Manage Your Future...Building your personal brand
Thursday, May 5th, 2011
Have you ever wondered why certain people always appear to be in the right place at the right time? You know the ones I’m talking about; they always seem to get the next great opportunity; the promotion, the new job, the big order. These are the people that others want to meet and get to know. They are regularly chosen to be on the “best” team and most often are recognized for the work they do.
In a world with so much noise and so many choices, how do we set ourselves apart and actually differentiate who we are? How do we become this sought-after person?
The strategic positioning of products or companies is referred to as “branding.” Billions of dollars are spent annually to establish and maintain brands so that they remain “top of mind.” And ultimately, these brands reflect the promises made and the actual experiences of consumers. With the ever expanding world of social media, the tools available to the brand builders have become more readily available and influential. These same tools also make it easy for consumers to keep a brand in check. One negative experience can go “viral” in a matter of minutes.
Brands are not limited to products and services. Each and every one of us is “branded” by those around us. That includes your colleagues, supervisors, clients, prospects, family members and friends. Anyone that knows you has a perception of who you are. They can describe you based on how they’ve experienced you and can provide a narrative about your strengths and weaknesses and whether or not you have added value to their lives.
Your personal brand exists whether you just allow this to happen or you take charge of the process. How others perceive you doesn’t always match up with how you perceive yourself. If this is the case, you have some work to do. And if you want to stand out in the crowd and differentiate yourself, you must take control of the branding process. It involves defining your value, creating and promoting a realistic perception of your value and delivering, day in and day out, on your promise of value.
The process of defining who you are begins with a personal assessment of your strengths and weaknesses. Consider your behavioral characteristics, the skills that you possess and the expertise that you can demonstrate. Acknowledging how you communicate, how you behave as a team member, what type of leadership competence you exhibit and what contributions you typically make during meetings or social activities are essential components of this process. All of these attributes and skills will influence how you are defined. You are also defined based on the value you contribute to others. Can you articulate your personal value proposition and is it consistent with how those around you recognize your value contribution?
A hard look in the mirror is a difficult task but one that is essential to the personal branding process. Questions that you should be asking are:
- How are you different?
- How do you add value?
- Describe your typical communication behavior.
- Why should anyone listen to you?
- What are your life goals and do you have a plan?
- How are you reinventing yourself?
- How are you improving your skills?
- What steps are you taking to strategically position yourself as a prominent brand?
- How do others define who you are (parents, siblings, spouse, friends, colleagues, supervisors, and vendors)?
- Are you on “career cruise control” or are you committed to personal and professional growth?
Creating Your Plan
Your plan requires that you develop a vision and mission; determining who you want to be and shaping your destination are critical steps in the personal branding process. Setting clear goals and objectives and writing them down are a must. A list of action items will enable you to achieve your goals and objectives. If you want to be perceived as an expert, what steps must you take to develop your expertise? If you have the expertise, how can you position yourself as that expert?
In most cases one must become a life-long learner; gaining knowledge and developing skills is essential to becoming a true value adder. Creating a personal growth plan and executing that plan is of utmost importance.
The Power of Influence
Seth Godin, marketing guru, said “Many of us are taught to do our best and then let the world decide how to judge us. I think it’s better to do your best and decide how you want to be judged and act that way.” If you’ve decided to take control of your personal branding process, then you must work to build your reputation and your influence. Consider that one’s reputation (your personal brand) is most frequently shaped by word of mouth. Strategically positioning yourself as a contributor to others by volunteering for projects and successfully demonstrating your skill as a leader or organizer will not only enhance your reputation, but you will be sought after by others.
If you are perceived as an expert or would like to be, offer to share your wisdom with others by offering to train, coach or even write about your expertise. Sometimes you have to take some risks and stretch; but make sure you properly prepare for the projects for which you volunteer. A job well done will lead to more opportunities to elevate you above the pack and that’s what branding is all about.
Stay the Course
As you continue the process of building your brand and your personal value proposition, keep in mind that the world around you, and those in it, will continue to change. The interpersonal skills that are essential to building and enhancing relationships will be of utmost importance as you continue to reinvent yourself and your brand. Paying close attention to the needs of those you serve will enable you to identify and then develop the necessary skills and expertise to best serve them over time. Strategically positioning the value that you can contribute to others and assisting them in achieving their goals will enhance your personal brand and provide lots of exciting new opportunities.