Our article “What’s Your Personal Brand?” covered the importance of a personal brand, how it defines the way others see you, remember you, think about you, and describe you. This second part explores how to start crafting an authentic, differentiating, and appealing personal brand.
A personal brand encompasses every aspect of you, from the way you dress, speak, walk, stand, laugh, and write to the friends you keep, the books you read, the hobbies you pursue, and countless other factors that branch out in an infinite web. It is impossible to define and control all of those things. What you can do is determine a set of core values, strengths, and passions you hold and want to project. Then, ensure every choice you make is aligned with those and enhances or projects them. If you craft a core vision for your personal brand and act in accordance with it, the peripheral elements will follow suit.
The exercise below will build a foundation for your personal brand. Answer honestly, but also with ambition to become a more excellent person. You want to hone and present the best version of yourself, so aspire to become the person you present yourself as in job interviews and on first dates. The core of your personal brand will span both your personal and professional life, though you may express it differently depending on the situation and audience.
Personal Brand Excercise
Find the Core
1) Core Values
Write down your 5 core values. These are the attributes you think are most important in life. They can be concepts or characteristics. They will act as guiding principles that help guide decision-making, as you would not compromise them. Examples of values include “integrity”, “wisdom”, “balance”, “caring”, “wealth”, “family”, “discipline”, “health”, “achievement”, “independence”, “honesty”, and “generosity”, among many others.
2) Core Strengths/Weaknesses
Record your top 5 strengths and top 5 weaknesses. These are abilities or traits that make you stand out from the rest (strengths) or continually cause you trouble or challenge you (weaknesses). If you find this question challenging, think about roles, tasks, and situations you are naturally drawn to and those that you avoid.
3) Core Skills
What are 6 skills that you think are important to your sense of self and describe the value you offer to others, both personally and professionally?
4) Core Passions
What do you most enjoy doing or are you most interested in at work and in your personal life? Think about what these passions say about you on a deeper level. For example, if you listed running marathons, you may be a determined person who is able to hold and work towards long-term goals. If you listed volunteering, you are likely a caring person who likes working with others.
5) Core Accomplishments
List the 3 accomplishments of yours that make you most proud.
Based on your answers above, consider whether your current actions and brand are aligned with your core attributes.
Creating a Personal Brand
1) Personal Brand Attributes
Select 4 to 5 brand attributes. For example, perhaps you are a wise professional, with a global perspective, who solves problems creatively, and always sees the opportunity in a challenge. Your attributes would be:
- Wise Professional
- Global Perspective
- Creative Problem Solver
- Determined Optimist
2) Work Contribution
List what you offer professionally, to coworkers and your company.
3) Personal Contribution
List what you contribute to others in your personal life.
4) Unique Selling Proposition
We believe that for a business, success is about defining and communicating the unique value of a company. It is much the same with people. Figure out how your unique combination of values, skills, and strengths makes you different. Try to find a niche.
5) Positioning Statement
Bring it all together in a succinct paragraph. Use this paragraph as a reference to guide you in your decision making and actions.
See this eCornell blog post (blog.ecornell.com/how-to-write-market-positioning-statements/) for a guide to writing organization positioning statements.
A personal brand is critical for success in one’s professional life because people will apply their assumptions about people to their work and businesses. A strong personal brand will help ensure the assumptions are positive. It will make a person stand out, broadcast credibility, showcase a specialty, and make the person more appealing and memorable, which is really the basics of marketing—awareness, consideration, selection, and post-interaction engagement.
Again, this is just the foundation of your personal brand. To really boost your career or business with your personal brand, you need to use it. Speak, write, work, and play, but always do so in a way that is aligned with your brand.
Start with these brand elements to begin benefiting from your brand:
- Social Media: As a professional, LinkedIn is a must, but explore other platforms as well depending on your brand and industry. Aim for consistency between them in the way they look and the way you communicate and interact on them.
- Appearance: Select clothing that represents your personal brand and refrain from wearing an old disintegrating T-shirt to go to the gym if it doesn’t fit your brand.
- Share: Curate and create content that fits your brand. Blogging is a powerful tool, especially with social media to distribute it, but also consider sending an email to a friend or professional acquaintance to give a more personal touch.
- Connect: Interact with others. You’d be surprised by the opportunities that arise when you get out and meet people, especially if you have a strong personal brand. You need not necessarily attend professional talks or conferences either, a colleague’s party or casual dinner can be equally as beneficial.