The rise of social media and its ever-increasing role in recruiting and job search puts personal brands in the spotlight like never before. Whether or not you think you have a brand, you have one – even the absence of a brand is a brand. What does your online presence (or lack thereof) say about you? Whether you are looking for a new job, a new employee, a promotion, to build your business or find new customers – your personal brand sets the stage for it all. Knowing how to effectively create and tell your story can help you stand above your competition.
So, what is it? According to Forbes, “Your personal brand is how others perceive you. As entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk notes in a 2019 article about personal branding, ”Your personal brand is your reputation. And your reputation in perpetuity is the foundation of your career.” Your personal brand is built by what people know and hear of you, as well as what they can find online that represents you:
- How many connections do you have? / How big is your network?
- How much content have you authored and what is it?
- What are your reactions to other’s content?
- How much do you engage online?
- Do others engage with your content?
- Do you have your own website?
- Are you a thought-leader?
- How do you compare to your competition?
In addition, it includes everything from the clothes you wear to your job performance. And with the evolution of work, these days it also includes your Zoom background and even if you have a child or a pet.
Here at the LAK Group, we often see people come through our Outplacement program who have never thought about their “personal brand,” and frankly, didn’t know they should care. They had a great job – often for 10 years or more – why would they need to develop one? But with the changes brought on by the pandemic, it is wise for everybody to start thinking more about it.
Now that it has become a thing, understanding your personal brand can seem overwhelming, much less figuring out how to craft your brand so you can clearly tell your story in a way that positions your knowledge, skills and experience the way you want to. Where do you start?
An easy place to begin is to look back at your career:
- What have your coworkers told you about what it’s like to work with you?
- Look at your old reviews if you have copies or reach out to past employer’s HR departments to see if they have your past documents on file that they’ll give you access to.
- Ask your friends and co-workers to write you a paragraph that describes you.
- Take a free online assessment – this is one of the easiest ways to get some quick feedback on your strengths, weaknesses, and how you approach work. You can find a shortlist of free assessments here. Take notes on the results of the assessments to understand how to talk about and position yourself.
Once you have a good understanding of what makes you uniquely you, it’s time to craft your story. In the marketing and advertising world there has been a lot of conversation around storytelling. This trend is now making its way to a personal level. Understanding what drives you as a person is surprisingly difficult. Why did you choose the line of work you chose? What has shaped you over the years? Where do you want to go next? This takes a lot more focus on ourselves than we are used to, and it can sometimes be uncomfortable, but it is extremely important. It will serve you well as you network, job search, or prospect for business.
Then it’s time to decide how you want to activate your brand. At the very least, it is important to bring your brand through in your LinkedIn profile, as that is where it will be seen the most. In addition, consider developing a content strategy for LinkedIn posts and articles. And, consider developing a personal website. There are a number of different companies that have existing solutions to help you put your site together.
Now that you have developed your story and decided how to share it online, remember that your brand is confirmed and perpetuated when you walk into any room. Make sure you go in with a clear career “story” that aligns with your personal brand and helps people really understand you and picture themselves working with you. While it is important to always be authentic (remember, you want to find the best fit for your true self as well as the company finding a good fit in you), make sure you always present yourself in a professional manner.