Everybody has a unique identity, and few would argue that there’s anything wrong with that. But there’s just something cheesy about the word ‘brand’ – and for good reason. Brands are for things that you sell, and no one wants to feel like they’re selling themselves. The closer a brand gets to your identity, the weirder it seems. You don’t want to make selling all you’re about.
But that’s not the idea of a personal brand. What you’re really doing is shaping the part of yourself that you want to market to the professional world – your job-related skillset, talents, character, and background – all in a single package. It’s like a résumé in 3-D.
And just like a résumé, it doesn’t fully represent you, but rather it just presents the best possible image of how you can fit into the business you’ve chosen (almost like you are a business proposal). You know you can do the job; you just need to convince them that you’re perfect for it. That’s where a polished and effective brand comes into play.
How to Brand Yourself without It Hurting Too Much
Getting started with a personal brand is about confidence, so try not to second-guess yourself throughout the process. Take a deep breath, know your strengths and weaknesses, and dive into the deep end. Chances are you’ll come up swimming.
Step 1 – Become Master of Social Networking
- Update your accounts as often as you can manage, and make it relevant to your expertise – it’s always a good idea to keep your personal account separate. In other words, try to have one account (Twitter, Facebook, Google+, etc.) strictly for business purposes, and another to stay connected with your friends.
- Refer those you come into contact with in the business world to your social accounts. People will generally take the time to cruise through them because you’ll be giving them a good excuse to kill some time at work while half-convincing themselves that they’re ‘networking.’ The best part: You’ll be promoting your personal brand.
Step 2 – Guest Post Articles Anywhere They’ll Let You
- Getting an author byline out there lets employers know that you actually exist and aren’t simply a figment of their smart database tool’s fertile imagination. Find somewhere that will let you guest post an article for a website, and go for it.
- Don’t be shy about writing in a variety of styles or on a variety of subjects that a site might require. At best it shows your adaptability, and at worst you don’t have to show it to anyone.
Step 3 – Show Up Places
- Someone once said that 80% of success is showing up, and the other 20% is showing up at the right place. Find events – seminars, career fairs, information sessions, etc. – and make an impression by looking as clean-cut and professional as possible.
- Once you’re somewhere, don’t be a wallflower. Introduce yourself, shake hands, and smile – a friendly and open personal demeanor goes a long way because people hire people they want to work with.
Step 4 – Don’t Let Them Forget You
- Keep in contact with the people you meet. If you get an email address, send a short, polite, carefully un-stalker-like note saying you enjoyed talking with them.
- When an opportunity arises, refer them to some of your work online, or to the Twitter account over which you reign like a king.
Once you’re on board with a company, it will behoove you to remember that your brand now speaks in part for the business at large – and that can be a bit of a tightrope walk. You don’t want anything you’ve been putting out there to reflect poorly on your team, but you don’t want to dilute your brand too much either.
Use your best judgment to determine what works and what doesn’t, and stay informed on how your co-workers and managers feel about your image. Remember: That professional side of yourself you’ve chosen to put on display now overlaps with the professional side of many others, so you need to be sensitive to this fact. And don’t take it too personally – no one is saying you’re a bad lover or a bad driver; it’s just that they don’t want to get sued.
Be Fruitful, Brand Multiply
As your career evolves, you’ll want to diversify your personal brand’s resources to cover the new things you’ve accomplished and the new choices you’ve made. Professionally, it should be like the clothes you wear: changing with the fashions, projecting your ambitions, and retaining your personal style. And also like your clothes, your tastes should change over time and settings. So keep on top of it, and make sure you’re not wearing the tube-top to the christening.
Photo Credit: massmailsoftware.com