Personal branding has become a topic that many individuals in business have come to dread. It’s one additional topic to put someone on the spot and require them to have a flawless answer. It’s the 21stCentury’s “elevator pitch”. But personal branding is nothing to be feared, and spending some time developing and finessing your personal brand can pay dividends in the long run.
For those new to the concept of personal branding, it can be helpful to begin by thinking about corporate brands. What do you think of when you hear Starbucks? What about Nationwide? Target? You might think of colors, of jingles, or of experiences you have had there. Maybe you have an emotional reaction. Whatever it is that comes to mind – your view of the company – is the brand of the company. It’s what you think and feel when that company comes to mind. Company’s work hard to build their brands and to maintain their brand – they want you to feel a certain way and think certain things when their name comes to mind.
Personal branding is no different. Jeff Bezos gave a great definition of personal branding that really put it into perspective. He said, “Your brand is what people say about you when you are not in the room.” The reality is that we all have a brand. Everyone that you interact with has an opinion about you. You may as well take the opportunity to control that brand so that it works for (rather than against) you.
There are many misconceptions about controlling your brand. It’s not about being narcissistic. It is not all about being on social media. And it’s not something that’s just for millennials or Gen Z. Personal branding can be the key to your career success.
Take a moment to think about your coworkers or a boss you’ve had in your career. What adjectives you would use to describe them? Smart? Lazy? Ambitious? Competent? Imagine you were in the position of selecting a new boss for your office out of your co-workers. Who would you pick and why? Typically, we select people because of their brand (how we feel about them) rather than their paper credentials. When you identified the co-worker that you would select as the new boss, you likely weren’t thinking, “Well, Bill has the highest education level among us, so he’s the perfect fit.” You likely thought something more along the lines of, “Ruby is really fair. She’s a hard worker and gets along with everyone here in the office. We can count on her to be reliable and not play favorites. She’s the best option.” And this is why your personal brand is so important. These are the views that shape your promotions, your opportunities, and your experience in your career. How you are viewed matters.
Now that you’ve agreed that personal branding is important, let’s talk about how to develop your own personal brand. Our five-step process to creating your personal brand will set you on the path to the career that you want.
Define:The first step to crafting your personal brand is to define what it is you want your brand to be. What do you want others to say about you when you are not in the room? Be specific. Start with a list. You likely have manythings that you would like people to say, but it’s unlikely that all of that will come to mind. Narrow the list down to the key items. What are the 4-5 things you’d like to be the priorities? I.0f you are struggling to meet your core list, you can always try assessment tools like the MBTI or the EQ-i 2 to get the ball rolling on seeing what traits you possess.
Gap Analysis:You know what you’d like people to say, but are you really demonstrating these traits? You’d like to be viewed as hard working, but are you really a hard worker all the time? Maybe you’d like to be seen as a great public speaker, but how often do you actually find yourself engaging in public speaking opportunities? Evaluate the key items you’ve listed and determine how you currently measure up. Then think about whether or not people would actually say these items about you. You may find it helpful to ask a friend or trusted colleague to list five things they think of when they think of you. See how closely their list matches with yours.
Vision:Now you have a good sense of where you currently are and where you’d like your brand to go in the future. It’s time to craft a vision. How will you create this personal brand? If you want to be seen as outgoing, what opportunities do you have to demonstrate that to others? You’d like to be seen as an expert, how do you put yourself in that position? People will only describe you in ways that they see you acting. So if you want to be viewed as hard working, people need to seeyou working hard! If you’d like to be viewed as a leader, you’d better be leading where people can see it! This isn’t about being a bragger or boasting about yourself. It’s about ensuring that the traits you want identified can actually be seen. If you are only funny when relaxing with your close friends, no one else but your close friends will know that you are funny! If you don’t speak up in meetings, no one but you knows that you have great ideas! Develop your plan so that you know how you will show others the great traits you have to demonstrate.
Create:It is time to put your plan in action. View your work and personal life through the lens of your brand. Is your plan making a difference? Are people beginning to describe you in the ways that you could like them to? Maybe you need to adjust your plan. Or maybe the plan you created is working perfectly. The key is to make sure you are monitoring the results and adjusting as needed. This is where you may find that your social media presence, your daily work tasks, and your interactions with others begin to pay dividends. Figure out what works in your situation, and go with it!
Evolve:Our brands change over time. This depends on the stage of life that you are in as well as the stage of career you are in. The brand you needed to develop as a 22-year old trying to get your first job out of college is different from the brand you need as a 55-year old hoping to become the boss of the company. You need to be seen in different lights for different jobs, different roles, and at different stages in your career. Trying to define yourself as an expert when you are a rookie in the field is not likely to work well for you. But that may be more attainable for you after you’ve worked in the field for a decade or two. You’ll want to check in with your brand every 3-5 years and decide if it’s time for your brand to evolve to a new stage or if you’re still on track with your current brand. Don’t be afraid to take the next step. That’s how you move up!
A career coach often helps clients to figure out what they’d like their brand to be to best serve their career goals. Together a coach can work with you to formulate a plan to put that brand in place, and ensure that the strategies you develop work for you. Partner with a career coach at Bauman Consulting Group and begin your personal branding journey today!
Ashley Bauman, M.S., M.B.A., B.C.C. is the president of Bauman Consulting Group in Loveland, Ohio. She provides training, consulting, and coaching to criminal justice and social service professionals.