How to build your personal brand
Why authenticity will take your career to the next level
Aug. 5, 2020 | By: Michelle Webb
A powerful and visible personal brand gives you an advantage in almost every aspect of your professional and personal life. Your personal brand is how you market the unique value you bring to a professional situation. This is how you differentiate yourself and stand out among others. It’s how you show up in the world. But why do you need a brand?
If you don’t brand yourself, someone else will. Having a brand puts you in control of your image and your career. When your brand is clear and authentic, people can trust who you are and how you will show up. You can more easily create new opportunities and positively influence the conversation people have about you when you’re not in the room.
People thrive when operating in their strengths, which is why building a personal brand requires learning about what you’re good at and not only embracing it but allowing yourself to share it with others. Owning your strengths is the only way to remain authentic and, in turn, offer different perspectives that add value to ultimately drive significant professional and personal opportunities.
What does your brand need to be?
Being the best version of yourself is the best thing you can do for your brand. Much like a company brand, a personal brand is aspirational—the goal is to exhibit the person you are and are striving to be. We’re all a work in progress and having a clear personal brand will help keep you in alignment to be not only who you are, but who you want to be. Take caution when trying to be something you see in others but isn’t genuine to you. I was giving a speech once and said a joke that was not in line with how I typically show up. A coworker shared that it was off brand and could hurt my speech. I was trying to bring some humor and fit in with other speakers, but it wasn’t true to me and therefore affected my credibility. When people try to exhibit traits that aren’t natural to them, they’re considered inauthentic and are less liked and less believed.
When thinking about your personal brand, you need to ensure it's:
- Authentic – Based on your unique strengths and who you are
- Consistent – Reinforce what you’re known for and develop brand loyalty
- Different – The aspects of your brand that separate you from others, your unique qualities
- Clear – Easy to understand and interpret
- Relevant – In alignment with what you are trying to achieve in your life within your own goals and the organization(s) that you support.
How do I develop my personal brand?
To get started, you need to identify your strengths, meaningful core values, purpose and the expertise that you bring to the world. From there, you’ll be able to turn your ideas and insights into a North Star brand statement.
Step 1: Discover your strengths
Our strengths are our superpowers, and we all have more than one. Think about what you’re good at and write them down—they can be personally or professionally. For example, my strengths are that I’m highly empathetic, build relationships with others easily and am a constant learner. I have a strong sense of connection and connectedness and love bringing people and ideas together.
Step 2: Identify your core values
Your core values are at the base of how you define yourself. Continually assess how you live out your core values every day and how you may deny your value system. This is part of your identity—what guides you through life. Your core values impact the decisions you make every day. Take a minute to write down some of your core values. For example, my top core values are authenticity, service, compassion and growth. Here is a list of values to choose from.
Step 3: Think about your purpose
Purpose can feel overwhelming. Richard Leider, author and executive life coach on helping others find their purpose says: “Purpose is a mindset, it’s a verb, it’s who we bring to what we do.” My purpose has become connecting through compassion and applying it to all aspects of my life. I want to be a great mom, wife, daughter, friend, and I want to be great professionally at TEKsystems. This grounds me in all areas of my life.
If you’re not sure what your purpose is, start with what you’re passionate about. What do you love to do at work? What do you get lost in? My day-to-day passions are coaching people, solving problems, collaborating, and empowering people to be the best they can be. Take a minute to write down some of your passions. This video is helpful if you are still stuck—remember, there is no wrong answer!
Step 4: Choose three to five key attributes
Attributes are the way you would describe yourself at work. It’s your work style and your characteristics. These are different than your strengths—your strengths are what you’re good at; your attributes are your adjectives (e.g., analytical, good listener, organized, resourceful, patient, enthusiastic). How would you describe yourself to others?
Step 5: Share your specialty, what makes you different
This is where you get to shine and share your skill sets and experiences. Most likely, you aren’t the only person on the planet that is good at any one particular thing. For instance, if you are great at coaching others, it may not feel like it’s “special” enough because there are other great coaches in the world. But the differentiator isn’t just one skill—it’s the culmination of all your skills and talents that makes you unique and allows you to stand out in your field of expertise. Think about what roles you’ve played and what skills you have developed. It could be a specific technology that you know how to use or soft skills that you are known for leveraging. What are your gifts? What are you known for? What do others come to you for help with? What is so natural to you that you don’t remember learning how to do it?
Step 6: Create your brand statement
Now, it's time to put everything together into a brand description. Take everything you have written thus far and turn it into a few complete sentences describing yourself.
I am an empathetic, optimistic leader [strengths] that values service, relationships and growth [values]. I focus on solving problems and serving others. I am ambitious, highly resourceful and take initiative [attributes] with a good nature and positive energy. I am an expert in diversity, inclusive cultures, recruitment, change management and leadership development. [specialty]
Live your brand authentically every day
You have your powerful, visible personal brand in hand; now what? Creating and understanding your personal brand is only the beginning—you should feel accomplished, inspired and empowered to live your brand authentically every day. Having clarity about showing up in the world the way you want to will only help align you to more opportunities in your life and career. Use your authentic self and capabilities as an advantage in taking your career to the next level and developing quality relationships.
Michelle Webb serves as the executive director of TEKsystems’ Employee Experience Team. She is responsible with designing, implementing and supporting programs that positively impact every employee’s journey in order to create an exceptional employee experience. She manages TEKsystems’ inclusion and diversity efforts, along with other initiatives that support improving work culture.
In 2017, she received the Executive Impact Award from Linkage for her commitment to the advancement of women in the workplace.
She has delivered personal brand workshops more than 50 times to upwards of 400 audience members.