A strong personal brand can help you land a new job, earn a promotion, make a sale, or influence others.
Nike, PlayStation, Starbucks. Even if you’ve never had the opportunity to try their shoes, play the game console, or drink their coffee, you can probably recognize their logos, repeat their taglines, or name someone who endorses them. Though they serve different audiences, these companies are known for their powerful brands.
Your personal brand—which includes your identity, actions, relationships, and reputation—can be just as powerful as consumer-focused brands. It’s what makes you different from everyone else, and it includes your image, your mission, your values, and your vision as you focus your brand with employers in mind.
- Image: How you present yourself verbally and nonverbally to different groups of people, for example, how you consistently behave and promote yourself, creates your image. The way you communicate creates an impression of who you are and what you value.
- Mission: Your mission is a concise statement of your purpose and goals. If you’re looking for inspiration, see how Oprah Winfrey (and others!) defines her mission: “To be a teacher. And to be known for inspiring my students to be more than they thought they could be.” This approach has proven to be a good tool for high-achievers; it’s a critical piece of your brand because it helps you stay focused.
- Values: Values are a set of standards that determine your attitudes, choices, and actions, giving meaning to your life. They help you establish your sense of purpose and direction for your personal brand. Some examples of values include abundance, accomplishment, achievement, adaptability, adventure, agility, altruism, ambition, boldness, charity, commitment, determination, energy, humility, leadership, learning, faith, intuition, honesty, perseverance, resourcefulness, simplicity, timeliness, trustworthiness, and uniqueness.
- Vision: Your vision, or your long-term aspirations for meaningful and valuable experiences, helps guide your growth as you work to achieve your goals. Here’s an example from a public relations professional: “To be the best in public relations while having fun, kicking @#s, and always pushing the envelope for employees, clients and myself. To use communication to make the world a better place.”
And today, it’s no longer a choice of whether you have a personal brand, but how well you cultivate it. Are you aware of what others say about you when you’re not around? Do you have a clear, concise elevator pitch about who you are and what your aspirations may be? Do your actions support your mission and values?
Developing a strong personal brand is a process, but you can reap immense value from it. Building a brand around your insights, experience, and expertise can help you land a new job, earn a promotion, make a sale, or influence others.
When it comes to your job search, developing your personal brand will help you answer many questions, like:
- What kind of job would be fulfilling, based on your strengths and passions?
- What type of company culture would you enjoy?
- What steps should you take to develop skills and areas of expertise?
Steps to Developing Your Personal Brand
In today’s innovative and modern world, you must develop an effective strategy to truly stand out and make yourself known in the industry by doing the following:
- Choose your path: Start by understanding what makes you unique. Your individuality is based on your particular skills, passions, and personality. Consider making a list of all your interests and areas of expertise. Think about what environments make you happy. Then explore career paths that play to these strengths and that also offer opportunities to develop other areas.
- Research the market: Once you know the path you’d like to take, research different organizations and understand the problems they’re trying to solve. Use resources like Glassdoor, company websites, news sites, and employee testimonials to determine whether the organization would be a good fit for your skillset and culture preferences.
- Create your value proposition: Through your research, you should have a solid idea of the problems each organization is facing. Your value proposition is where your personal brand should really shine! Think about how you can present your skills and personality to answer employers’ questions:
- What problems can you solve?
- What value can you add to the organization?
- What is the benefit of your solution to problems?
- Communicate your value proposition: Once you create your brand and develop your value proposition, you’ll need to market it. Tailor your résumé and cover letter to the job description and organization. Look for connections you may have within the organization. Have you met at a job fair? Did you see one of their employees deliver a presentation at a conference? Is the hiring manager part of your university alumni network? Find ways to make your network work for you, and get in touch with a recruiter or hiring manager to start building a relationship.
Evolving Your Personal Brand Over Time
You can expect your personal brand to change over time. With ever-changing technology, work environments, communication channels, and new ways of doing business, it’s imperative to develop new skills and master new subjects. And it’s also possible that your priorities will change at different stages of your life.
Journaling is a great way to document these changes. Think about updating a career journal each year to better explore where you are and where you want to be in the next year, and in the next five years. Include your image, mission, values, and vision. This exercise will help you to maintain an authentic personal brand that adapts and evolves just as you do.
What actions do you take to develop and maintain your personal brand? Are there specific exercises or questions that you’ve found most useful? We’d love to hear from you on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. Just tag @ICF!
Questions or thoughts? Contact the author, Jena Vargas, or visit the ICF Careers site.
Sources: Solomon, Michael, Marshall, Greg, and Stuart, Elnora. Marketing: Real People, Real Choices. 6th ed. Harlow, UK: Pearson Education, Inc., publishing as Prentice Hall, 2012.