Just as a company’s brand is essential for the successful communication of its mission and message, individuals likewise can benefit and thrive professionally by building a personal brand. A personal brand is reflected in all the ways that an individual projects his or her image: through words, actions, attire, presence (on and offline), attitude – the list goes on. Whether you are just starting off in the workforce or you are a seasoned professional, strengthening and building your presence and personal brand matters.
What are the benefits of having a strong and positive personal brand, and what are the main components of a personal brand? To start, building a personal brand begins with self-reflection. What are your career goals? What are your strengths and skills? Whom do you most want to connect with? Defining these will help you to structure your self-messaging and brand image.
Messaging and Words
Contemporary personal brand messaging is as important online as it is offline, and the myriad means to network and communicate your brand with others continue to grow:
For most, the LinkedIn profile is the most important representation of the professional self on social media. It’s important, then, to ensure that your LinkedIn profile remains up-to-date with your latest job history and skills. Also highlight the same skill sets and keep your profile consistent with the information on your resume.
– Event Participation: Speeches, Seminars, Conferences
The benefits of attending events in person are manifold. First, you can research and choose to attend events in your industry of interest, with people you want to meet and connect with. Also, by simply attending in person, you communicate to others that you are interested in that particular topic or field.
Second, there are always opportunities at these events to talk to key contacts during breaks or at a following reception. During this time, you can speak directly, face-to-face, with people you want to network with.
Furthermore, this is an opportunity to share the elements of your personal brand – your skill set, your interests, and your professional demeanour – in a memorable, in-person context.
– Business Cards
Business cards are another valuable means of tangible, in-person communication. A physical business card often can be more memorable than an online connection. Therefore, if you have control over the design of your business card, pay close attention to both the layout and the words on the card. What is your title, and how does it reflect what you do? What colours and formatting most aptly represent who you are as a professional? With business cards, the little details matter – and don’t forget to bring them to those networking opportunities!
– Other Social Media Platforms
Though LinkedIn is usually the most important professional social media platform, it is important to keep your presence on other platforms consistently professional. This means that on Facebook and Twitter, you should not let loose the embarrassing photos or questionable status updates. Important business contacts can and will view these profiles.
Image and Attire
Your personal image – again, both online and in person – influences your brand messaging. Consider how and in what contexts others perceive you:
When you shop for professional attire, your question should be not only, “Does this fit me?” but also, “Does this align with my personal brand?” Choose clothes that you would like to be seen in by no matter whom you meet, whether the executive of your company or a colleague who is an old friend.
To a degree, the same idea goes for casual clothes. Though of course you have more flexibility in the formality of your casual attire, choose outfits that represent who you are in both professional and personal life.
– Online Profile Photos
Especially on LinkedIn, the ideal profile picture is a good quality, recent professional headshot. The personal photo is essential to your LinkedIn page since it will help new contacts remember who you are (especially those you have only met once) by putting a name to your face.
Another point to consider is that a single profile picture across all online platforms will work toward brand consistency. Displaying the same up-to-date picture on your LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Skype and other profiles will again help your professional image to be memorable to contacts, and will continue to build your unified brand.
What is your mission and message in professional life? How do you want to convey your image to business contacts (and beyond)? Thinking about these questions will help you work toward building your own effective and memorable brand.
To learn more about personal branding, check out these helpful resources:
– “Personal Branding 101: How to Discover and Create Your Brand.” Series on Mashable by Dan Schwabel, an author and speaker on personal branding
– Forbes article: “The First Step to Building Your Personal Brand”
– Bloomberg Businessweek article: “Authentic Personal Branding”