You may have heard the term “personal brand” and wondered what this really entails, or how to develop your own. While the basis is to showcase your personality within the work you do, you can also set yourself up to break into a new industry or work towards a promotion by elevating what you’re known for. This is different from a company’s brand voice, which encompasses how an organization as a whole presents itself.
In this article, we’ll walk you through how to develop your personal brand so you can be known for your greatest strengths. Your personal brand can open up a lot of opportunities, so use these tips to start making your mark!
Decide on your direction
The first step to develop your brand is deciding what you want to be known for. Are you starting a new business and want to impress potential clients? Are you hoping for a promotion at work? Are you wanting to change industries, but don’t know where to start? Once you determine your direction, you can better define how to improve your personal brand.
While personal branding often starts with your appearance, it’s backed up by your skills, network, and online presence. With a specific direction in mind, you can begin tailoring your personal brand to the goals you want to achieve.
For example, if you’re starting a new business, you want your personal brand to help you stand out from your competitors. When you meet potential clients, you want to be remembered so when they need your services, they call you first. Dressing like a CEO, having polished business cards, and an updated LinkedIn profile all support your personal brand so you’re taken seriously in your new business. But it’s not just about work. Your hobbies, family, and things you love also fit within the realm of personal branding because people buy from people. Being yourself will bring you customers that align with your values, so don’t be afraid to put yourself out there.
Dress the Part
This is what most people think of when it comes to personal branding, but it’s only just a piece, albeit a powerful one. When it comes to dressing the part, you want to get inside the mind of those you’re trying to connect with.
Let’s say you’re hoping for a promotion and decide to up your personal branding game. Your work dress code is business casual, but the executive team wears more professional attire, especially for client meetings. You might decide to do the same to show your boss you’re serious about taking on more client-facing work. But this doesn’t mean just wearing what everyone else wears. Part of personal branding is putting your personality into your style, so if that means wearing a blazer in your favorite color instead of black or navy, you’re doing it right.
Document your work and speak to your experience
Documenting your work can also support your personal brand, especially if you’re breaking into a new industry. With examples of your work, success, and knowledge base, you build professionalism, expertise, and reliability into your personal brand. When you show a relevant track record, it’s a lot easier to get a job that you’ve never done before, or carve a new path with your own business.
For some, this might mean developing a portfolio from scratch so you can show potential employers you’re able to complete the work required. For others, it might be documenting situations where you demonstrated creative problem solving, strategic thinking, or conflict resolution. Again, this will all go back to your goals for establishing your personal brand. You can also invest in online classes and learn new skills in your free time. Make sure to keep your work and projects to add to your portfolio as well.
So how do you “show” your work within your personal brand? If you’ve developed a portfolio, you can show your work on a personal website. Even though your resume might not reflect any experience in photography, your portfolio will show what you can do. Or if you’ve been documenting how you’ve influenced recent projects, you can speak to your accomplishments with your boss or other coworkers. Sometimes you have to tell people what you want to be known for, so when asked what you do or what you’re working on, be sure to share your strengths or show off your recent projects. Taking advantage of even the smallest opportunities to promote your achievements (without bragging) will begin to cement your expertise within your personal brand.
Network, network, and network
Networking is not only a way to get to know potential clients or industry peers, it also establishes the company you keep. While we often think of networking “events” where people share sales pitches, networking can reach much farther than just swapping business cards. Networking as an activity can introduce you to great connections, and your network itself can be a source of opportunities.
Let’s start with networking as an activity. If your personal brand goal is to break into a new industry, network with people in roles that you want to have. Ask them strategic questions like what experience they had before getting that job, what does their day-to-day consist of, and where do they recommend you learn more about breaking into the industry. This provides a learning opportunity so you can determine how to move forward in establishing your new direction, but it also connects you with people who will cheer you on along the way. Of course, be respectful of their time, and thank them for their help.
If you’re networking to meet potential clients, scope out where they spend their time outside of networking events. Join the groups they belong to, ask for introductions from mutual acquaintances, or play at the same golf tournaments. You can also look to network with potential collaborators that serve the same clientele.
Over time your network will grow and you’ll be known within specific circles. Remember to return the favor when you’re introduced to new people or referred for work, and build strong professional relationships along the way.
Take advantage of your online presence
Your online presence is one of the best places to exhibit your personal brand, and connect with even more people you want in your network that you might not meet in person. One of the first ways to showcase your personal brand online is by updating your LinkedIn profile with a headshot that shows your personality and writing a bio that tells the story of your career, and where you’re headed.
Connect with potential clients, employers, and other peers in your industry, and start engaging with what they post. You can also join groups related to your industry and participate in discussions and events.
But it’s not all about just building a network online. A powerful way to exhibit your personal brand is to begin posting and starting discussions around topics you’re an expert in, or are relevant to your industry. This is known as thought leadership. By regularly sharing insights or advice about what you do, you establish credibility as an expert, which in turn becomes part of your personal brand.
As you grow your personal brand, people will remember you for what you know, who you know, and how you express yourself. When it’s time for a promotion, new job, or growing your own business, your established personal brand will help you be remembered, referred, and recognized for the work you do.
What have you done to promote yourself and solidify your own personal brand? What has worked for you and what hasn’t? Leave your advice, questions, and thoughts in the comment section below to get the conversation started!
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