March 17, 2017
You may think of branding as something only business owners and advertising executives need to worry about. But if you're trying to advance your career or, especially if you're trying to start a new career, building your personal brand is as vital as your resume or portfolio.
Rich Grant, a career advisor at Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU), offered a webinar recently that explained just what a personal brand is, why it's important and how you can build, control and communicate yours to others.
"Personal branding is the culmination of (the) actions that define who you are. It is you, the entire package, outside and inside in the sense that you're unique and distinguishable from others," Grant said. "It's derived from the combination of your knowledge, skills, attributes, qualities, personality ... everything that makes you who you are."
One reason focusing on your personal brand is important is that you have one whether you want to or not. In the digital age, it's impossible, or nearly so, to have zero online presence. "If you don't brand yourself, someone else will thanks to ready availability of information about you on the internet," Grant said.
Building your personal brand isn't something that happens overnight. It takes a sustained and intentional effort, so you may be wondering why it's worth your time. Grant gave several examples:
Think of all the people you know and have worked with in a professional capacity. Chances are, you have formed opinions about them as professionals, good or bad, based on your interactions with them. That is, of course, a two-way street. Your in-person behaviors are a big part of your professional brand.
In-Person Brand Behaviors:
Of course, your impact on the digital world matters, too, Grant said. While some of the behaviors you should think about in the online world overlap with real-world actions, they have the potential to have a much wider effect, and they can live online forever.
Online brand elements:
A good place to start detailing your personal brand is by writing a personal brand statement and including it on your resume. A brand statement should contain your career identity, passion and authenticity, Grant said. He gave a few bullet points on questions your brand statement should answer:
"A branding statement is a punchy, 'ad-like' statement that tells immediately what you can bring to the table for an employer," Grant said. "Your branding statement should sum up your value propositions, encapsulate your reputation, showcase what sets you apart from others and describe the added value you bring to a situation."
Building your personal brand online makes sense because of the nearly limitless potential to reach other professionals in your industry and beyond it. Consequently, you should always be aware how your behavior online could impact your personal brand. "Consistency is important so that if an employer sees you on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter, they are not getting mixed messages," Grant said. "And it goes without saying that you need to behave professionally and be a nice person online. Employers will search for you online. Make sure they only see the good stuff."
If you are going to build your personal brand online, LinkedIn is the first place to start. It is the largest professional social networking site in the world and hiring managers and recruiters use it to find talent. If you have an active profile, it can also rank high in search results for your name, Grant said. "In today's highly competitive job market, hiring managers and recruiters prefer to leverage their social and professional network to generate referrals for their open positions because hiring through direct referrals reduces the time and cost of recruiting for employers," Grant said. "Thus, you want to be an individual who is actively and regularly referred - by the people in your professional network - to employers and recruiters for their job openings."
Techniques for leveraging your LinkedIn profile:
Twitter may not go together in your mind with personal branding, but Twitter is a valuable tool because it is a research, sharing and networking tool in one, Grant said. Other advantages include:
Similar to Twitter, using Facebook to build your personal brand might seem a little strange, but Facebook has more than a billion users, and more than half of them are 35 years old or older. "Business professionals and companies are both recognizing that the way to reach your audience today is to go to them," Grant said. "If you want to form connections and build your own brand, go to where the people are. Right now, one of those places is Facebook."
Creating a personal blog allows you to explore and communicate your personal brand in a much more in-depth way than many other venues because you control the content. "You can very quickly and effectively define who you are and what you bring to the table as a professional through a blog," Grant said.
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