Ask yourself this question: Is your personal brand taking you to the places you want to go in your career? How do people see you at work? Perhaps you have a reputation as the problem solver, the organizer or the deal maker – but is it serving you well? One of the most important questions you can ask when building your personal brand and looking at what’s next for your career, is what do you want to be known for?
Personal branding expert, William Arruda explains that your personal brand is not your job title. If you’re relying on your job title to position you to others, then you’ll wind up being a commodity and blend into the crowd of thousands of people who do the same thing that you do. Instead, he suggests people with strong brands know the value they create, who they’re creating it for and the outcomes that people expect.
Your personal brand is not just what you do; it’s how you do it, for whom you do it, and why you do it. It’s about the difference that only you can make for others because of the unique value your purpose, strengths, expertise, and experience brings to others. People with strong personal brands get noticed because they share their passion for what they do in a way that is relevant to the people they want to serve.
Take this example, as Arruda outlines in his book Ditch. Dare. Do! 3D Branding for Executive Success: what if at your next networking event you met Sarah, who introduced herself to you as “a biologist and senior researcher of Bio Research at ABC Pharmaceuticals.” Would her personal brand grab your attention? Probably not.
But what if Sarah said, “I manage a team of scientists who design drugs for very rare diseases and make a difference in people’s lives. It’s a great reason to go to work every day.” That sounds a little more interesting and memorable. Or how about if Sarah said, “I battle bugs every day, the kind of bugs that cause rare diseases and make people really sick. My team and I won’t rest until we’ve squashed them.”
Now you have a chance to see the passion, dedication, intelligence, and irreverence that is authentic and unique to Sarah. This is her personal brand, and it won’t easily be forgotten.
Of course your personal brand has to be believable, it isn’t a case of just wishing to be someone you’re not, but it can be about growing into the person (and brand) you want to be. When I first met Lyrene in the workshop, she was an operations manager in a financial services company. She was incredibly capable and had built a strong personal brand in the role she was in, but her heart just wasn’t in it. Passionate about people and creating positive change, she wanted to be in a role that helped unlock human potential in her workplace.
But she had no requirement in her current role, or any brand permission, to play in that space. She couldn’t just walk into the office and declare she was moving on her from her personal brand of operations guru and would now be a people expert. She needed to lay out a path of brand evolution and give people time to evolve their understanding of the unique value she was capable of bringing.
After being part of our Lead Like A Woman program, Lyrene went back to work and spoke with her manager about the additional value she felt she could bring by leveraging her strengths and sense of purpose. This was the first step in shifting her brand, and enabled her to start picking up additional development opportunities and involvement in HR programs and special projects whilst still doing her current job.
Then as time went on and Lyrene consistently talked about and sought out ways to act upon the personal brand she wanted to be building, she began to be recognized more and more for the people expert she was becoming. In fact, this enhancement of her personal brand recently helped Lyrene land a key promotion, and elevate her career to an entire new level.
So how do you want to be remembered by others? Play with the following questions and see where they lead you when it comes to your personal brand and career success:
1. Imagine it’s one year from today and you’ve achieved the career goal that you currently have for yourself. How would the value you create, who you create it for, and the expected outcome be described by a:
Customer recommending you to one of their friends.
A peer explaining your role to a new colleague.
Your boss recommending you for promotion.
Based on this, write one or two sentences that could be used in an email to introduce and position yourself to a client, a colleague or at a networking event. Try to capture the value you create, who you create it for and the expected outcome of working with you. For example, mine might read: known for my passion and expertise in women, leadership and work, I help women step into their power and create positive change for organizations.
2. Below are some suggested personal brand templates that might help you (just pick one of these to complete) and remember to convey your warmth and strength:
I use my ___________ and ___________ for ___________.
Known for ___________, I ___________.
Using ___________ (key strength), I ___________, by providing ___________.
Through my ___________, I ___________, when I serve ___________. Or feel free to create one that feels authentic to you. Think about Sarah the bug squasher!
How believable do you think this brand statement would be to the people you work with today? If it feels like a stretch, think about how you can start telling the story of where you’ve been, how your past relates to your future and where you’re going now. What are the steps you’ll need to start taking to make this brand evolution believable to others?
Evolving your personal brand takes time and effort. You need to get clear on who you are in your career and life now, and what your vision is moving forward. Spending the time and energy to get to your authentic core and align that with your passion and purpose, will help you to define your personal brand and to answer the critical question everyone needs to know the answer to: what do you want to be known for? And it will play a more important role in your career success than you could ever imagine.
This is an edited extract from the best selling book Lead Like A Woman.