21 January 2013
Think about your favorite company. What about them makes you choose their products and/or services over a different company’s? Whatever your answer may be, the fact of the matter is, the company has been able to create a reputation that you are able to identify and connect with. It’s all about branding! For instance, both Starbucks and Dunkin Donuts are known for their coffee and array of treats, but they choose to brand themselves in different ways, and therefore attract a different loyal customer base. Companies put a lot of effort and time into their brand, so why shouldn’t you? In order to differentiate yourself in an economy flooded with job seekers, you must focus on what makes you unique, and be able sell it! Here are some helpful tips to get you started on building your personal brand. Discover your brand: Discovering your brand by learning about yourself is the most important part of this process. To do this, you must take some time to really think about what you want to accomplish in your career, and how you can achieve those goals. It’s important to understand your values, and it may be helpful to construct mission statements for yourself. Next, map out a plan of action. To start, you can ask yourself these questions: What do I do? How do I want to be identified? How am I already perceived? What industry do I want to be a part of? What do I want to be known for? Position yourself: Once you have a detailed understanding of what makes you unique and what you want your brand to represent, you can define yourself in a short message that captures who you are and what you can offer. For example, you can say you are a “Career Coach, Author and Speaker”. Highlight your brand: Now that you have defined what you want to be known for and how you want to be perceived, it is time to let others know. To do this, Dan Schawbel’s Personal Branding Toolkit may be an excellent resource to use. Your toolkit may consist of a blog, website, business card, reference, resume, and an array of social media sites (LinkedIn profile, Facebook profile, Twitter handle, etc.). Be social savvy: If you use it correctly, social media can be a very useful branding tool. LinkedIn, for example, is excellent for connecting with professionals, but a personal blog may give people a glimpse of your personality and help you establish yourself as a relevant voice in your field. There are a lot of other sites out there, so only choose to build your brand on the few you can really “own” and update consistently. To gain more followers on each site, you can link your content from one page to another. The more active you are, the more people will see your content and consider you an “expert”. This is how you will get noticed by hiring managers that scour the internet for recruits. Be consistent: To successfully highlight your brand, you must be consistent in how you spread your message. This means that when people look across your personal branding content, though your techniques may be different, they should be able to identify the same message. Craft your elevator pitch: Once you have mastered your personal brand, you shouldn’t have any trouble articulating to anyone who you are and what you can professionally bring to the table. Every elevator pitch should include: Your name Your most recent employer Your role Your value/specialty Something that makes you seem unique from others A call to action (be ready to exchange information at any time by carrying a few business cards with you!) Network: Attending networking events is a great way to meet and connect with relevant professionals in your industry. However, never discount the importance of meeting people outside of your industry. You never know where their connections may lead! To do this, reach out to your community/local organizations and take the initiative to volunteer your skills and unique expertise. This is an excellent way to expand your audience and get in front of people you may have not been able to meet otherwise. Update your knowledge: It’s important to recognize that as time passes, industries evolve. Keeping abreast of trends in your industry is important, both to find and keep a job. To do this, you can subscribe to a specialized magazine/newspaper, get another certification, or take a couple classes just to refresh your memory. Although personal brands take a lot of thought and self-evaluation, once you can define who you are and what sets you apart, your career and job prospects will benefit. Just remember to be professional, consistent, clear, and most importantly, yourself.