Growing Your Personal Brand

Growing your personal brand… some of the most trendy words on the internet today… but they’re trendy for a reason. We live in a world where you are now your own network, you are your own media source.

You have to start treating yourself in the same manner that companies treat their brand image. You have to start understanding that the world we live in is propelled by information.

If your reputation is what people say about you, (especially behind your back) your resume is what you say about yourself, (especially on linked in and on paper) and your brand is the professional identity that is seen by others… as a whole. The big packaged deal.

Thinking of yourself as a brand, or actually aspiring to become one reflects our deep cultural dedication to consumerism. But it also facilitates personal marketability, an advantage in rapidly shifting business environments.

At its heart, branding addresses a hard professional reality: For a successful long-term career CANNOT look to your company or industry to take care of you. This is all you. We’re in the world of the job jumper and the freelancer. A well-built brand will be your life raft.

What does it mean to brand yourself? As our untouched selves we are, alas, merely one of the worker hordes. As a brand we become distinctive and desirable—whether in-house to managers, outside to clients, or across town to potential employers. A resume may summarize what we’ve accomplished, but a brand shouts louder: “Pick me off the shelf. Pick me. I’m special, reliable, trustworthy, high quality, excellent, expert. Pick me.”

Some should emphasize the importance of establishing niche expertise. Others view branding as sending clear signals regarding key attributes. “Consistency, reliability, brings it in under budget, delivers on time, creative thinker, problem solver; these are the kinds of labels you want people to use when they say your name.

“An employee who brands himself does not let his job title subsume him,” says one CEO. “He might be in accounting now, but I’ve stopped thinking of him as an accountant. I’ve come to think of him as a problem solver or a strategist. These people are identified more with the company’s goals than with any current slot in the organization.”

How exactly could YOU manage to send the CEO that kind of message? There is no magic formula, but there are some tried and true tactics.

Try to participate in visible events. Speaking engagements at professional conferences or in-house presentations can establish your expertise; working with groups other than your own to help solve problems in your expert area helps to spread the word about you.

All of those sound great, but the baseline is GET OUT THERE AND BE SEEN. You have to been seen to impact someone’s view of you. If you’re not actively giving yourselves opportunities to be seen (in a presentation or literally just attending events that make it possible to network) you’re never going to have complete control over your image.

IF YOU DO NOT DECIDE WHO YOU ARE AND WHAT YOU WANT, SOMEONE WILL TELL YOU WHO YOU ARE AND WHAT YOU WANT.

You make your presence known. Don’t just show up. You have to attend these events and you have to show what you know. It goes almost without saying that you will have to do your homework. You work with smart people; you can’t fake being the expert. You’ll actually have to do the extra work to make it happen.

Be consistent: At heart, branding means “I know I can rely on you for certain things, whether great graphics or ingenious spin.” Understand what you deliver and make sure you deliver again and again.

You have to do this. No one else can brand YOU. This is a dedication to self-promotion and there is NOTHING wrong with it. If you find yourself in a position where you are directly competing with someone who is on the same skill level as you are, but they have branded themselves and they actively promote themselves… you will lose that battle. You HAVE to be proactive.

  • Stand up for yourself. Don’t allow others to make your niche too narrow. Feel free to resist when that doesn’t suit you.
  • Speak up and show what you know—but have the grace to admit what you don’t. There’s a fine line between demonstrating your expertise and being egotistical.
  • Network. Always. Everything is a network and you have the opportunity to treat it as such… this class is a network, your church is a network, Metal Gear Solid is a network. Get to know people.
  • Be Consistent. Make sure that you’re not only specifying your area of expertise, but also make sure that you have a consistent image across all your network. Inconsistency is confusing.
  • Stick close to your strengths. Branding is a simple and clear expression of who you really are. If you push yourself toward a brand, make sure the shoe fits.
I’ll leave you with the greatest example of personal branding that I’ve ever seen. Watch this. Yes it’s long, but it’s one of the most inspiring things I’ve ever seen.
It’s acting a little wonky, so if it stops on you, make sure you click on WATCH FULL PROGRAM and, well, watch the full program.

CRUSH IT!: Gary Vaynerchuk from Booksmith on FORA.tv

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