Personal Branding, or the practice of people marketing themselves and their careers as
brands, is quite the buzz phrase these days. Take a moment to Google the phrase. When I tried it, I found nearly 60 million hits, many of which are books and blogs devoted to helping an individual stand-out as a star. A quick review of some of the top resources suggests that in order to differentiate oneself as a powerful influencer they first need to contemplate their values and aspirations then they can define a brand and start moving mountains.
This is a valuable starting point – especially for anyone who is just starting out, either in their first career or on a new career path – but it leaves you wondering about personal branding for someone who may already have an established career. Indeed, I found that these resources inspired more questions than they answered. Does a personal brand mean the same thing at the manager level as it does at the director level? What about in the C-Suite? Should the branding process change?
I reached out to a handful of colleagues with established careers in a variety of fields (consulting, education, business operations, communications, etc.) to get their perspective on this topic. The most powerful take-away from their responses was the call to BE AUTHENTIC. The general consensus appears to be that being true to yourself is the best way to define your brand and make a resounding impact on others. Responses highlighted that a person should reflect on “who I am” in their daily work. Start by identifying a few adjectives that resonate with you. At your best, what few words describe how you “show up?” This, I would argue, remains true at all stages of your career. Build your brand around who you are and who you aspire to be. Then you can adjust the details to match your current career stage and environment.
I also asked my colleagues to provide recommendations for individuals who are young in their careers and looking to build a personal brand. Then I requested recommendations for folks who are established in their careers but still looking to build/enhance their brand. Interestingly, the responses tended to be very similar. Themes that arose included the following:
- Recognize your personal strengths and weaknesses
- Know your value and share it with others
- Build your brand around your passion
Ultimately, these responses suggest that whatever your career stage, self-awareness and being true to yourself are the cornerstones of building a strong personal brand. Once you have this framework, you can augment your brand by customizing your style of dress, touch points (e.g., social media, personal interaction, conference presentations, speaking style, etc.) to fit your goals and interests at any given career stage. Look for incongruence in your delivery across mediums. Behaviors, voice and packaging should all align.
This leads to shifting away from simply submitting a resume, to providing access to a number of personal brand assets, thus giving job seekers better odds of standing out to potential employers.