Personal branding has been a buzzword in the workforce for well beyond a decade or so. However, many people still find it hard to grasp its meaning entirely, and those who do understand it, find it a daunting task to put into action. So let's take a look at what it is.
Simply put, it’s what you are known for in any given context. Think of a popular business brand. Now, describe that brand in one or two words. Here are two universal brands with clear and immediate word association: Disney is magical. Apple is innovative.
For personal branding, you want your coworkers and people you meet within your industry to have that immediate word association when they think of you. For example, “Aanya is a creative problem-solver” or “Max is an excellent trainer.” essentially, personal branding is about discovering, honing and self-advocating your zone of genius. Below are 4 easy steps to developing a strong personal brand that allows people to recognize your strengths, and is a brilliant strategy for authentically and effectively advancing your career.
1. Understand How You Are Uniquely Qualified
In other words, what is your value proposition? Start with what you do really well or what you’re passionate about doing. A few questions to ask yourself: What do people come to you for help with? What’s something you enjoy doing that’s both incredibly easy for you and huge help to others? What gets you excited and keeps you curious?
2. Perfect Your Elevator Pitch/Brand Statement
Drafting a succinct “sales pitch” of who you are and what you do comes in handy in a number of ways: in an interview, at networking events, when explaining to coworkers outside of your team what you do and as a reminder to yourself of how you add value. It’s your own personal mission statement.
Here are a couple templates of how to craft your elevator pitch/brand statement in one or two sentences:
> I help [someone] to get [what they want] through [your unique skill set, education, background, etc.].
> I am a [adjective] [your profession] with [your unique skill set, education, background, etc.] who helps [someone] to get [what they want].
3. Update Your Online Presence
Wherever you are online that represents your professional brand, make sure it is sending a clear and consistent message. It’s quite alright to have your brand statement on all of your platforms. LinkedIn, Twitter or a personal/career website are great examples of having a polished online brand that clearly communicates your objectives and value proposition.
4. Don’t Be Shy – Network!
Millennials and Generation Z tend to shy away from the traditional concept of “social networking,” but don’t! The old saying, “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know,” is an extension of knowing how to brand yourself while exercising strong networking skills.
Start locally. Get to know company members outside of your immediate team. You can treat them to (a virtual) coffee or request an information interview to learn more about what they do while sharing your work and aspirations. Also, join professional groups on social networking platforms. Show your participation by asking questions and display your expertise by answering a few too.
Think of networking as product placement – the more people who "see" or know you, the more “brand awareness” they have of you, so when an opportunity arises, you can be sought after instead of seeking.
Choose at least one of these steps to get started. Track your progress over time as you commit to working the steps, and see how your network begins to expand and your confidence grows.