Always be on your best behavior.
Growing up, that was a common refrain in my household. How about yours?
Whether or not we realized it at the time, our parents were the first ones to encourage us to be conscious of our personal brands. They reminded us to be cognizant of our behavior and how we presented ourselves in public because of how others might perceive us (and by extension, them.) We’ve been working on our personal brands from tender young ages and didn’t even realize it. But now, as adults, it’s more important than ever that we be intentional in our branding.
Whether you’re applying to university, looking to start a new career, seeking a change in industries, or are all about reinvention — having a well-developed personal brand gives you an advantage.
In this post, we’re examining what a personal brand is, why you should care about yours, how to cultivate your brand, and most importantly, how to leverage it.
What is a personal brand?
Personal brands are akin to business or company brands. They’re comprised of every public-facing facet of yourself, and inversely, what people think of them.
It’s that special thing that makes you, you. It helps others interpret what you do and why. But most of all, it’s authentic. Personal brands can’t succeed when they’re based on lies and make-believe.
“But why does that matter to my personal brand?” you might ask.
Because in this scenario, you are the product and the consumer is anyone who could potentially interact with you — future classmates, business partners, even life partners.
No one likes to think of themselves as a commodity, but sometimes in life, you have to help someone buy into you over the other guy (e.g. when there are limited spots in a program or just a handful of open roles in your field). A personal brand gives you that edge; without a doubt, it’s the best tool you have in your marketing arsenal.
Now, let’s not confuse personal brand with reputation: these terms are not synonymous.
Your reputation precedes you, but your personal brand is what you craft and how you present yourself to the world. It’s your website, your social media, the name you go by — it’s everything about you. Your brand is intentionally designed by you, not by the words of others as is your reputation.
Why is it important to have a personal brand?
Humans aren’t solitary creatures. No matter what, you have to work with others and live amongst them, even in this era of digital dominance where you can work and school from home.
Our communal lives may be online more than in-person nowadays, but that only makes it more important for you to cultivate your brand. If someone can’t meet you in person — what do you want them to think about you? How do you want an online interaction with you or site to leave them feeling? Excited? Intrigued to learn more about you? Or, if you have no digital presence, perhaps you’re giving them nothing to think about at all. Out of sight out of mind, as the saying goes.
Having a deliberately crafted personal brand is even more vital for those who want a life in the public eye, like influencers, politicians, or business leaders. If you need to win people over, or simply want to grow your community, it’s best to do it genuinely by showing others the best aspects of yourself. Your personal brand does just that.
Ready to start working on yours? How you build your brand depends largely upon your goal: Is it to land that gig? Enter a new field of work? Land a major investment? It’s an insightful process, and we’ll walk you through it.
As you begin, remember that you aren’t locked into a personal brand. The most authentic aspects of yourself that you’d like to share with others at 20 years old will be vastly different at 40. As you evolve and change as person, so should your brand. It will always remain a reflection of yourself — like a polished, digital reflection — but it should never be left to stagnate.
Our smart website builder gets your personal brand online quickly and easily.
Creating a personal brand
Crafting your brand is an enlightening process. You’ll learn to see yourself through different eyes, and how others perceive you, in the process. No matter what, keep authenticity at the forefront of this endeavor.
Start building your brand with the following fundamental exercises.
Discover your drive
Begin by asking yourself these questions:
- What motivates you to wake up and get out of bed each day?
- What skills and talents are you most proud of?
- What have you had to work hardest to achieve?
- What skills would you still like to develop that you don’t already have?
- What are your natural interests?
- What doesn’t appeal to you at all?
- How do you want others to remember you?
- What do you want others to say about you when you leave the room?
- Who do you admire? Why?
Understanding what drives you as a human is the first step to developing your personal brand. You can’t communicate what and who you are to others if you’re iffy on the details yourself.
Without insight into what guides you, the way you present yourself may seem erratic and unmoored. Good branding is more than just a great logo. It needs a solid foundation built with brand strategy in mind, or else you’ll fail.
Be honest with yourself when answering these questions. Once you understand where you’re coming from, where you stand, and what areas need some work, it’s time to talk about goals.
Drafting SMART goals
Not all goals are created equal. Some are large, irrelevant, and nebulous. Others are specific, achievable, and time-bound. The latter are SMART goals.
Here’s what that stands for:
- S: Specific
- This part addresses all the Ws — who, what, when, where, and why.
- M: Measurable
- How do you know when you’ve reached your goal? How is that success going to be measured?
- A: Attainable
- Example: No one can lose 50 pounds in a week. Make sure you aren’t setting yourself up for failure by setting a ridiculously unattainable goal.
- R: Relevant
- Sure, being one of the first humans on Mars would be nice. But unless you’re Elon Musk, how is this goal relevant to you?
- T: Time-bound
- You have to start somewhere and decide where the “finish line” is. This doesn’t necessarily mean you stop working on your goal when you reach that point. Instead, think of it as a pause where you stop to take stock of your performance before re-calibrating and picking up where you left off in pursuit of your goal, truly finishing only when you’ve accomplished it.
What does a SMART goal look like in practice? Let’s say that I’m working on my personal brand to become a well-recognized influencer and earn the trust of larger businesses and corporations that I’d like to partner with. Instead of creating a vague and intimidating goal of “Increase my social media followers,” I’m going to design a SMART goal. It looks something like this, “I’m going to increase my connections on LinkedIn by 25% in the next 3 months by actively engaging in conversations in groups relevant to my field of work.” All of a sudden, I know what I’m working toward and how to do it, and I can pause in 3 months’ time to evaluate my performance.
Define the tangible aspects of your brand
When you think of a quintessential American burger chain, do the golden arches come to mind? Or is it the bejeweled crown? Maybe a bright orange W with stripes behind it?
Well-known brands have recognizable aspects and features that we almost instantaneously recall when we think of them or hear their name in passing.
When someone thinks of you, what part of your brand comes to mind? Is it your winsome smile or cunning charm? Is there a visual aspect to your brand that someone can conjure up in their mind’s eye? If there isn’t, start thinking about how to change that.
We recommend coming up with your own personal brand guidelines. You can decide on an aesthetic, create cohesive social media profiles designed to support it, decide on a (domain) name, and bring it all together with a website, your digital home. You can check out our guide to branding here to learn about deciding on-brand colors, logos, typography, and more, and view this checklist to make sure you’re covering all your bases in terms of visual and website design.
Going public with your personal brand
There’s no point in working on your personal brand if you plan on being a hermit. It’s meant to be seen and shared with others.
And it isn’t just how you want the world to see you, it’s also a practical leg-up over the competition in everyday life. Why should someone trust your recommendation over another person’s? Why should you be given that spot on the team instead of someone else? How do you ensure you’ll land that job? What happens when a potential employer googles you they find nothing worthwhile?
The best way to ensure control over your brand online is by creating your own website. Decide on a domain name that’s reflective of you and build your site to own your digital space. Social media platforms can come and go (like Vine), so you want to make sure you have a solid presence elsewhere.
Personal Branding Additional Resources
Looking for more inspiration and information to build a personal brand? We’ve got you covered. Check out the following resources to craft an intentional personal brand designed to help you achieve your goals.
- Webinar: Personal Branding 101
- 10 Personal Branding Rules to Live By
- Branding Checklist: Visual and Website Design
What are you waiting for? Get started on your brand today!
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