I used to think a Brand was defined solely for business, company, or a product. What I have learned in the last several years, is that anyone can have a brand. Actually a perfect way to describe why people and professionals need a brand is best stated by The Economist – in that a brand helps one stand out from the clutter, and ultimately a brand is meant to generate more attraction. Just like an orange sitting in a pile of oranges, what makes you pick out the one you buy?
So, think about your career. How do you stand out from the hundreds of applicants, thousands of people at your company, and millions of professionals on LinkedIn? Answer, a Personal Brand. You need a Brand to not only to be distinct, but to be memorable. You want to get ahead of a company or interviewer labeling you and your capabilities, and instead take matters into your own hands.
Branding can feel overwhelming and unclear for many, however, so here are five actionable steps to help jump start your unique, self brand in your career.
5 Ways to Create a Self Brand in your Career
1. Know your Top Values & Brand Words
The most challenging question for majority of professionals is “Tell me about yourself”. I see it everyday. An intelligent professional becomes a deer stopped in headlights because people are so unsure how to describe themselves. But pitching yourself does not have to feel like pushing a rock uphill.
Start first by aligning with your top 5 values. Values assessments or picking your top values such as ones found here, can help you feel confident and sure of how you want to show up and describe yourself.
Additionally, be consistent when you describe your strengths, potential and capabilities. I frequently read through brand strategist approaches for “how to create a brand” in order to pick keywords to describe myself such as this book by Kelsey Kurtis. I suggest identifying around 5-8 key adjectives to describe why you are different. Think about what makes you good at what you do and why?
Once you align with your top values – write them down and take action to support your values. For instance, if I value innovation and my self brand is to transform companies through hiring talented people, then I am going to start taking action to support my brand. I can demonstrate innovation in my actions, goals and purpose. Embrace your values and the rest will follow!
2. Consistency in Story
Align with a consistent story: Know your career story – your career experience with a twist.
Your career story is not just a timeline of each role, it is a journey of the highs and lows. Most importantly, get used to sharing a turning point or failure in your career and how you fought through. Sure everyone loves a success story, but the most authentic and connected stories take you behind the scenes into failures and challenges. Companies (and people) love to hear how you bounced back and stayed resilient through a challenging moment.
3. Passion Projects
Create a name for yourself by leading a passion project. Only around 34% of employees are engaged at work and 13% of those engaged explore a passion project at work. When you are disengaged, you fall behind the scenes and lack energy, drive, and innovation. You will stand out beyond the crowd if you create vs. waiting for a project to fall in your lap.
So, think back to when you were a kid, what did you love to do? Or what passions do you have now that you want to bring into the workplace? An example might be creating a cohort of commonalities, volunteer group, or a wellness group. In my full time job, I presented an idea with a colleague and pitched an internal podcast on well-being…and guess what? It not only was accepted and embraced, but helped us (podcast hosts) stand out beyond our day to day jobs.
4. Focus on Inspiration vs. Comparison
Inspiration is key to bringing to life a brand. When you spend more time comparing title, wondering why your career journey does look the same as your MBA classmates, or find yourself going down a rabbit hole of “why not me” – I challenge you to turn the tables. Focus on spending time getting inspired.
Spend down time reading professionally inspiring books, take a virtual masterclass, or find a mentor to help you tap into your potential and strengths. You want to decrease time focusing on becoming who you think you “should” aspire to be and increase time to tap into your superpowers.
5. Build Connection Deep, Not wide
Deloitte writes a lot about how passionate employees have a connecting disposition that stands out. A connecting vibe that permeates a trusting environment with others is a ripple effect. Connecting deeply does not mean you are a “jack of all trades” kind of person. It means less can be more.
Instead of scheduling 10 networking chats or attending various random virtual events, focus on a specific few. Ultimately keep your network clear, purposeful and meaningful. When you are genuinely more invested in a connecting with professionals, you will show up more authentic and interested in the discussion.
Start to show up more intentionally. Tell your career story with consistency. Takes these few easy steps towards your personal brand in your career, and you will leave a room with a vibe – and not leave question marks.
” Your brand is what other people say when you’re not in the room.”
-Jeff Bezos, Amazon Founder