Many of us can easily identify the corporate brands of companies we’re familiar with even if we aren’t loyal consumers of their products. The fruit-shaped Apple and swoosh Nike logos are so well-recognized they’ve become iconic. Businesses know the importance of establishing a clear brand identity to set themselves apart in the marketplace.
But can people have a brand? Yes, you are a walking and talking brand, whether you realize it or not. Your personal brand should be intentional and match who you are and the image and reputation you want to convey.
Your personal brand communicates what is inherently you, and it is mobile — you take it with you no matter where your career leads. Your earning power, position in the workplace and ability to find the next great project may hinge on how you package and promote your personal brand. In Management Recruiters International Network’s 2018 Reputation Management Study, 18 percent of employers admitted to formally evaluating candidates’ personal brand through online social media profiles, and another 17 percent of hiring managers consider it. Personal brands have become an important part of the hiring process.
So, how do you determine your brand? I suggest you conduct what I call a personal brand audit, using these two steps.
1. Determine Your Unique Brilliance Proposition
In sales, there’s a concept called the unique selling proposition, which comprises the characteristics that make one company or product stand out from competitors. Likewise, we have qualities that set us apart — these make up our UBP, which makes up our brand. To unearth your UBP, take an inventory of the following:
- Employment experience
- Level of expertise, mastery or certification
- Language proficiency
- Hobbies and interests
- Volunteer activities
Once you list out your answers to all of the above prompts, you will see a personal thumbprint and a UBP belonging solely to you. The UBP is a handy way to collect and curate the best version of yourself in one place so that you can draw from it in your career. Keep it in a document, a note on your smartphone or any other place where you can consistently update it as your UBP changes.
2. Craft Your Internal Definition of Success
Your personal brand reflects what you stand for. How do you define success? What are your passions? What are your core values? Think about these questions and how they affect your brand. For example, if your definition of success includes service to others, then your personal brand should include empathy and compassion to describe yourself. If one of your values is connecting with others, then highlight that through your actions, such as networking activities or serving on a board.
Now that you’ve completed the personal brand audit, it’s time to incorporate your brand into your life and work — and showcase it. Here are tips for showcasing your brand.
Examine your resume, bio and LinkedIn profile. Are the characteristics that make up your personal brand highlighted? If not, weave them in. For example, include volunteer activities, personal and professional associations and memberships, languages you can speak, special skills, and descriptive words in your career summary and job descriptions that showcase your brand.
Practice incorporating aspects of your personal brand into your elevator pitch. Instead of the same humdrum pitch that merely states your job title, be creative. For example, think of a clever mash-up of two types of famous people to get across your personal brand. I like to say I am a cross between Rachael Ray and Ruth Bader Ginsburg to show that I am warm, sassy, strong and smart.
Search for yourself online. What comes up? If the search results don’t give some insight into your personal brand, work on bringing the results more into alignment with how you want to be perceived. Change out the wording of your social media profiles, online bio for your current position, and any other sites that you appear in, such as professional associations, volunteer organizations and boards that you serve on to bring them more in line with your UBP and personal brand.
Stay true to your brand. Resist the temptation to be a copycat; the power of a personal brand is that it showcases you and your unique brilliance proposition.
Be consistent. If folks see something out of alignment with your brand, they may feel you’re disingenuous and inauthentic.
Change your brand as necessary. As you evolve personally and professionally, your brand needs to too. Conduct a personal brand audit annually if possible to make sure you don’t need to catch up to the new version of yourself. If you do, then incorporate the new version of the brand into your online and offline presence.
Remember, it’s up to you to create, mold, protect and guard your brand, as you work to stand out from the crowd.