I was talking with a friend and former co-worker of mine today. He was getting ready to embark on a new adventure in his career after having been downsized by his company and wanted to know more about building his personal brand.
Branding is a concept that’s no longer relegated to just companies. Whether you know it or not, you have your own brand. It includes things like how people perceive you, what qualities set you apart, and why people connect with you.
Building your own personal brand takes some thought and some discipline in order to communicate it well. The first step is understanding how you want your personal brand to be perceived so you can get strategic about getting it out there.
Here are a few steps I talked to my friend about taking when understanding and further developing and communicating his personal brand:
1. What’s Your Vision? Sometimes, we can get caught up in the day-to-day minutiae of life and we forget to think about the big picture. Great companies begin with a great vision statement, so it only makes sense that your personal brand should have one, too. Your vision statement should be inspirational and motivational. Some of the questions you might ask yourself when creating your vision include:
What is important to you?
Who in your life is important?
How would you like to be perceived in your family, your neighborhood, your office, the world?
What sort of impact would you like to make?
How would you like to live your life every day?
These are just some of the questions that can get you to a good vision statement. Your vision statement can be for your eyes only or part of your public persona. Here’s one that I’m working on for myself:
I’m living the dream by working with amazing people and companies every day! As a strategic and futuristic thinker, I guide others on their journey to greatness by being a trusted resource, an empathetic listener, and someone they can rely on along their unique path.
2. Know Your Strengths. When my friend and I worked together, I helped lead a StrengthsFinder program for the executive staff of which he and I were a part. We each took the StrengthsFinder test and came out on the other end with our top 5 strengths. His included: Restorative, Learner, Command, Harmony, and Positivity. Even though you don’t know anything about my friend (and you may not know much about StrengthsFinder), you immediately get a sense of the kind of person he is. Building the framework of his personal brand can start with using his core strengths as his “keywords”. As you may have noticed, two of my strengths are “strategic” and “futuristic” – both of which appear in my vision statement.
3. Make Every Impression a First Impression. When we first meet someone, it takes only seven seconds to make a judgement about them, right, wrong, or indifferent. You know how your mother always said, “You only get one chance to make a good first impression”? Well, impressions matter, and they matter every time you put yourself out there – whether it be in a social setting, at an interview, via your Facebook posts, or even when you are on the phone with your mother-in-law and no one else is around. Everything we do says something about our values and character, and it is up to us to mold that in each interaction.
4. Know Your Story. What’s your story? Please don’t tell me everything that has happened in your life since you were two years old – tell me what makes you uniquely you. A successful business associate of mine always introduces himself as a father and husband first, and then goes on to talk about his work. That sticks, and it’s what makes him stand out. To do this for yourself, take some time to write down some things that differentiate you from the pack, for instance:
What are you passionate about?
Who is important in your life?
What makes you unique?
What’s that one thing people say you’re good at?
Why do people like to work with you?
What would you love to do if you didn’t have to work?
Name one of your strengths – how do you use it every day?
How has your career path led you to where you are today?
What is one, really cool thing you’ve done in your life?
What significant events in your life led you to your current career or passion?
What can you do for three hours straight without a break – and when those hours are up, you wonder where the time went?
If you could describe yourself in three words, what would they be?
How do you want to make a difference?
From the answers to these and other questions, you can begin to write a short story about yourself that builds your brand. You can also pare your story down to a 2-or 3-sentence elevator pitch to use in networking situations or on your LinkedIn summary.
5. Communicate It Well. Opportunities to express your brand in this digital age are endless. Everywhere you are, and everything you do, is an opportunity to put your brand out there. Here are some ways you can do it well:
Learn everything there is to know about your space and become the expert in that area. Read, absorb, teach others. This will make you the go-to person in your area of expertise.
Share your knowledge through videos, social media, writing, speaking engagements, and networking. This is how you gain exposure for what you do.
Be visible and accessible. While social media can help build your brand, you’ve got to be out there too, in the flesh. Join networking groups or attend conferences.
Be authentic and find your own style. You are your own unique person. Don’t be afraid to put your own unique touch on your communications to others.
Whether you’re a business owner or are working your way up the corporate ladder, use these tips to help develop your unique personal brand and set yourself apart from the crowd.