Branding what you want to be known for in your career will give you an edge over your competition. Here's how to start.
“The days of the mammoth corporations are coming to an end. People are going to have to create their own lives, their own careers and their own successes. Some people may go kicking and screaming into this new world, but there is only one message there. You’re now in business for yourself.” —Robert Schaen, former controller, Ameritech
Whether you are thinking about making a career change or are satisfied in your current position, knowing what you have to offer, what your brand is and how to market yourself is critical. To be successful in the word of work today, you have to know what makes you unique! And if you’re not sure what it is that you want to be known for, it’s time to find out!
Before you put a marketing plan together for a “product,” you have to know the benefits: What makes this product different? Why should I buy it? How will it benefit me (and maybe my team)? Translating this to your job and career means knowing what you have to offer, what makes you different. What is your unique brand?
Think of your brand as a promise ... a promise you make to your employer, employees, peers, customers and clients. It is an attribute that you offer and is unique to you. And it’s necessary that you’re able to not only articulate it but also to back it up. You can’t build a successful, long-term brand on unsupported claims and wishful thinking.
Living Your Brand
Here’s an example. Say that you have identified as part of your brand, having an open door policy. You let your staff know that you’re available to talk to them. However, your actions don’t show that. Your door is closed and when folk ask to speak to you, you don’t make the time. You aren’t living your brand!
Large companies understand the power of branding a product. They spend a lot of time, money and energy to create a brand that is eye catching and appealing so they can sell their products or services through to their market. They want to make sure that the buyer has a strong connection with that brand.
Now think of yourself as a company with one employee—you. How much time, money and energy have you spent in developing a personal brand that is unique enough to outshine your competition? Have you made yourself known in the company as a problem-solver, an expert, someone that can achieve results? An individual who has a well-defined personal brand has more status and a tremendous advantage over the competition in the marketplace. With a great personal brand, you are already “half sold” and thus far above the competition.
Personal branding identifies, packages and sells the person with a view to grow, influence and potentially generate additional income. Here are three key ingredients you need to develop a strong personal brand:
- Know your own strengths, talents and experience, and then let people know about them. It’s about giving a clear impression of who you are, what you value, what you’re committed to and how you can be counted on to act. Your branding statement must provide a clear, concise view of your unique strengths and tell why you can do it better than anyone else. You need to be able to state clearly why you are different than everyone else, and what you offer that makes you unique and sets you ahead of your competition.
If you aren’t sure of what your strengths are, there are various types of assessments you can take, some available online (such as StrengthsFinder 2.0), checklists, card sorts and experience “stories.” If you need some help preparing your list, hire a career coach or counselor. Don’t forget to include soft skills as well as hard skills when putting your list together. They can be just as important when marketing you. And don’t forget to ask your peers and perhaps previous employers what they view as your talents and accomplishments. It’s always a good idea to get an external perspective.
- Understand how you connect best with people. Consider what your target audience needs and wants, and then identify the value and the experience that you ca deliver to meet those needs and wants. Communicate in ways that reach into th hearts and minds of your target audience and connect with their core values and deepest desires.
- Consistency is one of the keys to building a strong personal brand. Be aware of being consistent in every interaction you have, both in what you say and how you respond. Establishing a professional brand is absolutely critical to long-term, sustainable business (and personal) growth. In an overcrowded marketplace, if you’re not standing out, then you’re invisible. It’s the old adage, walk the talk! Everything you say and do must be consistent with your brand attributes. Otherwise, people won't believe you! ... and won’t “buy” your product/service (which is you!)
Personal Branding Basics
When you think of the Coca Cola brand, what comes to mind? Does an image of a red can with the words Coca Cola written in white display in your mind’s eye, or perhaps a Coke bottle? Likewise, we must pick our niche on the Internet and brand our name accordingly. Here are the things that we can do in establishing our brand:
- Create a website. Think about using audio to your advantage. Do you have a nice speaking voice? If so, combine this with your photograph and signature to humanize your website and establish rapport with your audience.
- Establish a blog. This can be an add-on to your main website or be used as an alternative to a website. Update your blog at regular intervals with content specific to your vision. Refrain from writing about off topic content to keep your message and theme consistent. One way to keep your readers posted about your content is to use RSS feeds.
- Have a strong online identity. That means being searchable on Google, as well as having a presence on social media. If you don’t show up in a Google search, you don’t exist!
- Register a domain name. A domain is a naming system on the internet, such as amazon.com. Make sure yours is a memorable and easy-to-spell address. You can register a domain name to point at your blog. This can easily be done on sites like godaddy.com or domain.com.
I would also encourage you to look beyond your current skill set and develop additional benefits for the “brand you.” By asking yourself the following questions, and talking with your peers, friends, family and “board of advisors,” you should be able to come up with specific ways you can work on improving your product—you—in the next six months.
- I am known among my peers or co-workers for these projects or skills.
- My current project is challenging and provocative to me in these ways.
- In the past three months, I have learned the following new things that will help me to move forward.
- I’ve added these three important people to my contact list (or client management system) in the last three months.
- By next year at this time, I would like to be known for these skills or projects.
Knowing your product—and your brand—takes time and energy ... and is well worth it!