We live in the age of the brand. From clothing to computers, we make choices determined not only by cost, style and quality, but also the ‘brand values’ with which they are associated. The concept of brand values can also extend to people. Business owners have long recognized the power of the personal brand when it comes to selling product.
The brand in the workplace
The principles of branding apply both in the job market and in the workplace. At its simplest, your personal brand is how you are perceived by others. In a professional context, this perception can affect your chances of promotion, the type of work you are given or the likelihood of your CV standing out from those of your competitors.
Your personal brand is the sum total of various professional and personal factors. It’s not only what you are in terms of qualifications, experience and skill sets, but also who you are: a team player or a loner; leader or deputy; traditionalist or blue sky thinker.
The key to personal branding is to ensure the face you present to friends and colleagues is the image you would wish to present. If your goal is to become a project manager dealing with the senior management of blue chip companies on a day-to-day basis then it’s vital your brand be aligned with the values of that ambition.
Developing your personal brand
The first step in personal branding is to assess what you can offer a current or prospective employer. Think about what you do well, the skills you bring to bear and the personal qualities that enable you to get things done. You should also think about the requirements of the employer. As you review your skills and attributes, focus on those that are most appropriate in terms of your chosen career.
Above all, be realistic. If you are chasing a job that requires strong leadership and team-building skills and these aren’t your forte, it would be unwise to pretend they were. Your brand should represent your strengths rather than show up your weaknesses.
A public face
The second stage is marketing yourself, that is, communicating your brand, either to those around you, or to potential employers.
In the workplace, much of this communication will be on a face-to-face basis. However, while promoting yourself at every opportunity is unlikely to win you many admirers, there will be occasions when it will be appropriate to talk about who you are and what you want. Better still, you can demonstrate your skills and abilities through the way you handle projects, deal with clients or manage people in your team.
Online and off
You can also promote your brand through industry networking, profiles on online professional networks, articles in internal or external newsletters or a personal website. Blogs are particularly useful tools as they provide a platform from which you can establish yourself as an industry expert. The same is true of forums on professional and/or social networks. When applying for a job, your personal brand should also be reflected in your CV.
While the internet provides unprecedented opportunities for personal branding, it must be handled with care. What you say about yourself on a business-oriented or social network such as LinkedIn could be fatally undermined by ill-advised content on Facebook or Twitter. Indeed, these days some employers routinely Google applicants’ names before drawing up a shortlist. Remember: a few loose comments on Facebook could cost you an interview.
A strong brand will certainly help you stand out from the crowd, but only if you present an honest and carefully maintained picture of yourself can it really help you develop your career.
The key to developing your personal brand
- Play to your strengths. Review your skills and accomplishments. Focus on what’s appropriate to the requirements of your employer or industry.
- Make yourself visible. Communicate your strengths across as many channels as possible: newsletters, blogs, online forums, website, etc.
- Ensure your message is consistent.
- Be honest about your own strengths and weaknesses, and play to your strengths.