You realize that you have been invited for a job interview. You know very well that the other candidates that were also invited best suit to fill in that vacant position, so that’s why they were also shortlisted. You know that you’ve the same qualifications, experience and so forth, but do you know what is going to save you during that job interview and win you the job? Personal Branding, of course. “Personal Branding is what people say about you when you leave the room,” – Jeff Bezos, Founder, Amazon.com. For those who watch the tv series Suits know of the big-time Manhattan corporate lawyer Harvey Specter, so, quoting his exact words once said:- “Anyone can do my job, but no one can be me.” We both know what Harvey Specter is like in the tv series, that without a shadow of doubt deny the fact that he is indeed a powerful brand, even if it’s just acting.
Understand this:-Your personal brand is what differentiates you from others
OK, let me explain.
The term branding has long been relegated to companies, but today almost every individual has a personal brand. Not many of us have consciously cultivated these brands, but they exist nonetheless. A digital footprint in the sands of time and space crowd sourced by friends, colleagues, and bosses.
The question is no longer IF you have a personal brand, but if you choose to guide and cultivate the brand or to let it be defined on your behalf. Here are five ways to start building an awesome personal brand.
Start thinking of yourself as a brand
What do you wish for people to associate you with when they think of your name? Is there a certain subject matter in which you want to be perceived as an expert or are there general qualities you want linked to your brand? Once you understand how you wish your brand to be perceived, you can start to be much more strategic about your personal brand. This doesn’t mean you can’t be human. On the contrary, as Michael Simmons writes, authenticity is key in the digital age. A strong personal brand can yield tremendous ROI whether you are working with an organization or leading one. Here are just two examples of individuals who have built up authentic and powerful personal brands here in Africa: Strive Masiyiwa (Zimbabwe) and Aliko Dangote (Nigeria).
Find ways to produce value
We’ve all been there. Someone in your network posts something utterly mundane or ridiculous, and you wonder what compelled them to do so? A medium is not a substitute for a message. Find ways to add value to your audience by creating or curating content that’s in line with your brand.
Be purposeful in what you share
Every tweet you send, every status update you make, every picture you share, contributes to your personal brand. It is an amalgamation of multiple daily actions. Once you understand how you wish your brand to be perceived, you can start to be much more strategic about your personal brand.
Associate with other strong brands
Your personal brand is strengthened or weakened by your connection to other brands. Find and leverage strong brands which can elevate your own personal brand. Start with the three C’s: company, college, colleagues. Which school did you attend? Are there groups you can join? An alumni newsletter you can contribute to? What hidden opportunities are available within your company which you have yet to tap? Consider submitting a guest post to the company blog or look at other digital assets you can connect to your brand.
A strong personal brand is dependent on a strong narrative. In other words, what’s your story? Take a second to think of celebrities you know who have a strong personal brand. Mark Cuban. Martha Stewart. Oprah Winfrey. Richard Branson. Mark Zuckerberg. They all have a very clear story and a consistent brand. If you have multiple passions or areas of interest, a narrative becomes even more crucial so there can be unified theme. If you need help defining your story, I highly recommend reading Reinventing You by Dorie Clark.
“Work until you no longer have to introduce yourself.” Harvey Specter.
Most importantly, remember that a strong personal brand should be ubiquitous and ever evolving.