Developing a Personal Brand

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People have an opinion about you, whether you like it or not. Personal branding is about intentionally influencing how others see you. It means knowing and communicating who you are. It's your reputation and your unique characteristics. This includes your unique set of experiences, personality, skills, abilities and ideas. It is designed to be used to market you. It is not just a job title, a career objective, life purpose or a personal mission statement. Your brand statement, a representation of your personal brand, will likely be one or two sentences describing what you do, how you do it and for whom.

Getting Started

The first step in identifying your brand is to identify your "brand elements." These are the key words people associate with you or that you want people to associate with you. Write down as many words that describe you as you can. If you need help with this, you might ask people who know you well to suggest words they think describe your strengths and personality and add those words to your list. Group together the words of similar themes until you have four to five words which best reflect the themes.

Once you identify your "brand elements," the next step is to decide how to communicate those themes. One way to do this is to record yourself talking about the themes until your ideas become clear. Take notes and distill your ideas into one or two sentences. These sentences will become the basis for your brand. Try to answer these three questions: What value do you provide (what problems do you or can you solve)? How do you do it uniquely? For whom do you do it, or want to do it?

Using Your Brand

Once you've identified your brand, it's time to start using it. Align your branding materials (in print, online and in person) so they all communicate the same message about you. Use your brand when developing your business card, job search correspondence (resume and cover letter), portfolio, blog and website, LinkedIn profile, Facebook profile, Twitter profile, video resume, personal appearance and professional email address.

Living Your Brand

A personal brand should be more than how you present yourself to the world. It should be a living demonstration of who you are. Live your brand through participation in school, work, volunteer experiences, extracurricular activities and generally your day-to-day life. Ideally, your brand statement should be revised at least once a year to reflect changes in your experience.

Considering Your Digital Identity

A large part of your personal brand lives in the digital realm. Because of this, you have a digital identity. As a concept, digital identity is still developing. So even though the definition isn't concrete, there are things you need to keep in mind as you develop your personal brand and navigate different social media platforms.

  • Keep your voice consistent across all platforms. If an employer conducts a Google search for you, the same type of message should show up on all platforms.
  • Once something is out on the web, it is out there. It's like writing in permanent marker with no way to erase. There is no going back. Think before you post.
  • It is important to be aware of and to manage your "digital stamp." According to Erik Qualman (author of What Happens in Vegas Stays on YouTube) your digital stamp is both what you post (digital footprint) and what others post about you (digital shadow). Both are very important to your digital identity and brand.