. With the spread of companies like General Assembly, which offer classes to people in subjects taught by professionals in that industry, it’s possible to build up your brand as someone who really knows what they are talking about. If you’re a product manager, teach a course to aspiring PMs, or use your years of marketing experience to secure a guest speaker spot.
Think about blogging
You don’t have to be a natural writer to build up a blog presence. Start with short thoughts, observations and insights into your industry and current events to show that you’re up on what’s going on. With an abundance of professional writing platforms from Medium to Wordpress and LinkedIn Publishing, it’s easy to create an online blog presence that reflects your career growth and business knowledge.
Let your personality show through
In today’s age of behavioural job interviews, and a tendency to favour open ended questions such as : tell me about yourself, it’s ok to let a little personality show through. Love to run? Be known as that real estate agent who also runs ultra marathons on the weekends. A personal brand is your personal image, and letting your personality shine through ensures your brand is real.
Finally, a few questions to ask
If you’re having trouble figuring out your unique personal brand story, start by asking yourself the following questions:
- What is the overall theme of my career?
- If I was writing a career story, what would it be?
- What transferable skills do I have that consistently show through in all my previous experience?
It’s all about branding
In a competitive job market, an effective personal brand will do a lot of the work for you. Finding new career opportunities is dependent on your ability to market yourself as a professional and an expert at what you do. Your personal brand story will help you stand out from the rest when applying to job vacancies.