You should be forming a good idea of where you want to be in your professional future, and what elements of your personal brand from your past and present you already have in place to help you start moving in that direction. But professional growth and personal branding doesn’t happen in a vacuum, and it doesn’t happen just because you want it to.
Your personal branding efforts will require time, energy and diligence. The remainder of this book will help you dig into what that process looks like and guide you through the many steps that you can take to craft that personal brand. But as the traditional saying from Lao Tzu goes, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”
In the case of building your personal brand for your career journey, that step is surveying your professional landscape, seeing what you can learn there, and understanding how to grow from it.
Let’s take that step.
One of the reasons you are on the quest to establish a personal brand is because so many others have done it. Personal branding is a critical part of creating your professional success, and there is much that you can learn from those who have gone before you. When you think about who is a leader in the field you want to be known in, who do you think of? Why do you think of them? It’s likely that they have put in time and effort to build their personal brand.
The next time you are at a conference, take note of who the speakers are and how they present themselves. The people you are seeing on stage were just like you at one point, and now they have a professional presence that is built on a personal brand. Note what draws you to them and how they present themselves. If you have a chance to speak with them, ask them what they do to cultivate their own personal brand.
The same is true online. People who have strong online personal brands have put in a lot of time and effort to get there. Note how you found them. Was it through a search engine? Through a reference from someone else online? A blog post? A social media conversation? The ways that you find good examples of personal branding will lead you to great examples of how you can do the same.
- Who has a personal brand that you admire?
- What do they do that you take notice of?
- What do they do that makes you respect them?
- What do they do that makes you remember them?
We’ve been talking a lot about how personal branding is a way to help build your professional future. It will do that, and the best place to start building toward the skills you want to have and stand out for is with the skills you already have and are using right now.
After taking stock of your current work projects, think about what the common thread of skills are that you want to accentuate as your personal brand and make sure that those are the parts of those projects that you own and can take credit for.
In the same way, look at your online presence and focusing on growing the current connections, conversations and areas of expertise where you already have a presence. These are the first foundation from which your new personal brand will grow.
Up to this point in your professional life, you may not have considered what you are doing as part of your personal brand. It has been all along, but thinking about it as a way to actively reinforce and grow the way that you present yourself in professional settings will shed new light on them. Taking advantage of these professional situations in that way will become second nature in time. Begin by identifying them and thinking of them as personal branding opportunities.
- What skills do you use in your work now that you want to focus on developing?
- How can you present your current projects as part of your personal brand?
- What skills, topics, or conversations are you currently having on social media that can serve as launching pads?
- What professional growth opportunities are available through your workplace?
You Need Help
You already have a vast professional network, whether you think of it that way or not. Everyone you have come in contact with in your past or current work experience has the potential to help you build your brand. The people you know within your company are an ideal place to start because they know you, your work and what you excel at.
In the online setting, literally everyone who is out there on social media is essentially looking to do just that—be social. Every single person you interact with online is an opportunity to start building your personal brand. In some cases that will mean asking questions, and in others it will mean answering them, and in still others it will mean simply maintaining the relationship. All of these relationships are a chance for you to work with someone else in a public way that will grow your brand.
In your world outside of the place you work, whether that be a conference or a travel opportunity, you have the chance to connect with someone who can help you. That person may be able to make an introduction, answer a question you have, or need your help. Whatever the situation, be ready to ask for or offer help.
- Who are you connected to online that can help you build your brand?
- Who do you know inside your company that you are comfortable asking for help?
- Who do you know that is already out there that you can ask for help?
Your Next Opportunity
Now that you’ve identified the examples, skills and assistance available to you, it’s time to start thinking about the next opportunity you have to start building your personal brand. In the coming chapters, you’ll learn about systematic approaches that will help you over the long term, but you don’t need to and shouldn’t wait.
Whatever your work situation, you can identify opportunities in the projects you are presently working on to start emphasizing what will become the key factors in your personal brand. Start by looking at your current workload as an opportunity to present your brand. It may be a small start with a small group of people, but approaching it from this new angle will help you try out what you are identifying and learning.
In the same way, think about the next social media interaction you have as an opportunity to try out presenting the essence of what makes you stand out. The next time you comment on a blog, make sure your comment adds value to the post, but also make sure the post and the comment both benefit the building of your personal brand.
Finally, anytime you are able to go to a conference or a meeting outside of your workplace you have a huge opportunity to build your personal brand. No matter where it is, think of it as your time to make your presence felt—stand out and be memorable!
- What projects are you currently working on where you can step up?
- What social media groups can you find to be a part of that will put you in front of other people in your field?
- When can you start setting aside time to build your personal brand?
- When is the next conference or major meeting that you can attend?
Where To Start Results:
While other sections in this chapter have boiled down from a larger list to a smaller, focused set of starting points for your personal branding process, this section is all about creating a long list and knowing that it is just the beginning of a list that should keep expanding for the rest of your professional career.
The examples you admire, people you can ask for help, and the list of actual opportunities for you to build your personal brand in the near future should be lists that continue to grow. All of these are ways to keep you inspired, supported and connected, and as you grow this list, continue to lean on it for all of those purposes. While you should start small in the other sections, go big when you are looking for inspiring examples, people who can help you and opportunities to build your personal brand.
Discovering Your Personal Brand: Results
Discovering your personal brand takes time, to be sure, but it’s critical to know where you are starting from before you start to build out that personal brand.
At this point, your Personal Audit gives you a solid understanding of your history, skills and interests and what you bring to the table presently.
Your Digital Audit gives you a solid idea of the impression other people will get from you when they look you up online.
Looking at the question of “Where Are You Going?” should give you a firm grasp on the field you are playing on, and the areas and people that you will be working with.
Finally, thinking about “Where Do You Start?” will give you a set of people, destinations and examples to help you as you begin to build your personal brand in the next few chapters.
What you have now is a focused starting point. And you should have a lot of thoughts swirling around in your head around that focused starting point—that’s a good thing.