By DeVry University
Whether or not you have studied marketing, you're probably aware of the importance of branding. In the corporate world, a brand lets potential customers know who they are and what to expect. When you think of your favorite brand, you probably get a clear representation in your mind that encompasses the look, feel, taste or smell of the product. You likely also have strong feelings about the company and express some amount of loyalty.
Did you know that you can also establish your own personal brand? Let’s take a look at what a personal brand is, why self-branding is important in developing your career path and how to create a personal brand story that truly reflects who you are.
What Is a Personal Brand?
A personal brand works in largely the same way as a corporate brand. It’s a professional message that tells the story of who you are—and let’s potential employers know what to expect from you. Branding yourself is an excellent way to move beyond the collection of experiences on your resume and present a more complete picture of yourself.
How Your Personal Brand Can Help You
At its heart, a personal branding strategy can help create credibility. It is a reflection of your true self that never wavers, whether you are using it to build your resume or in your social media communications. Because it’s authentic and uniquely you, your personal brand can also help you become more confident and give others confidence in the fact that they know what to expect from you.
Personal branding can also benefit you as you pursue your career goals. It can make it easier for you to explain your value to a potential employer and while networking, developing stronger connections as people begin to connect your name and face with your brand messaging.
How to Establish Your Personal Brand
By now, you might be wondering how to establish your personal brand. It all begins with taking an honest look at yourself. This simple exercise can help you get started:
- Identify your strengths: What are you good at? What skills do you have? Include both hard skills, such as coding, writing or engineering, and soft skills, such as communication or time management.
- Determine what’s unique about you: Do you have a passion for volunteer work? Are you a natural born teacher? Do you have an unusual backstory?
- List your accomplishments: What are your top 5 professional or personal successes? Have you done anything unusual, such as hiking the Appalachian Trail or disconnecting from technology for a year? What have you done that was hard for you, and what lessons did you learn from it?
- Figure out your values: What’s truly important to you? Are you motivated by philanthropy, job titles or adventure? Do you strive to be truthful at all times and to operate with personal integrity?
- Talk to your network: Many times, the people around us see things that we have trouble identifying in ourselves. Ask your family, friends, coworkers and professional mentor what they think your strengths and opportunities are.
- Know your weaknesses: It’s just as important to know what you’re not good at as what you are. Strive to work on them, but don’t let them overshadow your amazing strengths.
With all of this information in hand, you are ready to start building your brand. Sift through your thoughts, accomplishments and passions to find the beats in your personal story. Then organize your story in a coherent way, whether chronologically or by focusing on a specific aspect of what makes you who you are. Write out the story beats and support them with data. You can do this as an outline, storyboard or in narrative form.
Leveraging Your Personal Brand
The next step is to figure out how to use your personal brand to your advantage. Start by creating an elevator pitch or summary statement. This should consist of just a few sentences that spell out the most important information:
- Your basic career title or the type of role you wish to have if you’re job hunting
- Your top strengths
- One piece of value you can add to a company
Then create a longer form version of your elevator pitch that goes into a bit more detail. These two documents can serve as your basic formula for selling your brand.
Consider the Audience
Though your brand should remain the same across all channels, the way you present it will vary according to your audience. Think about corporate branding. Though the message doesn’t change, its presentation is different in TV ads than it is on social media or on a store shelf. Your personal branding strategy should shift as well.
Each time you want to promote your personal brand, ask yourself what the goal is. For example:
- Are you trying to land a specific job? Tweak your resume to show off the accomplishments that promote your personal brand.
- Have you been asked to write a biography to go with one of your projects? Use a narrative format that focuses on who you are.
- Are you interested in speaking engagements? Make that elevator pitch shine and be ready to present it orally.
Also bear in mind that your personal brand is ultimately a reflection of you. When posting on social media, your brand should shine through. When you show up in person, your dress and demeanor should align with your brand. It might sound tricky, but if you’ve done a good job of building an authentic personal brand, it shouldn’t be difficult at all.