The Beginner's Guide to Personal Branding

How Others Think of You Can Open Doors Later On

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If you've never heard of , or thought about, personal branding before, you're not alone. It's something that 's been thrown around a lot in the last few years, and it's something that I've continually heard more about since I began my career. Whether or not you're familiar with the idea, it's definitely something you should be thinking of right now as you begin your career. Personal branding is YOU. It's who you are to the outside world. It's how others perceive you, and how your unique skill set is understood within your organization. Your personal brand can be one of the most important factors in the success of your career.

The idea of a personal brand is nothing new. Celebrities have long capitalized on this idea to drive their success. Look at people like Snooki from Jersey Shore. Everyone knows what her brand is , and she's built that brand to bring her huge amounts of success, land book deals and charge a premium for appearance fees. Lady Gaga is all about daring fashion and advocacy -- both of which come through in everything she does. She won't even leave the house without 6-inch heels on, and never disappoints with her choice of clothing. Her advocacy comes to life in her music, in speeches she makes, at industry appearances, and in her conversations through social media.

Barack Obama, too, is all about brand. His presidential campaign was about unity and change, and it came through in his speeches, his website, his merchandise, and as President he's continued to focus on pushing for bipartisanship and change. All of these people found success in their personal brands.

There are many advantages to developing your brand:

  • Creates a unique and favorable reputation among your colleagues
  • Establishes your unique value within your team and organization
  • Differentiates you from your peers
  • Positions your focused message in the hearts and minds of your target audience
  • Influences the way you're talked about when you're not in the room
  • Creates advocates within the organization who will champion your work
  • Keeps you top-of -mind for new opportunities
  • Gives you more leverage to get the things you want
  • Increases earning potential

The idea of personal branding is pretty clear, but knowing where to apply it can be confusing, because the expression of your personal brand is interwoven in everything you do. It comes through in communications like emails, phone calls, written work, and presentations. What type of language do you use? What is your speaking style? What is your unique way of presenting information? Your brand is shaped by what you wear to work, how you style your hair, and what you put out on your desk. You can leverage those things to bring your brand to life and help to shape perceptions of you. Your personal brand can also be expressed by what initiatives you get yourself involved in at work. Involving yourself in things like special projects and volunteer committees can complement your day-to-day work to help you shape your personal brand and build more advocates within the organization that you might not have interacted with.

It takes hard work to define who you are and find ways to bring that to life in your career. The first thing you need to do is determine who you are. What do you do that makes you different? What are your strengths and weaknesses? What are your most noteworthy personal traits? Then you need to think about your goals. What are your passions? Where do you want to go in your career in the short and long term? This also means thinking about what you're currently doing with remarkable, measurable, distinguished, and distinctive value. Don't pull things out of thin air, but find a way to bring those things to the forefront in your interactions with people who can offer you opportunities. Once you've figured this all out, create a plan that outlines how you're going to start living and breathing your brand. What can you do first that requires the least amount of effort and maximum amount of impact? What are some things you need to work on over time? Once you have that in place, get started!

First, be authentic. If you were to tell someone else what your personal brand was all about, it should be something that they see as being true. You should be ambitious with what you want to become, but it has to be believable and ownable by you. Don't be afraid to talk about your brand with others -- you can go back to them later to get feedback on your brand performance. And as I mentioned before, put thought into it. Literally put your pen to paper and write it down. If you had a tagline, what would it be and why?

Doing this type of exercise, and continually evolving your brand over time, is the key to truly unlocking the value of a personal brand to help you achieve your goals.

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