So, You Have a Personal Brand — Now What?
Written by Mandy Shold
We all have that one friend who talks about their personal brand — while we sit there wondering, What exactly is a personal brand? (And, more importantly: How do I get one?)
What if I told you, you already have one? That you don’t have to start from scratch or attend a conference or fill out workbooks to find yourself? That you’d actually been fostering your own brand for years, all without even knowing?
A personal brand is actually quite simple: Your personal brand is simply who you are and what you stand for.
But what if not everyone likes my personal brand? Or worse yet, what if I don’t like my personal brand?
Well, as any decent ad or PR person will tell you, the goal of branding isn’t to attract everyone; it’s to attract the right people who resonate with you and your brand. There are seven billion people out there, and no one else is you —and that is your power. All that being said, it’s still important to present the best version of yourself. Let’s talk through how to perfect and harness your personal brand with three easy steps: (1) define, (2) refine and (3) activate.
I know, I know — defining your personal brand might sound like the most difficult step of this process. (Especially since three paragraphs ago, you might not have even known you had one.) But, just by being yourself, you’ve already done most of the work. Let’s take a look at what makes you, well, you.
Start with your strengths. What are you really great at? If that question feels uncomfortable to answer, don’t worry, you’re not alone. Try thinking of it another way: What do your coworkers compliment you on? What about your boss, your friends, your parents? What are those things that, at the end of the day, you feel confident about? It can be something as concrete as “I’m a strong writer,” to “I’m a really good manager,” to “I’m really great at putting myself in other people’s shoes.”
Now, let’s talk about your passions. What do you love about your work? What do you love to do in your spare time? What gets you out of bed in the morning? What could you spend an entire day working on and, instead of feeling drained, you feel re-energized?
Finally, take a look at your values; your sense of purpose. What’s your North Star? This one might seem a little strange to answer, but it’s all about what dictates your direction and your choices. This is more about how you do things--think of words like compassion, bravery and accountability.
Now, we start looking at how to refine what you just discovered about yourself. How, exactly? Start connecting the dots.
Let’s start with an example: I’m enormously passionate about the environment; it defined my whole career choice. But, the more I grow in my career, I find myself becoming increasingly excited by feminism and diversity and inclusion initiatives. So my “refine” stage has been realizing I love giving a voice to those who feel they can’t speak up.
Try it for yourself. Do you love cooking and find yourself filled with passion over modern art? Maybe creativity is more important to you than you originally thought. Are you an accomplished baker and also a boss at balancing a budget? (If so, you probably like a lot of order and precision in your life.)
This part might take some practice, but once you start noticing similarities, you’ll see patterns across all areas of your life, from how you behave at work, to large social settings, to what you do at home alone on Tuesday night.
Now that you have this newfound knowledge about your personal brand, it’s time to promote yourself. A personal brand travels with you everywhere you go, but let’s simplify it to two easy scenarios: “in the office” and “out of the office.”
In the office, start raising your hand for projects that align with your brand, even if it’s something you haven’t worked on before. Talk to your manager about your discoveries, and enquire whether he or she can find some new ways to engage you. Maybe there’s a different group in the office you can work with as a trial period, or you can lend yourself to a few brainstorms in a different part of the organization.
You might not see drastic change overnight, but over time you’ll start to notice a difference. You’ll know you’re doing it right when people start thinking of you for projects related to your strengths and passion points.
Outside of the office, it’s even easier to start activating your personal brand. (This is an area where you can really own your brand and the next steps for promoting yourself.)
Start by updating your resume and online presence to reflect this. Actually set aside a Saturday to work from your favorite seat in a local coffee shop (like I’m doing now) and get down to business. Think of how much effort you put into creating that Bumble profile or updating your Facebook profile picture. Your LinkedIn should be no different.
Then, look at ways you can continue to learn and build out your passion areas. If you’re looking to improve your cooking skills, take a class, purchase literature, be hungry for more--if it’s truly something you’re passionate about, this should be exciting, not daunting!
You have total control over your personal brand, because you have control over your life. Life isn’t happening to you; it’s responding to you. Everything you are (and say, and do) is your personal brand. Take the time to define and refine your brand, and then go forth and own it.
Mandy spends her days working in public relations, specializing in sustainability and corporate responsibility - a job which not only fuels her soul but also pays her San Francisco rent. She spends her (virtually nonexistent) free time exploring the Bay Area craft beer scene, working on her rock collection and wishing her cat would be the big spoon sometimes. For additional sass and details of her life held together by caffeine and dry shampoo, follow her on twitter at @WayToRepresent.