Personal branding: everything you wanted to know
Building a career? Personal branding will help speed up the process of conquering career peaks. We explain what it is, why it is needed, and why it is impossible to do without it in the modern world.
What is personal branding?
There is a saying that broadly says, “First you work for money, then money works for you”. So, a personal brand is a kind of record book of your achievements. First, you do everything to get to know yourself. At the start of your career, you can even work for free – to build skills and experience for the future. The next stage – your reputation precedes you: it is this that provides you with work and new customers.
A few decades ago, word of mouth was everything. That’s now been replaced by personal branding. In speaking about a personal brand, we do not suggest that you change your name or come up with a sonorous pseudonym. Also, personal branding is not a defiant clothing style, nor an extravagant lifestyle. Rather, it is the elusive associations that you create with a potential employer. Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon, gave an excellent definition in an interview: “A personal brand is what people say about you when you are not in the room”. The good news is that it depends on you what others will say about you.
What else is important to know about the development of a personal brand? Well, it is not enough to be a professional in your work and have an impeccable reputation. Of great importance in the modern world is popularity. If you devote even minimal time to your own positioning, it sends a sign to a potential employer that you are very much on-trend: you know what is happening in a particular area; what is relevant and what is not, and the professional community knows about you. An employer might think that if you successfully promote your own brand, you can also successfully promote a company’s brand.
Branding is an opportunity to actively demonstrate your abilities. Do you expertly teach Greek? By developing a personal brand, you are declaring your uniqueness to the public, and this allows you to stand out among other foreign language tutors.
Who needs personal branding?
Despite the fact that a personal brand is useful for anyone who has a career in the 21st century, it is an important tool for freelancers. By properly creating and developing your own brand, you can successfully find new customers and interesting projects, and be able to charge more for your services. As a rule, freelancers are likely to think least about developing their own brand: their free time is devoted to project work or looking for new customers. A better strategy is to engage in personal brand development on a daily basis. With this approach, you will no longer need to seek work – it will find you. Engaging in branding is not only for beginners, but is also for experienced freelancers; especially if you want to reach the next level.
For people who have changed their place of residence, it makes great sense to pay attention to personal positioning. When in another city or even another country, personal branding is a simple and low budget (or even completely free) way to make yourself known to interested parties.
The development of a personal brand can work effectively for those who have become entrepreneurs. Done successfully and customers will quickly become loyal and involved in your chosen niche.
Personal branding is indispensable for those who are seriously storming up the career ladder. From an ordinary employee to senior management, it’s not enough to do your job well, arrive early and leave later than everyone else. There must be something more. And if your personal branding is effective, you will be invited to conferences not as a participant, but as a speaker. You will be signalling to your leader you are worthy of greater responsibilities, pay rises, and other career bonuses. Your activities will be noticeable – to both your employer and outside observers.
If you are satisfied with your career, but you want to develop outside the company, personal branding can help. Or maybe you just want an increase in salary, in which case branding is necessary.
You doubt whether you need personal branding? Try searching for yourself on the Internet. Do you feature prominently on search engines? And use services like Google Alerts so you can track who mentions you and your brand and how often.
Personal Branding Tips
- When starting to build a personal brand, it is useful to ask yourself and honestly answer the question: “Why do I need a personal brand?” Analyse your strengths and weaknesses – think what sets you apart from your competitors. Do not try to embrace the mainstream; specialist niches can give you significant competitive advantage.
- Another important question to think about is: “Who is my target audience?” What are they like; where do they live; what is their average age; what can you offer, and how honest will you be with them?
- Speaking about personal branding, brand consultant and author of the book “Reinventing you” Dorie Clark observed that when people are looking for someone to work, your name should be remembered right away. This is the main function of a personal brand. This is exactly why you should become an expert in the industry in which you are developing. You can give lectures, hold masterclasses, initiate discussions, become a mentor, and attend reunions at school and university – anything that lets others know that you are a pro.
- Being outgoing, knowing the basics of networking and the art of small talk are important career skills. Public relations is also important. You can start by targeting small audience – write thematic posts, give comments for specialized magazines and online resources, and any other media promotions you can think of. Make sure your target audience knows about you. All feedback and comments are helpful, and your task is to encourage them.
- Of course, the role of a teacher is not suitable for everyone. Therefore, rather than teaching, it is worth sharing your experiences. There are many so-called experts out there, but those who have actually achieved something in practice are few and far between. And if you talk about your acquired practical knowledge, you will always find a grateful audience.
- Fortunately or unfortunately, you cannot do without social networks. One option for advanced – creating is to create your own website. By the way, a basic site can be made without a programmer as there are many free and paid website templates available online. For those who are still on the path to scaling up their personal brand, you can get by with a minimal time investment by simply using social networks. We’ll talk about this separately.
- Personal branding is also about how you position yourself. It is useful to be able to talk about yourself, your skills and capabilities in a couple of minutes. Career coaches attach special importance to the so-called elevator pitch, during which you can briefly and succinctly talk about yourself to a fellow traveller in an elevator.
- Study the literature on the topic. For example, the following books are essential reading: Igor Mann, “Number 1. How to become the best in your field” (with practical tasks as a bonus), and Tom Peters, “The brand you 50.”
- Personal branding is a long-distance race. You cannot take a couple of steps and give up – make a long-term plan and stick to it.
- A brand cannot be successful if it is unrecognizable.
Personal branding and social networks
Positioning yourself on social networks is as important as a competently composed resume and CV. The main question, and perhaps the most difficult, is which social network to choose. Instagram has long been a Vanity Fair. However, this is a significant platform through which to express yourself with beautiful photos (built-in filters will help) and short texts (no more than 2,000 characters). The easiest way is to attract an audience and encourage it into dialogue. Facebook is an indispensable platform for a business audience. Here everyone can be a micro-influencer or an active participant in a particular group. Telegram is a relevant place for those who want to start their own channel. In Russia, Yandex Zen is now at the peak of popularity.
Career coaches advise not to mix personal and work; be yourself and give maximum useful information to a potential social network audience. In general, all social networks allow you to quickly analyse the audience and understand what they are interested in, what posts resonate, and when it is better to post content.
When developing social networks, pretty quickly you will notice that the public is not only interested in your professional achievements, but also in your personality. Think of your chosen social media platform as a field for self-realization. Interested in meditation? Do you practice Vipassana? Haven you explored the globe? Tell your audience about these things and make them even more interested. Do not forget that people will quickly spot a fake image. Therefore, you should be sincere and do not declare opinions or values that are alien to you, even if they are popular.
It’s no secret that HR specialists check potential candidates on social networks (for example, according to a recent study, more than 50% of American employers have stated that they do not want to hire candidates who are not present on popular social networks). It depends on you what they see – a faceless profile posting popular online memes or a well-composed web page showing you as an outstanding specialist.
Pay attention to the profile header on social networking sites. The basic minimum is a professional photo, information about your employment history, links to other social networks, and your contact details. Essentially, a profile on a social network functions as an online business card.
A huge flow of information has led Instagram and Facebook algorithms to instantly distinguish unique content from reposted material. Creating exclusive information takes time, but also allows you to make the post visible to a larger audience. It’s up to you to generate your own content, but do it thoughtfully.
Think of a profile on a social network as a kind of portfolio. This is especially true for people in creative professions. It is difficult to imagine a graphic designer, social media marketing specialist, internet marketer without work examples in their online presence.
Do you remember your first start-up, or the launch of a new project in which you were closely involved? Congratulations, it means that already have a strong understanding the skills needed to develop a personal brand.