As the job market becomes more and more competitive, students and recent grads are feeling the importance to stand out from their peers. One way to accentuate your presence is to build a compelling and authentic personal brand. Literally, every point-of-contact becomes an opportunity to create a unforgettably positive brand impression. Thus, you need to be intentional about how you establish your brand, and your personal brand needs to be:
- AUTHENTIC: Be honest about who you are — your attributes and qualities. Seek to understand the big picture in life, that is discovering your mission, vision, core values, passion, and strengths. I call this the internal architecture. If you can honestly evaluate yourself, you can promote an honest brand.
- HOLISTIC: Your personal brand should not be limited to your career domain. Your personal brand needs to broad enough to tell your holistic story, spanning across the various domains in life, including family, career, social, and community.
- CONSISTENT: Tom Peters said that you need to “ensure that your message is consistent. If it is erratic, it will undermine your efforts. Everything you do — and choose not to do — contributes to your personal brand, from the way you talk on the phone to the way you behave at meetings or write emails.”
Below is an infographic that illustrates the four-step process of creating your personal brand (Click here to download a copy of Personal Brand template that I created below. Follow the next four steps to help you establish a personal brand.
You simply cannot create an authentic brand story without gaining a thorough understanding of who you are. Self-discovery is a pre-requisite to building a brand that is aligned, authentic, and holistic. Personal branding expert Dan Schawbel gives some great advice: “In fact, if you don’t spend time learning about yourself, your values, personal mission, and unique attributes, you will be at a disadvantage when marketing your brand to others. Start by removing yourself from distractions and ask yourself, “Who am I?” and, “If I could do anything, what would it be?” Also, when discovering your brand, you’ll want to lay out a development plan for yourself, that includes your current situation and your goals broken down in intervals, from one year to twenty years in the future. It’s extremely important to have a destination in your head and on paper before proceeding to create your brand in step two. The most successful individuals will be able to merge their passion with expertise, so that they have the fuel needed to push through adversity, and the skills required to solve customers problems. Also, selecting an unsaturated niche that you can claim during this stage is significant for positioning your brand as unique.”
For some this process of building an internal architecture may require several weeks, others several months, if not several years. By carefully documenting your thoughts on a journal, you will have a better chance to take control of your life with a long-term perspective. For beginners, click here to my previous post on “How to Discover Your Mission Statement” and some famous examples of mission statements from “The Hall of Fame Mission Statements.” In addition, learn more about your strengths through investing in yourself in StrengthsFinder – Gallup’s world-renowned, robust assessment that helps you to identify your top five strengths (Click here to download a copy of my Strengths Finder Report)
2. Identify your Default and Desired Brand
Now, conduct a self-assessment of your default and desired brand. Here’s an inventory of key personal brand traits for your reference.
A. Choose the top five descriptors from the reference list that describes your current brand – that is, how you are perceived by others.
B. Choose the top five descriptors from the reference list that describes your desired brand – that is, how you would like to be perceived by others. There may be several current traits in your top five that may overlap between the default and desired brand.
3. Seek Feedback and Evaluate Alignment
Once you’ve worked on your brand identity, you need to get input from those around you. It’s critical to keep checking the value of your brand. Build your own “board of directors” (i.e., mentors, peers, friends, family) to give you feedback on your branding plan and how you are putting it into action. Branding is ultimately about communicating your identity; thus it is crucial that you know how it is being received in the minds—and hearts—of others. Thus, without input from the outside, you only have half the picture of your brand. This can be done by formal methods such as 360 feedback or informally, by asking people around you for honest and constructive feedback on your performance. Another good way to check is to go for job interviews, regardless of whether you wish to change jobs, which will help you test your market value. My company is sponsoring me to participate in a year-long leadership development program and in our latest session, we solicited feedback from our classmates on how they perceive our default brand.
In the picture below, the middle are my default and desired brands. Each person in our leadership development program identified several brand traits and anonymously provided their feedback to me.
Now, group these traits into similar categories. In the INFOGRAPHIC above you’ll see that I have classified these into similar categories. I have then compared my desired brand into how it aligns with the feedback I have received. If you see any correlation between the two, you’re off to a great start. I have found this process to be enlightening and helpful as it gave me clarity around how others view me.
4. Develop Your Leadership Style/Brand
Once you identified the gap and alignment between the feedback of your default brand and desired brand, you will determine what type of leadership style will best fit you. In my current research of leadership in general, you’ll be deluged with a plethora of leadership philosophies. Rather, building your leadership style/brand through your internal architecture (i.e. strengths, passion, mission and vision) will help you lead with authenticity.