Think about some of the world’s most recognizable brands, like for example, Starbucks. Most of us can spot that round, green Starbucks logo from a mile away. Now think about some of Starbucks’ brand attributes — the things they’re known for — like friendly service, comfortable atmosphere, free wi-fi, and a wide variety of coffees and teas.
Most people choose Starbucks because of one or more of those brand attributes. If you just wanted to grab a hot cup of black coffee on your way to work in the morning, then any gas station or fast-food chain will do the trick (and probably save you a couple of bucks). But if you want to get some work done on your laptop and enjoy a soy chai latte, you know Starbucks is a better option. You know this because they’ve built and marketed a memorable brand with the attributes you’re looking for.
Building and promoting your personal brand is essentially the same thing, just on a much smaller scale. (And you don’t need the Starbucks marketing budget to do it!)
What is a personal brand?
You don’t have to be a celebrity or social media influencer to have a personal brand. Regardless of your particular line of work or lifestyle, your personal brand is what makes you special and how you stand out from your peers.
When it comes to your career, think about your brand as how you’re viewed by the people you engage with in professional settings and in your network. It’s who you are as a business leader and what unique skills and competencies you bring to the table.
The most significant elements of an effective brand are:
- It’s memorable
- People can relate to it
- People feel good being associated with the brand (you)
- The brand is persistent and long-lasting
- It’s authentic (it truly reflects who you are)
Why do I need a personal brand?
Your personal brand can help you carve out a place in your industry. It can help you better communicate your unique strengths and differentiate yourself in a competitive job market.
Throughout your career, the brand you put forward and those things that make you unique are what will make you memorable to others. It can also keep you focused on achieving your career goals and help you make career decisions based on what will best fit with your personal brand.
When you’re in college or early into your career, your brand can be a guidepost as you choose what classes to take, what internships to apply to, and what companies to consider working for.
And the best thing about it? Your personal brand can change and evolve over time. Just like company brands change or even “rebrand,” you can change the way you present yourself as you grow and develop personally and professionally. As you participate in new experiences, you’ll learn more about yourself (your strengths, interests, values, etc.) and can refine your brand over time, even years into your career.
Identifying your brand attributes
As you reflect on your personal brand, identify what makes you different from your peers and competitors. To help articulate the value you bring as a professional, ask yourself these questions:
- What are my greatest strengths?
- What do I value most?
- What am I most passionate about?
- What makes me unique?
If you’re not sure how to answer all the above questions, enlist the help of those closest to you. Whether it’s your partner, best friend, parent, professor, or coworker, people that know you well might be able to shed some light on things you’re great at and attributes that make you special that you didn’t even realize.
Telling your brand story
Once you’ve identified your personal brand attributes, a helpful exercise is to distill them down into a memorable brand statement. It should be one or two sentences and clearly express what value you provide, how you do it uniquely, and whom you do it for.
In his article for Entrepreneur magazine, personal branding expert Ryan Erskine shares this example of a compelling brand statement for Santa Claus:
“Santa Claus is the jolly, grandfatherly figure behind the single biggest gift-giving operation in the world. Known for his spectacular flying reindeer and wacky chimney delivery system, Claus has become a loved cultural icon who’s turned Christmas into the modern celebration it is today.”
While most of us can’t compete with the bragging rights of Jolly Old Saint Nick, everyone brings their own unique personality traits, skills, and accomplishments to the table. Once you’ve identified what those things are for you, the next step is learning how to present that brand story to the world.
Like any good story, yours should be compelling, valuable, and engaging. Your brand story should also be consistent across all the different places you interact professionally, like:
- Conferences or networking events
- Professional organizations
- Your resume
- Your online portfolio or website
You should be presenting the same face in person, on social media, on your website, and anywhere else people can find you. If you’ve developed a truly authentic personal brand, then it should be easy — just be yourself!
Learn more on MyAKPsi
Take a deeper dive into personal branding in the Passport to Success course, available to all members and alumni in the MyAKPsi Community. Log in for more career and professional development resources to help you thrive in the working world.