Up to this point you’ve been digging into your past and your present to find the current building blocks of your personal brand. Now it’s time to look at your future and figure out where you want to go from here.
Building your personal brand will undoubtedly make the strengths that you currently have stronger. More importantly, personal branding will attract the kinds of people and opportunities that you want and need to continue growing professionally.
To do this, you’ll need to ask yourself questions like, what do you want to be known for? What do you want to spend your time doing? How do you get there from where you are? And, equally importantly, who can you ask for help from to get there?
How you present your personal brand will determine the path you take in the future. What you focus on determines what kind of work clients will approach you for, what kind of jobs you will be able to get, and what kind of advancement opportunities you will be offered at your current place of employment.
So let’s get started.
Your professional future is one of the most important aspects of your life, and creating a personal brand that can advance that professional future is equally one of the most important steps you can take. The basic idea is to figure out your goals and align them with the consistent message of your personal brand throughout everything that you do.
While it is important to be good at what you are currently doing, if you want to be doing something else or growing in your field, it’s to your advantage to reflect that desire for growth in your personal brand. For instance, if you are in marketing as a campaign writer and would like to be an account executive dealing with clients, building a personal brand around being a great writer won’t get you there. What it will get you is more great writing assignments. If you want to be dealing with clients, building your brand as someone who has a knack for understanding and communicating client needs and finding innovative ways to make them come to life will more likely get you involved with the clients on a more face-to-face level.
That’s the kind of transition that a well-crafted personal brand can help you make. When you think about the question of your professional future, think about where you want to be, but also how you can bridge to there from your past. The skills that help you stand out in your current role(s) can be the same that get you the new position, if only they are applied and amplified in a new way.
- What work do you want to be doing in a year? In five years?
- What would be your ideal job title?
- What does an ideal day look like for you? How do you spend your time? What are you working on?
- What kind of company do you want to be working for? Are you managing people or part of a team? Are you working for yourself?
- What kind of income would you like to be making five years from now?
Before you can truly start building that future with your personal branding efforts, you need to take stock of where you are right now in your professional life. You’ve already done some of this in-depth in the previous section, and now it’s time to take what you thought about and listed in the last section and narrow it down to what you want to focus on in your professional future.
One of the most powerful effects of creating a personal brand is that it accentuates the parts of your professional life that you want to create or grow. With that in mind, building off of what you are currently doing is the fastest way to transition to where you want to be. Starting over from scratch is difficult, time-consuming, and in most cases, not realistic.
With that in mind, how are you going to build a bridge to where you want to be? By starting on the ground you’re currently standing on. What work are you currently doing that you want to focus on? How much of what you are doing is part of the essence you want to consistently get across with your personal branding efforts?
- What current skills will you need for your ideal future position?
- What opportunities do you have to focus on those at work?
- How can you emphasize those skills more in the projects you are working on?
- What recent or current projects support your personal branding and professional goals?
- How can you get more of those roles?
Your Online Future
In the previous section you took a look at your current online presence. In the same way that you’ve been envisioning your future position and how to get there from here, now it’s time to envision your online future and think about how to get there from what your current presentation and presence is.
One common misconception about social media, blogging, and other online presence-builders is that they don’t take much time. The fact is, building an online presence that successfully grows your personal brand does take time. When you think about where you want to build and what you want your results to look like, be thorough but be realistic. It’s going to take time to get the results you want, and starting with a few focal points and building from there is more effective than trying to start all over the place and burning out.
- What social media groups can you start participating in?
- What kind of blog posts can you start writing yourself? (If you’re not a writer, identify particular blogs, forums and post topics that you can start commenting on).
- What do you want your Google search results to look like?
- Are there keywords that you think encompass your personal brand essence?
You can’t build your personal brand alone. Along the way you will need help from the people you work with, the people in your personal life, and the people you are connected to online. So before you start building, you want to ask yourself, “Who can I ask for help?”
Professionally speaking, part of building your personal brand is asking the people you work with and for to put you on projects that build the skills you want. In addition, when reaching out to prospective clients, you’ll want to start asking specifically for the kind of work that fits within your brand.
In your personal life, you’ll likely need to ask for understanding from anyone you spend time with, as building your personal brand takes extra time that will quite possibly take away from time they are used to sharing with you. On top of that, you may need to ask for their help bridging the gap to some new skill you need.
Finally, the online world of social media is built on communication. As you build your personal brand there, you’ll find that asking for help is something you do all the time. So is giving help to people who will eventually ask you for help—ideally because they found you through your personal branding efforts.
- Which of your co-workers do you trust to ask for help?
- Is there anyone you can ask for help at home? Does anyone in your family have skills or even jobs in the areas you want to build your personal brand?
- Are there any bloggers or speakers you have encountered that you can reach out to with questions?
- If you are on LinkedIn, who can you ask to write a recommendation for you?
- If you are blogging or plan to begin, who can you ask to share your writings with their network?
Where Are You Going Results?
Brainstorming and planning for your future is important at this point mainly for figuring out what direction you want to move in. From each of the sub-sections under this “Where Are You Going?” section, choose the five to ten themes that continually come up when you answer the questions. What themes run through your future and your now? Which of your partners can also help with your online presence? How much overlap is there between all of those sections?
What you should end up with is a short list (five to ten items) of things to focus on over the coming weeks as you think about how and where to start building your personal brand. Remember that these places are starting points, and that you can expand on them as you go. Starting small gives your early efforts focus, and starting small should give you successes to build on for the future.