Your Personal Brand: Distinguish Yourself in Your Career Transitions
What Is Your Personal Brand?
Your personal brand is what others think of when they see or hear you or your name.
Your personal brand uniquely combines your skills, experience, and personality for the world to see.
Having a strong personal brand means you can clearly articulate who you are as a professional in just one sentence.
For anyone seeking a successful career, whether you are a job seeker, employee, consultant, or entrepreneur, your personal brand is everything. It’s about your reputation, the size and strength of your network, and what unique value you can contribute to a company or your clients.
What Is Personal Branding?
When we talk about “personal branding,” we are referring to establishing and promoting what you stand for. Effective personal branding sets you apart from other professionals in your field.
It’s essential to understand how to develop a compelling personal brand so people know what makes you stand out.
The process starts by asking yourself, What do I stand for? This question can help identify where your identity lies and what sets your professional self apart from others.
Personal branding is a professional strategy for creating a unified brand for yourself, much like companies develop brands for their products.
Your personal branding tells your story and how it is reflected in your behavior, demeanor, spoken and unspoken words, and attitudes.
The critical components to building an effective personal brand are storytelling ability, consistency of messaging across all platforms, authenticity, networking effectiveness, and strategic partnerships with influencers in your circle.
Why is Personal Branding Important?
Personal branding is essential because it helps you gain credibility.
Getting a new job or establishing yourself as an entrepreneur has never been more competitive.
Personal branding can help recruiters find you. Personal branding can let more people know who you are and your value.
How to Build Your Personal Brand
Identify What Your Brand Is Now
Whether you consciously develop it, you have a personal brand. A personal brand includes the qualities and characteristics the outside world knows about you.
Is your personal brand like Apple, Samsung, or Microsoft? Each company has a set of values, traits, and characteristics known to the world. They spend hundreds of millions of dollars on advertising and promotions to communicating those values, features, and attributes to the public. Sometimes that sticks, sometimes the actions of the companies and the word of mouth of the users of their products are even more influential in defining their brand.
Remember that your brand already exists. You need to discover and define it. Ideally, you can sum it up with a handful of descriptive words. But to get to that point, you must do some creative introspection.
To build a strong brand foundation, start by taking inventory of the brand values you already possess.
- Skills and Qualifications: What skills have you acquired throughout your life? What education, credentials, certifications, or awards have you received?
- Passions and Interests: What industries and topics are you most interested in? What are you passionate about?
- Core values and beliefs: What are some of your most important core values? What do you believe in? What do you stand for? What do you stand against?
The easiest way to check yourself out is to do an online search for your name. Clear your browser’s cache, open an incognito window, or search in a private browser window. This way, you can make sure you get the same results that anyone else would get if they searched for your name.
Clean up any content that doesn’t match your desired image.
It’s a good idea to regularly review what you post on social media, websites, and blogs.
Define Your Audience and Peers
If you create a personal branding statement that is too broad and doesn’t target a specific group, you will most likely alienate many of your potential employers.
Since the purpose of a personal branding statement is to list your primary skills, it is necessary to identify the industry in which those skills are most useful.
Your competitors. Since personal branding is all about standing out, you need to be clear about who you measure up against.
The first step to understanding your brand differentiation is to be clear about your peers. Who are they, and what do you have in common with them? Once you are clear about this community and what you share with them, ask yourself, “What sets me apart?” What unique value do I bring my peers do not offer?
If what you offer is the same as everyone who shares your goals, you will have difficulty getting noticed and recognized. Effective personal branding requires you to work on your unique qualities.
Build Your Personal Brand
Four components go into developing an effective personal branding strategy: first, identify what you want your professional brand to be; second, build your professional brand story and image; third, make sure others know about it; and fourth, maintain the integrity of this new identity through hard work at every stage.
Define Your Desired Personal Brand
What do you want to be known for? Preferably skills, passions, and interests you have developed. Continue to work on building your strengths.
Reshaping, revising, and refining your personal brand is an ongoing process that will continue throughout your career. Be intentional and focused on what you want to accomplish with your personal brand. Your brand should reflect your strengths, passions, interests, and vision of your perfect job and ideal career.
You don’t want your personal brand to be a hardworking and introverted academic if your ideal career path is to become a take-no-prisoners marketing whiz. This extreme juxtaposition is unlikely. But the more you develop and spread a personal brand that aligns with the person you want to be, the better chance you have of landing your perfect job.
Unique Value Proposition
The term “unique value proposition” is a fancy way of saying you need to figure out (i) what value you offer people, (ii) who those people are, (iii) how you solve their problems, and (iv) what sets you apart from others like you.
You should be very clear on what your unique value proposition is.
People remember stories. Think of someone you admire – a CEO, a public figure, a family member – and ask yourself why you admire them.
J.K. Rowling’s story is a great example. Rowling grew up in poor circumstances and remained so as a single mother struggling to make ends meet for her daughter. The idea for Harry Potter came to her when she was stuck on a train and hastily wrote the thesis down on the back of a napkin. Publishers rejected her manuscript for the first book 12 times, but she persisted anyway until a small publisher gave her a chance, and the rest is history. Rowling went from being unemployed and living on government benefits to becoming a billionaire in less than a decade.
Determining your own story arc is critical to crafting a brand narrative that your target audience will identify with and remember. Your brand narrative will take care of itself if you ask yourself the right questions: What obstacles have I overcome? What desirable goals have I achieved or am in the process of achieving? How have I changed for the better?
As with all marketing strategies, there is no hard and fast rule regarding what “works” when building your personal brand and creating your story.
Personal Brand Statement
Personal brand statements are short statements that summarize what you do, why you do it, and what sets you apart from others in your field. It is your unique selling point. These statements are usually one to two sentences and should grab attention, be compelling, and memorable.
A personal brand statement can resemble a tagline.
Regardless of your position, profession, or industry, a personal brand statement can help you communicate your value and expertise, so it makes people want to learn more. Because they can help you connect with others, these statements are an especially valuable tool when networking with potential employers or clients.
This may seem a little too simple, but if you are trying to find a trait or skill that only you and a few other people have, this helps a lot. The goal here is to find one or two things that set you apart from your competition and make you unique. If you look at an example of a strong personal branding statement, you will find this focus.
First, find your unique superpowers.
These can also be called your passions, your purpose, or your “elevator pitch.” Can you say what you’re all about in 20 words or less?
If you can’t, you need to define what you are passionate about and what unique skills you want to share with the world.
Find examples of a personal brand statement that explains in 1-2 sentences your value, who you serve, and what your unique value proposition is. When planning your personal brand statement, make it memorable, somewhat short, focused on your audience, and in your authentic voice.
Develop Your Personal Brand Story
Your Personal Brand Story
The second component is developing your personal brand story and image.
What will people see when they think of you? A savvy, confident person with the skills and experience to meet their needs? A bold risk-taker with a robust entrepreneurial spirit willing to take on new challenges to bring innovation to an industry or company? Or perhaps someone who can provide insight from unconventional perspectives and deep analytical thinking about trends affecting today’s society.
Whatever it is, work hard to figure out what role you want your profession to play in the big picture, and then use those pillars to guide everything else in shaping your personal brand.
Your personal brand should be how you want the world to see you.
If your personal brand is not what you want to be, you will be miscategorized, and it will be hard to change the perception of others. Many careers have washed up on the rocks because a lawyer’s personal brand did not match their perfect job and ideal career. These lawyers never did what they wanted to do in their careers. Instead, they stuck to doing the work that the world believed was their brand. This can lead to a miserable existence.
When thinking about your own personality traits, remember that people usually describe themselves a little differently than others would describe them. And since “others” will be the ones engaging with your personal brand online, their perception is the more important one. Your audience is never wrong.
Your brand’s message should be something that others can easily remember because you need to use it whenever a networking opportunity arises (baseball game, elevator pitch, social function, etc.). Try saying it once to a friend or significant other and see if they can easily remember the whole sentence. If so, you’re off to a good start.
Study Others Who Have A Similar Brand
An excellent way to develop your personal brand is to study other people who already have a similar brand at a higher level.
Research your desired industry and follow the experts. What are some of your favorite people in the world? What do they stand for? What has been their career path? What skills are most important to their brand? What character traits are they known for? What organizations do they belong to? What ideas or causes do they support? How do they dress? Where do they live?
Discover as much as you can about these people with a similar personal brand to the one you would like. This research will tell you two things. First, what actions you can take to build a similar personal brand. Second, confirm your choice of brands or send it back to the drawing board before you’ve developed a brand you don’t want to be known for in your career.
Repositioning and Defining Yourself With a Story
The skills you learn in law school and in your legal career can seem impossibly specific to a legal role, but by repositioning your strengths, you can meet the requirements for so many other options.
How do you get started promoting yourself? Talk about skills and value instead of experience and knowledge. Describe yourself in terms of how you (a) made people money, (b) saved people money, (c) prevented problems, and/or (d) solved problems.
This is how you add value. Think in these terms, not knowledge and experience.
It’s important to demonstrate your expertise with stories, not words. Saying “I’m great at prevailing at trial” sounds pretty egotistical. But sharing a compelling tale of how you won a hard case allows others to deduce your skill without having to make it explicit.
Also, research has shown that when listeners are exposed to stories, many more sections of their brains light up; they’re literally immersed in the moment with you, making a far deeper impression. They may hear your words if you say you’re awesome but telling them a story allows them to feel it for themselves.
You’ll also want to ensure that those stories are relevant.
Communicate Your Personal Brand to the World
The third component is to communicate your brand to the world. This is where personal marketing comes into play. It is critical to promote your brand, so others know, like, and trust you. This is just as important as having the brand.
Your personal brand needs to have substance, but that’s not enough. Unless others know about your brand, your efforts will be of little use. Build an online presence that reflects your brand and expertise.
Recruiters and HR use social media to find talent. If you haven’t already, time to create a profile on LinkedIn! Once it’s created, make sure your professional branding statement is in your headline or first in your “About” section. Your personal brand must be consistent across all your platforms. Otherwise, it can confuse others when they search for you online.
The Society for Human Resource Management found that 84% of hiring managers use social media to hire. According to entrepreneur.com, 96% use LinkedIn, and 53% use Twitter in their hiring decisions.
Why is it essential to have a consciously developed brand and communicate it consistently to the outside world? Because it’s much easier to land your perfect job when those in a position to help you already know who you are and like and trust you. Not only will it be easier to make career changes, but you’ll be the one who hears about opportunities first. You may even be approached with opportunities before they become public knowledge. Wouldn’t it be nice if your career transitions appeared in front of you without you having to search for them?
Develop a strategy. Be authentic. Be consistent. Have a long-term focus.
Evaluate and Maintain Your Personal Brand
The fourth component is to evaluate and maintain your personal brand continually. This involves an ongoing process of assessing what you are doing well, where you may be slipping or not meeting expectations, and reflecting on the changing needs of society.
You must also use this assessment information to align changes in how your professional aspirations match society’s demands for those services and talents.
Try to spread the word about your personal brand through social media, networking, public relations, and speaking opportunities. Consider blogging, vlogging, podcasts, and other ways to promote your personal brand so your audience will quickly consume the content.
Your actions must match your personal branding
No matter who you are, you can benefit from putting effort into your personal branding. Don’t laugh. Whether it’s a portfolio, a blog, or a dating profile, you’re telling us who you are. Why not reinforce all that is great about you? Build your personal brand on your strengths. Sell yourself through authenticity and good intentions to show those who are interested in everything you offer.
You already have a personal brand. It is expressed in the things you do, the clothes you wear, the art you like, and how you live your life. The trick is to figure out what your brand is and how to communicate it to others. Here’s what you need to know.
I can’t stress this enough. If you’re looking for a job, you need to be your own advocate. A personal brand statement won’t do you much good if you don’t tell people what it is.
Some may think this is too pushy, but the best examples of personal brand statements do this well. Have a personal website or use social media like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc., to contact potential employers and use your professional statement.
Stay consistent across all platforms because if you use the exact phrase every time, others may remember it and associate it with you. Having a short brand statement means you can market yourself quickly whenever an opportunity to network arises (such as on the subway).
What is one thing you can do today to establish and promote your personal brand?