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Five ways to build your personal brand
If you’re a modern professional, you need to make sure that your professional skills are presented in a way that is consistent with your professional goals. In the world of business, you are what you do, and how you present what you do. That becomes your personal brand. So develop a brand that highlights your talents, connects you to a target audience, and distinguishes you from the crowd. Here are five ways you can do exactly that:
1. Think of yourself as a brand
We don’t mean permanently! That would be pathological. But, for the purposes of defining your brand, spend a little time thinking about the same questions you’d ask if you were, say, launching your name as a business.
What do you want people to associate with your name? If you could choose to be the best at doing one thing related to your career, what would it be? Your brand could be a goal, a skillset, a feeling (luxury, quality, reliability), a desirable trait (speed, consistency, and so on), or it could even be something you’ve done. For example, J.K. Rowling will probably forever be ‘branded’ as “the author of Harry Potter”.
Once you’ve settled on a brand identity, it’s much easier to make all sorts of other professional decisions. Which skills would augment your brand? Which projects should you pursue? Who is most likely to find your brand appealing? Does your current job match your brand?
In considering these questions, it’s imperative that you aim for authenticity. It’s not just that employers and collaborators might be repulsed by any trace of phoniness; this is your career, and it’s going to take up a lot of your time.
So build a brand that means something to you, even if it does feel a little bit phony at first. It could pay off. If, when thinking about you, people think about the things you’re passionate about or skilled at, then you’ve got a brand. And if, when thinking about the things you’re passionate about, unknown people think about you, then you might just have a break.
2. Develop a professional website
The benefits of developing a professional website are numerous: it makes you accessible, providing a point of contact for clients and employers, and inexpensively gives your brand a public presence. It also increases the chances that employers and collaborators get a positive first impression when they inevitably type your name into Google.
A professional website should, of course, embody your personal brand. Or, rather, your personal brand should guide any design decisions you make when developing the website. If you’re not confident developing a website on your own, you can enlist the help of a website developer or use an online tool. Popular options include Squarespace, Weebly, Wix, and Jimdo.
3. Build and audit your online presence
In addition to maintaining a professional website, it’s increasingly important for modern workers to be visible on social media websites and other professional networks. The big four are Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, and Twitter.
Depending on your skillset, you might only find it useful to be present on one of these sites. Alternatively, you might decide that your audience is more likely to be found on a website like eBay, Etsy, or Amazon. Wherever you expand your online presence, it’s important that you do so in a way that’s consistent with your personal brand.
You should also bear in mind that it can be very difficult to maintain a distance between your personal and professional personas online. Be aware of what people can see if they search your name on Facebook or Google and, where possible, consider reviewing your privacy settings.
4. Do things that are consistent with your brand
‘Brand’ is a doing word. In other words, nothing is more expressive of your personal brand than the decisions you make as a professional. Your personal brand should guide you towards projects that are consistent with your personal brand or promise to develop it in desirable ways.
This is important because, to have an effective personal brand, you must first commit to the continued effort that maintaining that brand requires. The most rewarding way to do this is to become a student of your industry: learn new skills, develop expertise, share ideas, publish articles, meet influential people, or attend industry events.
5. Do some personal PR by pursuing industry recognition
Whether you’re an advertiser or an engineer, you can aim to build your personal brand by pursuing opportunities for professional recognition. This might mean entering competitions, collaborating on articles, contributing to industry bodies, seeking mentors, or doing pro bono work. It’s a great way to build your personal brand while learning new skills, making valuable connections, and doing meaningful work.