Regardless of age, regardless of position, regardless of the business we happen to be in, all of us need to show a professional, positive image in the workplace, especially now, in our social media era, where everything is seen and known.
It's time to take a lesson from the big brands, in how to market ourselves effectively. All great brands are built around a strong mission statement, their corporate mantra so to speak, which describes what they do and why they do it. A few examples. Google? Organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful. Nike? To bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete in the world. Coca-Cola? To refresh the world and inspire moments of optimism and happiness…
Why not use them as a reference to build your own personal brand statement?
To be specific, your personal brand is the collection of values, experiences and associations that people attach to you. In short, it’s what peers and associates think about when they hear your name mentioned. It is what they'll say about you if they are called on a reference check.
In order to create an authentic and compelling personal brand, we have to showcase what makes us special. What do I want to be known for? What do I strive to achieve? What am I especially good at? What are my unique qualities and skills? What are my passions, my values? How do I want to contribute to society? What are the personality traits that make me stand out? What are my strengths, those that always allowed me to achieve great things?
So how can you develop the kind of personal brand that leading employers want to recruit and retain? Here are some useful tips:
1. Reflect on yourself
With a clear vision of who you are and what you are worth, and what pushes you to get up in the morning, you can stay connected to the right people and the right opportunities, those that fit with you, inspire you and make you progress and move forward.
Identify the qualities or characteristics that separate you from your competitors -- or your colleagues. What have you done lately -- this week -- to make yourself stand out? What would your past or present colleagues or customers say is your greatest and clearest strength?
Start thinking like a brand manager, ask yourself: What is it that my product or service does that makes it different? Take the time to write down your answer. And then take the time to read it.
Here’s an example from the one and only Oprah Winfrey:
"To be a teacher. And to be known for inspiring my students to be more than they thought they could be."
By keeping in mind your personal mission, you can focus your job search efforts on the right opportunities, clarify your professional journey in your resume, answer interview questions in a clear and compelling way, and steer your career path.
2. Enhance your brand
There's no limit to the ways you can go about enhancing your brand. Sign up for an extra project within your organization, just to introduce yourself to new colleagues and showcase your skills -- or work on new ones. Or, take on a freelance project that gets you in touch with a totally novel group of people. If you can get them singing your praises, they'll help spread the word about what a remarkable contributor you are.
Try teaching a class at a community college, or in your own company. Try contributing a column or an opinion piece to your local newspaper or try to get yourself on a panel discussion at a conference or sign up to make a presentation at a workshop. You’ll get credit for being an expert, you increase your standing as a professional, and you increase the likelihood that people will come back to you.
3. Get the message out
The single most important way of developing your brand is to be seen in person (in a positive light of course). If you are a jobseeker, networking is an important way to sell yourself, but for those currently employed, internal networking is just as important. Make going out and meeting the rest of the business an objective in itself.
Your network of friends, colleagues, clients, and customers are the most important marketing vehicle you've got; try to continually find ways to nurture your network of colleagues. What they say about you and your contributions is what the market will ultimately gauge as the value of your brand.
Additionally, you can set yourself apart by regularly contributing and providing added value on sites such as LinkedIn, writing blogs, using Twitter. Your aim is to be known in a positive light as an expert on a particular topic. It’s not about being online 24/7 for the sake of it; it’s about adding value to others through all of your communications.
4. Radiate energy and confidence
One of the things that attracts us to certain brands is the power they project. It's no different in the workplace. If, for example, your colleagues are having a hard time organizing productive meetings, volunteer to write the agenda for the next meeting. You'll not only be contributing to the team, but you’ll have the opportunity to determine what will go on and off the agenda. Most importantly, remember that power is largely a matter of perception. If you want people to see you as a powerful brand, you must act like a credible leader.
5. Be consistent
Brand building doesn’t happen overnight and it needs to be consistent. When you're promoting your brand, remember that everything you do - and everything you choose not to do - communicates the value and character of your brand. Everything from the way you handle phone conversations and emails to the way you conduct business in a meeting. It’s all part of a larger message that you are sending about your brand.
Ultimately, you are in charge of your brand and there is no single path to success. And while there is no one right way to create and promote your individual brand, these tips will set you on the right path to becoming more attractive to leading employers who are eager to find and retain not just great candidates, but also inspirational employees, that they will be clamoring to work with. By taking control of your personal brand, you will have better opportunities to progress, become a leader and an ambassador for your organization, and achieve success in your professional life.