How to Build Your Personal Brand (And Why You Need One)
People often define themselves by what they do – a software developer, student, accountant, nurse, medical assistant, etc. – when they talk to others and assume that’s the extent of their personal brand. In reality, it’s much more than that.
Your personal brand is the value you bring to your profession as well as your community activities and personal interests. As noted in a story by The Balance, “personal branding is the means by which people remember you.”
People will interact with your brand online and offline, which is why you need to ensure your brand is reflected in your social media footprint as well as your personal interactions. When you’re looking for a job, a personal brand is important to show what you can do for that organization and what type of leader and employee you would be.
What is a first step to creating a personal brand?
To define your brand, you need to start by knowing who you are and where/what you want to be.
It’s not just that you are studying to be a nurse – you want to make sure people understand why you are passionate about the healthcare field. This will help you when you interview for a job opening at a hospital. What makes you stand out? Why are you a better choice for the position than another recent graduate?
The key to creating a personal brand is to define your story. Some questions to help you do it:
- Why do you like the career you’ve chosen?
- What are your most notable accomplishments?
- What is your work style?
- What other interests do you have (such as protecting animals or renovating homes for the less fortunate)?
- How do you approach life in general?
Future employers will care the most about your professional accomplishments and goals but also are interested in your personal interests and how you approach work. You could write your “brand story” in a paragraph or a couple sentences with bullet points that describe who you are and what you’re all about. This will be a building block for how you describe yourself in person and online.
How can you establish your in-person brand?
You can build your brand at your workplace and/or school by making sure others see you as a responsible, collaborative person who is an asset to the company or classroom. If you have a chance to take on a major project or assignment, do it – your success will show others how capable you are.
The in-person aspect of brand building also involves the company you keep. If you are looking to become an accountant, are you taking time to learn from those who are already in the business? If so, they will see your interest in expanding your career horizons.
What does it take to build your brand online?
Social media is the most common tool for online brand-building. Your first step is to figure out which platforms you want to be on and whether they’re for a personal or professional audience.
If the platform is personal, such as Facebook, you want to keep your posts appropriate because future employers often search job candidates’ social media platforms during the interview process. Decide on what persona you want to have – inspirational, funny, helpful, or all of the above – and you can help form your followers’ image of you by what you post. Even if a platform is for personal use only, it can help you in your job search because friends and acquaintances who like your online persona might be more likely to recommend you for jobs or even hire you.
If it’s a professional platform, such as LinkedIn, use this to your advantage. Future employers will look at this to make sure you’ve got your act together, so present your experience in the best way possible, with a strong description of the value you bring and the work you’ve done. And don’t forget to add a professional-looking headshot of yourself.
If you want to really stand out online, show your expertise on a particular topic or industry. If you frequently provide valuable insight on your current or future career – through blogs, sharing stories and commenting on topics – your audience will begin to see you as particularly knowledgeable and successful in your field. You can become what’s known as a “thought leader” or an “influencer.”