A personal brand is a trademark — something you are known for. Like Oprah handing out free stuff or Kristen Stewart being awkward chic. Everyone builds or maintains their brand every time they walk into a room. The only issue is that right now we’re walking into less and less rooms.
Though we don’t have the capacity to do a lot of in-person branding, this is the perfect time to get our virtual brands together. 69% of employers use online search engines to screen potential candidates. Knowing this, it’s important to be proactive about making our digital profiles intentional across all platforms. Here are some questions to consider as you start to build your brand.
Question 1: What Do Your Friends Know You For?
When you are considering your personal brand, it is always best to start with others’ perceptions of you.
My friend recently shared a post on Instagram asking her followers a really interesting question: “If I were to give a TED talk, what would it be about?” The first few people who commented, including myself, said she would give a TED talk on biphobia or feminism. She has done academic research in these areas and also posts stories frequently discussing her queer identity. These topics are associated with her brand, and if this is what she wants to be known for, she is doing a great job. Ask the people around you what you are known for in their eyes. This will be great information you can use to begin developing your brand.
Question 2: Who Are Your Influences?
I once heard someone say that we often love in others what we see in ourselves. I don’t think this is always true, but I absolutely think it works when it comes to choosing our personal brand influences.
So, ask yourself: Who do you admire and what about their personal brand could inspire your own? Do you like the quirky, dark energy of Aubrey Plaza or the confident, sexy style of Lizzo? Is there a co-worker or supervisor who has qualities that you want to develop in yourself? These people will give you inspiration, so make sure to find ways to interact with them frequently whether it’s through reading their most recent book or setting up a monthly virtual lunch date.
Question 3: What Do You Want to Be Known For?
This is the MOST IMPORTANT QUESTION! What are the top three words you want people to associate with you? Reflect on the information you gained from the past two exercises, and start to focus in on a few key areas that get you the most excited! Try to have a mixture of personal characteristics and actions.
As a Career Coach who is invested in job access for marginalized folks, I have found that “equity” is a word that is a part of my personal brand. I commit myself to initiatives like this column in order to provide access to people who may not be able to receive career coaching. Once you get clear on what you want, you will have the major tool you need to start curating a personal brand that fits you and your values.
Question 4: What Can You Do Right Now?
This is the fun part! Now that you have a good understanding of what you want your personal brand to be about, you can start curating content that matches that intention.
You can create specific content for your field. Maybe try your hand at writing articles, ebooks, or even starting a podcast. You can also update your job application material with these new clear intentions, and make sure your social media platforms have the same update content. You can also do this in more indirect ways. If you want to be known for your “playfulness” at work, then maybe you are the one who volunteers to come up with fun icebreakers at the beginning of your next zoom staff meeting. It’s as easy as that: figure out what defines your brand and then begin doing things that match that.
What are some words that sum up your personal brand? Are you able to communicate this effectively in interviews and throughout job searches?