Graphic of name tags and the title "A Guide to Personal Branding"

A Guide to Personal Branding

This is the first article in an ongoing series by Danielle Langdon about Self Identity.

Introduction

Branding on a corporate level is common (we are all well-aware of the branding success stories of Walt Disney, Google and Coke.) logo for Coca ColaBranding today, however, is becoming just as important for individual people. You might work for a business that works with other businesses, but at the heart of those relationships are people working with other people. In general, self-branding is the process of developing and optimizing the way you present yourself to others. Sounds pretty easy right? Well it is...if you give it the time and attention it deserves. Managing your self-brand is not something you can do in a day; it is something you will constantly be working to maintain and improve upon. One mistake people make is failing to invest the time to learn what is in their best interest. You will need a lot of time to think about and research what possibilities are out there for you. It is my hope that this article will give you the tools you will need to brand yourself effectively in today's competitive environment.

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Phase 1: Discovery

If you are reading this article, you are likely interested in building your personal brand so you can do any of the following: find a new/better job, earn more money, be happy at work, win more/better clients, increase sales/earnings, grow your network, improve your online presence or simply set yourself up for future success. The first question to ask yourself is: 

What sets you apart from others?

The key here is to identify your ideal traits. The answer may not be obvious at first, so think creatively about your strengths. Consider your own self-impressions and how other people perceive you. Do you bring light-hearted humor to your work? Have your peers or colleagues ever described you as clever? That description is part of your brand, especially if you agree those attributes apply to you. There are a few different theories on personality traits; one is the "Big Five Personality Traits," which include extroversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness, neuroticism and openness/intellect [1]. The important thing to remember is that self-branding is about being genuine. It is important not to list what you think others want you to be, but who you actually are. Do not brand yourself as a quick learner if in reality you are a methodical learner. If you are focused on being who you naturally are, and who you want to be, you will be able to perform at your best. Lida Citroen said on Social Media Today, 

Speech bubble with quote from Lida Citroen, 'The foundation of personal branding rests on authenticity: The ability to tap into your genuine, humble and individual human qualities from which your identity, personality, and character stem...By understanding and exploring your passions, interests, motivators and challenges, you can better articulate your value to the audiences who need to see you as relevant. The goal is to have control over the brand you live, how it's expressed, and how others assign you value and relevance.'  

Once you have discovered your genuine character traits, the next phase of your brand discovery is identifying your passions (what you enjoy doing with your time) and values (what drives your life). Examples of a person's passions may be art, travel, nature, technology, etc. - whereas a person's values may include family, community, education, ambition, etc. Identifying your values and passions will provide a clear vision for the future. Now that you have a deepened level of self-awareness you can move on to developing and implementing your personal brand.

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Phase 2: Implementing your Brand

With your strengths and passions in mind, it's time to work on your professional image. Your brand can be everything and can be implemented everywhere; social media accounts, a personal website, business card, resume, cover letter, portfolio, bio, email signature, wardrobe, speaking habits, handshake, etc. The key here is to be consistent across all venues. You want to be someone others can count on every day, and consistency will help demonstrate your level of commitment. Let's take a minute to focus specifically on social media accounts.

icons of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedInMore than ever, how you present yourself on social media is important. Potential employers will search your profiles (LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc.) to find out more about who you are and how you conduct yourself. Consistency here becomes incredibly valuable; keep the same name, profile information, picture, design aesthetic and frequency of posts. If you have a blog, for example, commit to posting on a regular basis to showcase your commitment to this endeavor. The same name and picture across all venues will make it easy for others to identify who you are and what you do. That "selfie" may not be the best representation of your brand, so consider using a more professional looking headshot. By presenting yourself consistently across all online venues, your audience will learn to trust you. By backing up your stated values with actions, you become more credible to others. Social media is a powerful tool that, when used effectively, can portray engagement in your field, hobbies you care about, organizations you a member of, etc. The idea is to live your "brand" every day, even on social media. 

While connecting and presenting yourself online is fast and fairly straightforward, communicating your brand in person is also necessary for long-term success. Your narrative is the way you communicate your values and passions. If you complain about your workload on a regular basis, others may perceive you as unapproachable. Becoming aware of how you present yourself will directly impact how others think of you. Be sure you're sharing the right message about yourself when interacting with your target audience. Also, do not underestimate the importance of your outward appearance. The way you look has an instant effect on people. Dressing appropriately and looking alert will help you make a positive first impression. Overall, it is important to take care of yourself by eating well, exercising and getting plenty of sleep.

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Concluding Thoughts

There is no guarantee that specific actions will lead to ideal results. Personal branding comes down to your interactions with other people, and people are unpredictable. Be prepared to learn and adjust your brand to find the best approach for your situation, goals and target audience. As you can probably tell by this point, you get out of your brand what you put into it - if you live your brand everyday it will work for you! The process of developing your personal brand is a big responsibility; it is a never-ending journey that extends into all facets of life.

Embrace and present your unique self with confidence and you will find professional and personal success.

Citations

1. John, O.P., Naumann, L.P., & Soto, C.J. (2008). Paradigm Shift to the Integrative Big Five Trait Taxonomy: History, Measurement, and Conceptual Issues. In O.P. John, R.W. Robins, & L.A. Pervin (Eds.), Handbook of personality: Theory and research (pp. 114-158). New York, NY: Guilford Press.

2. Citroen, Lida. "The ABC's of Branding," Social Media Today, January 21, 2014. http://www.socialmediatoday.com/content/abcs-personal-branding

Networking, Job Search, Columbia College, Self Identity

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