If you think branding is just for products, services and celebrities, think again. Each one of us has what is called a “personal brand”, and, like all brands, can either help or hurt our careers.
A personal brand is basically a combination of the following:
- Your reputation as you are known in both your career and personal lives
- The level of authority which you bring to the table
- Your “game” and how you either make things happen or…don’t
- And, your “word-of-mouth” score, meaning if people know of you and can recommend you without hesitation
Your personal brand begins as early as college. Were you the student, which everyone wanted to have on his or her semester project? Did people seek you out to ask your opinion on issues and challenges? Or were you just the kid that everyone wanted at his or her party because you were fun?
As you progress in your career, your personal brand evolves with you. How you approach assignments, colleagues, further education and authority will determine your growth and advancement.
If you’re not sure how solid your personal brand is, do a self-assessment. Ten questions to consider are:
- Do you show enthusiasm and good energy each and every day?
- Do you help others whether or not they ask for your help?
- Do you meet your deadlines?
- Does your manager turn to you for important projects?
- Do you get phone calls from recruiters who tell you they heard about you for a job?
- Do you get regular promotions and raises?
- Are you constantly looking for ways to improve your work and the work of the company?
- Do you strive to be the most authoritative resource on your area of expertise?
- Do others look at you as the “go-to” person in your office?
- What do you think others would say about you when asked a reference?
If you honestly completed your self-assessment of your personal brand as we suggest, are you pleased with the results?
If not, or if you feel there is room for improvement, here are some suggestions about how you can improve your personal brand to advance your career:
- Update LinkedIn – since one of the objectives for having a good personal brand is to demonstrate authority in your field, look at your LinkedIn profile for areas of improvement. Many people don’t realize that you can add a lot of additional information to your profile, that wasn’t available years ago. Dust off your profile and begin adding to it. You can upload projects, presentations, videos, accomplishments to each position at which you worked. You can also add awards, volunteering and certifications. LinkedIn has made it easy to truly showcase your authority to your target audience, so be sure to take advantage of these great tools.
- Endorsements & Recommendations – Also on LinkedIn are endorsements and recommendations. The best way to ask for a recommendation is to first provide one. Strategically pick people in your network with whom you’ve worked and provide them with a written recommendation. Then ask for one in return. Additionally, if you endorse people, many will endorse you back. These are two pieces of social data that can improve your authority and hence, your personal brand.
- Reach Out – You’ve probably heard the term “it’s not what you know, it’s WHO you know” and frankly, there is some truth in that statement. If there are influencers in your industry that you feel you should know, don’t be too shy to reach out. Start by offering something of value to them – a favor, information or even offer to buy them lunch! Get on their radar and see if you can develop a relationship with them. Don’t be pushy or assume that they need you. Relationships develop over time, so begin nurturing your contact with gentle reach-outs and your name will come up more and more.
- Networking Events – Meetups, conferences and seminars are great ways to expand your industry contacts. Bring plenty of business cards and ask people for theirs. Follow up after the event with a personal email and invite them to connect with you on LinkedIn. Ask them how you can be of service to them and share information with them when you think it’s appropriate.
- Repair, as needed – If you’ve done poorly on a past project or offended a colleague, consider how you can repair the damage. Often a heartfelt apology will suffice and you can begin to recover from whatever circumstances you encountered. You never know when the other person may be your boss or could stand between you and your next promotion, so “making it right” should be a top priority. Offer to assist in another project or do something to help them and make sure whatever you do, it is of top quality.
- Get Involved – If people have no idea about what you are capable of, then it’s time to get more involved. There are many ways to get involved and showcase your talent. Volunteer for projects, new responsibilities, to help at an industry event or to shadow someone influential in your field. You can also join industry-relevant organizations and attend their meetings. Finally, join LinkedIn groups that are relevant to your job and actively participate in group discussions.
The main objective for improving your personal brand, is to bring your name and your reputation to the front of decision makers’ minds. A positive personal brand takes time to develop, but if you do it well, you can advance your career and achieve more interesting and challenging projects.
Originally published in hallmarkpersonnel.com