In today’s complex and highly competitive marketplace, it is more important than ever to take the reins of your career. While there are many approaches you can take, developing and maintaining your personal brand is an integral piece to progressing in your career.
Personal brand is not a new concept; it is your reputation. Your “brand” is you, it’s your way of telling the world what you stand for, your values, your expertise and why should people care. Developing and maintaining your personal brand will allow you to not be trapped into thinking you can only be or do one thing.
The first step: know yourself. When developing your personal brand, it is important to understand who you are and what you want to be known for. Are you a creative, innovative, connector? Your first task is to develop your “brand mantra.” Basically, this is the “heart and soul” of your brand, according to branding expert Kevin Keller. It’s the foundation of all of your branding efforts. This can be a difficult task for some. I recommend thinking about how celebrities or businesses position themselves. Know what differentiates you.
Some excellent examples of brand mantra’s are: Ivanka Trump who identifies herself as an “American wife, mother, entrepreneur.” Looking at this from a business perspective for inspiration, Nike’s mantra is “authentic athletic performance.” When determining what you want to be known for, take time to think about your emotional appeal, description and function. If you’re unsure what words to use to describe you, ask friends, family and even coworkers for help. It is crucial that your mantra is authentic and something you can follow through on.
The second step: develop a plan of action. Identify your intentions and set short-term and long-term goals for yourself (i.e. 18 months or two years). Career changes won’t necessarily happen overnight. Events will unfold as they are intended to, but taking initiative to set yourself up for opportunities will allow for greater success when the time is right. Think about where you would like to be one year, three years and five years from now. What do you need to do now to be where you want to be in the future?
Perhaps within the next year you’d like to earn your master’s degree and develop a scholarship fund. In five years your goal is to be published and to speak at conference seminars. Whatever your goals are, it’s important to think of the end result and work your way back to the present.
Identify the key events that will need to happen in order for your goal to be accomplished. Remember that plans are plans. Don’t get discouraged if it takes longer than expected to get to your end goal.
Planning your personal brand involves the same key concepts as planning a business strategy. It takes time and consistency to develop your brand into something people will respond to. Think about how and who you influence as well as who the influencers are within your current organization. If you are working toward a specific job, pay attention to the decision makers within your organization. These can be executives, managers or office assistants. Like any good business strategy, your personal brand strategy needs to have an accurate audience.
You can’t always do everything you want to do inside the office to help increase the trajectory of your path, but don’t be afraid to ask for new opportunities. Raise your hand and volunteer to take on projects.
Develop passions outside the office that can also help with your career advancement. For example, if you’re heavily involved with volunteering in the community, your experience to transfer into your day job. There have been many documented instances where an employee’s passion outside of the workplace has become so successful that positions have been created at their workplace for them to do the same.
A woman at GE was very involved in volunteer efforts for a local nonprofit that raised money to buy shoes for children. She volunteered for five years and worked diligently to raise awareness and increase funds every year. An executive at GE caught wind of the initiative and, after realizing one of his own employees was behind the effort, he created a position within GE where she is now the head of charitable giving.
The third step: connect your brand with your web presence. People are looking you up online whether you realize it or not. Fellow employees and future employers are looking on social media outlets to see how you present yourself. Today’s trends in career management and social media make it extremely easy to showcase your experience and capabilities while easily networking with professionals in your field. Pay attention to your online connections to make sure the image you’re working for is consistent across all mediums.
No matter what you do in your professional and personal life, your primary product is yourself. By taking the time to carefully invest in these three steps, you will be able to leverage your personal brand to advance in your career.