The words ‘personal brand’ are still somewhat controversial, and carry an unfortunate cast of self-promotion and vanity. The truth is that personal branding is more important than ever in the job market, and those without a clear personal brand or mission to create one are lagging behind the competition.
What is a personal brand?
How you present yourself has always been important in the workplace. In the corporate heyday, it was established that to get a good job and be considered for promotion, you had to dress, speak and act appropriately for the company with which you were employed. Consider this the forerunner of the personal brand; now you simply are creating an impression of yourself that companies want to hire.
Though companies are growing ever larger, there is more competition for fewer jobs; yet rarely does someone stay in a job for more than a few years. This makes it vital to ensure you always look employable to other companies and remain visible within your own organization. You must update your personal brand and create an image of yourself which showcases not only your proficiency in your current job, but your transferable skills and achievements.
Personality versus personal brand
Do not mistake your personality for what constitutes an attractive personal brand. In the age of social media, everyone is Googling prospective employees and personal information is available at their fingertips. If there are unattractive photographs of you on Facebook, personal details about your family, or complaints about your work, delete them or make them private. Now would be a good time to set up work-only accounts and separate your social and corporate friends lists.
Promote yourself professionally on the Internet. When creating a profile or website, what photographs are you using? What typefaces and colors do you use? What are you saying? The handwriting font may appeal to you, your favorite color may be baby pink or that picture of you wearing a Halloween costume may show your best side, but ask yourself: would you hire you based on your personal tastes?
Remember, this is not about changing who you are, but highlighting your best assets.
Present yourself in your best light
First, determine what brand you wish to project. Are you an excellent communicator, or highly organized? Highlight successes in these areas and build your reputation by constantly seeking tasks in your workplace that allow you to demonstrate these skills. If you’re not so good at time management, or do not work in a team well, work on these valuable skills or convert them to assets by saying you “use a spontaneous approach to problem solving” or “are independently motivated.”
Curate a professional image
Now that you have decided how you will present yourself, translate that into the nuts and bolts of branding. Give your website a makeover, overhaul your social media accounts and even change the way you dress in the workplace. Even small changes like using a different font for emails can present a radically different version of you. Refresh your CV, and focus on the skills you want to use to advance your career.
Remember that branding is just another word for marketing. You are selling yourself in the workplace every day by making yourself available and preferable for different responsibilities. Do not be afraid to ask for others’ input. Ask managers why they chose you for certain tasks, or ask your co-workers what word jumps into their minds when they hear your name. Reliability? Professionalism? Authority? Or is it something negative? Ask for honesty, and receive criticism with grace.
You can use personal branding to advance in your current workplace, look for a similar job elsewhere or instigate a complete career change. If you have been working as an office temp and would rather work for a start-up selling ethical cosmetics or alternative clothing, consider your personal brand.
Communicate the hard skills you learned in your office and do not be afraid to incorporate your hobbies and volunteering experience; if it is relevant to the job you wish to acquire, your personal brand should reflect it. Bold, illustrated CVs and outspoken opinions on social media have their place if they align with the company’s image and goals.
Personal branding is a powerful tool – you can use it to your advantage or to your detriment. Use it wisely, and it might be the most important thing you ever did for your career.