Updated: Apr 7, 2021
Branding is a key component to success for businesses, nonprofits and professionals alike in every industry.
McDonald's has "Just lovin' it," Nike uses "Just do it," and Verizon touts "Can you hear me now?" Yes, all of these are slogans, but they also capture the essence of each company's brand identity. McDonald's makes unhealthy yet satisfying food you just love. Nike gets professional athletes and weekend warriors out and about exercising in style, comfort and with support. Verizon guarantees dependable mobile coverage.
Brand identity, an organization's or individual's overall narrative and character, is perhaps the crux of everything. It informs how an organization acts, serves people and reflects company values. In short, it helps a company stand out in their own way.
Branding isn't just for companies though. This same time of strategic positioning can be very helpful to individual professionals looking to boost their career to the next level. In fact, a personal brand is no longer optional in today's dominantly digital world; it's a must-have to be a real contender.
What is a personal brand?
A personal brand is very similar to a company's brand. It explains who you are, what you stand for, the values that are important to you and the ways in which those values are reflected in your life and work. Essentially, a personal brand is your story.
This is the story that will help establish, and eventually, boost your career. It should build trust, establish your reputation and spotlight your unique combination of skills and interests. If formulated and communicated well, your personal brand identity will let employers easily decide whether you're a fit for the position.
Developing a personal brand may seem challenging, but it doesn't require expert-level skills to accomplish your goal. There are simple and attainable ways to increase your credibility in your field. Here's how. (However, having expert help never hurts and this one would love to work with you! Send me an email!)
1. Determine what you want to be known for.
Ask yourself what you'd like to be known for before you even start conceptualizing your overall brand identity. Think a little more broadly than just your occupation though. Yes you have a job title, but what are your biggest strengths? What character traits most define you? What passions drive you?
For example, if you want to be a personal fitness coach, think about what kind of trainer you want to be. Maybe it's someone with a knack for motivating people or who invests time and thoughtfulness into fitness plans. Those seem like small things, but they're actually very important and will help shape your narrative that you weave throughout all branded initiatives.
2. Highlight your skill set.
Skills are the foundation of your career. They allow you to do the work that you do, whatever your industry. This is why determining what you're best at and more importantly, how that applies to your career goals, is so important.
Don't get bogged down with 'traditional' skills you've seen listed on resume templates or examples. Don't feel compelled to include something wonky like Microsoft Office suite proficiency if that's not something that ties into your brand or helps make the case for your qualification as a candidate for a job.
Instead, think about what you want to do and what higher level and relevant skills you need to do it. Then, decide which of those skills you have and highlight them: prominently. For example, if you're in public relations and you're a great strategist and writer, those are two very essential skills for any PR practitioner. Proficiency in PowerPoint isn't what's going to get you the job in this case.
3. Define your audience.
Knowing your target audience is a key component to developing an appropriate and effective personal brand. If you're applying for a job, this will be HR recruiters looking at your resume and cover letter. If you're a professional offering products or services, this will be your clients.
When picturing your target audience, some of the identifiers you should keep in mind are age, gender, location and industry. These demographics are slightly less important if you're applying for jobs because the age of the recruiter shouldn't matter. However, it's still helpful to remember what industry the job you're applying for is in. Then, tailor your content and brand to align with the needs and expectations of that industry.
4. Grow your online presence.
Let's start with the most important online presence: LinkedIn. Nowadays, a quick Google search of a job candidate's name is standard procedure and chances are your LinkedIn profile will pop up first. This isn't a bad thing though. In fact, it's a beautiful opportunity to check another box on HR recruiters' checklist and, if done right, to catch their eye with something particularly impressive.
LinkedIn is a valuable (and free!!!) resource at your disposal, so use it. If you're unsure about how to optimize your profile, read my beginner's guide to get you started. Here are the basics:
Complete your whole profile
Get a good headshot
Write a compelling headline
Elevate your summary
Add your work experience
Remember that there are other ways to build an online presence too. If you have a great body of work to showcase, consider creating a website to house your online portfolio. I personally love Wix, but Weebly and WordPress are also free and easy website builders.
Social media platforms are also branding opportunities, but truthfully, that's an entirely separate can of worms to unpack. What I will say, is the same messaging you develop for your resume, LinkedIn, cover letter and everything else should also bleed into your social media presence. Consistency is key, especially when you're building out an online presence across multiple channels.
5. Get a good headshot
This step plays into your online presence, once your profile(s) is established. Nothing screams ill prepared, and spam-like in all truthfulness, like a missing profile picture. Contrary to this subhead however, you do not need a photographer to take professional headshots to have a photo that gets the job done.
Actually, you can use an iPhone – or other smartphone model – photo you already have if:
Your face is prominent and you're looking at the camera
The background isn't crazy or distracting
There's good lighting
It's not blurry or pixelated
If you feel like you need a different photo than what you already have in your phone, you can easily take another one with a little effort and some help. Find a solid wall in your house, or prop up a sheet and ask a friend, or set up a tripod, to snap a few shots following the guidelines above.
6. Do your research.
I don't want you to compare yourself to other people. That defeats the purpose of developing your personal brand. However, it's always good to know what's out there. What are other candidates in your industry, and at your level, doing? What are more senior people with careers you're working toward doing? What are companies you'd like to work for looking for?
All of this information should help guide and influence the way you craft your narrative and develop your final, tailored personal brand.
If you found this blog helpful but feel like you could use additional help, reach out! I'd love to help you craft a message that elevates your brand and helps you reach your career goals.