All of us need to understand the importance of branding. We are CEOs of our own companies: Me, Inc. To be in business today, our most important job is to be head marketer for the brand called You.
—Thomas J. Peters, coauthor of In Search of Excellence: Lessons from America’s Best-Run Companies
During the next several years, over 77 million baby boomers will leave the workforce—an exodus that will open up numerous key leadership positions for both Generation Xers and Millenials. How will these future leaders stand out from their peers? For most organizations, finding staff with functional expertise often poses less of a challenge than identifying savvy individuals who possess business acumen.
To take advantage of this approaching gap in the workforce, developing your personal brand should be at the forefront of your mind. You must figure out how to set yourself apart from the crowd. But what is personal branding, and what steps should you be taking to develop your own personal brand?
In short, personal branding is anything you do to promote yourself. When well executed, it showcases your expertise and positions you to thrive in a competitive environment. Effective personal branding identifies you as a top-notch professional any organization would want to have. Furthermore, it enables you to project credibility and develop loyalty.
So how do you develop and manage the brand of YOU?
The first step in building your brand is to decide how you want others to perceive you. Create a list that encompasses all of your strengths and skills. (Note that your strengths do not have to relate to your career history but can manifest in your personal life.) Think about what you value most and try to incorporate those things into your list as well.
Don’t limit yourself to your current circumstances, but instead think about who you would like to be in the future. Brand yourself for the career you want—not for the job you have. Your list should present a well-defined understanding of who you are and what you want to be known for. Once you’ve generated your list, you can then begin to develop the brand of YOU!
It’s important to build a personal brand because it’s the only thing you’re going to have. Your reputation online and in the new business world is pretty much the game, so you’ve got to be a good person. You can’t hide anything and, more importantly, you’ve got to be out there at some level.
—Gary Vaynerchuk, author of Crush It! Why NOW Is the Time to Cash in on Your Passion
Use social media to create a voice for yourself. The big three sites are LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook, but no matter what platforms you decide to participate in, be sure to provide value by sharing interesting and valuable information with your network. You can also increase your online presence (thereby adding more value to your brand) by actively participating in forums, blogs, and online communities.
In our technology-driven society, it is imperative to make it easy for people to find and connect with you online. When an individual chooses a screen name that has nothing to do with her real name, people who interact with her don’t know what to call her or how to identify her. Instead of choosing a screen name such as “pacersfan,” use something based on your real name, such as “johnpsmith.” (If you’re not particularly fond of your name, however, or want to keep some anonymity, use a realistic-sounding pseudonym.) Use the same name for your screen names, e-mail addresses, social media accounts, and website.
Promote your strengths. Remind the world why you are special and why it is special to do business with you!
—Mary Schnack, communications specialist and entrepreneur
Having a good “elevator speech” at the ready is a great way to build your brand. Be prepared to highlight your strengths, talents, and skills when meeting employees, senior management—or, for that matter, anyone who may not already know you. Be sure your speech includes information not only on who you are but also on what you do and what you’re currently working on. And don’t forget to keep it brief.
Other potential audiences for your elevator speech include attendees at networking events and fellow members of professional associations. Always attend events with a stack of well-designed business cards. And if you want to promote yourself as a professional, be sure to look the part: maintaining professional dress and grooming, too, is an integral part of building your brand.
Your premium brand had better be delivering something special, or it’s not going to get the business.
—Warren Buffett, investor and philanthropist
Keep in mind that building your brand is a journey, not a destination. To stay relevant, you must continue to build new skills—and hone the ones that you already have. The only way to be the best and set yourself apart from the masses is to determine your points of difference and leverage those abilities. Over time, others will recognize your efforts, and you will be well on your way to building the brand of YOU!