One of the world’s most successful business tycoons, Jeff Bezos, says that your personal brand is what people say about you when you are not in the room. The idea of having a personal brand has blown up in the last decade and literally building yourself as a brand is now seen as a viable career path, with the rise of self-made YouTubers and Instagram influencers.
Nicolas Cole, who has consulted Grammy winners and startup founders on their personal brand, wrote in Fast Company that “before the digital landscape made it possible to create and gain your own status, elevating yourself in society was largely dependent upon some sort of validated, external source saying so… Today? If you have 2.2 million subscribers on YouTube, the world is at your fingertips.”
This huge shift to the online world is one of the reasons for the increased interest in building a personal brand. Yet, whether you’re working a 9-5, are self-employed, or running a business, the truth is that nobody cares about the personal brand you’re trying to build – all they care about is the impression you make and how you make them feel.
Having a strong personal brand is a vital part of one’s career in the modern workplace, but it’s those impressions and feelings we leave behind that define the brand in the first place. This is also what leads to having a strong personal brand in the long term, both online and offline.
Your values are what’s most important to you and, whether you’re aware of it or not, they will naturally come across in any interaction that you have. Take a step back from your day-to-day work and think about what your values are, and how you are showing these to other people in your network. Write your top values down and remind yourself of them daily, as they should creep into your conversations with clients, your website and social media presence.
Many people are not clear on what their personal strengths are, as it’s a subject we either shy away from out of fear of seeming egotistical, or we just don’t see what our hidden USP is. The best way to find out about your superpowers is to ask people who are close to you, from co-workers to friends and family. Figure out what you’re naturally good at, what you do really well that others don’t and then start to consciously incorporate this into how you communicate your personal brand.
As your guiding light, your purpose is what drives you to do what you do and why things are important to you. You need to understand this for yourself first, then you can show it to the outside world.
Once you are clear about your values, strengths and purpose, it’s time to position this to the outside world. How do you communicate with others? Think about your behaviour among other professionals, how you speak and position yourself and your brand with the words you use. Keep it consistent whether you’re communicating in a casual chat, a work email, or on your company blog.
There’s a difference between the message you communicate and what people hear and see. The impact is what people think about your message. While you can’t monitor exactly how someone perceives you every time you interact with them, you can get their perspective and feedback. Once again, ask people you worked with how you come across and how they would describe you and your brand (feedback can be given in person or anonymously).
Once you understand how others perceive you, you can compare that information to how you intend to come across, and make tweaks where necessary. This process is part of maintaining and developing your personal brand.
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