Few things are more important than your personal brand. Your resume is not. Your alma mater is not. The number of followers you have? No way. And that killer photo you posted that garnered 50,000 likes? Nope, not that either.
And there’s a reason. Your personal brand precedes you, and it stays around after you leave. It’s what you stand for, the values you embrace, and the way in which you express those values. It’s how people learn about you, and it’s how they will remember you. By definition, it is you. And that’s exactly why you should spend time thinking about it and developing it. It may just be the most important thing you can do for your reputation and your career. Today, I want to give you three ways to not just develop it but crush it.
It may seem obvious, but many seem to forget: your personal brand should be about you. Your authentic self. What makes you stand out? What inspires you to do your best work? What unique thing do you do that you want others to see as well?
Some people take this in a different direction. I’d argue they take it in the wrong direction. They use personal branding to advertise what they aspire to be and what they wish you thought about them. But this is problematic. When you really get down to working together, people figure it out. The people exaggerating their personal assets almost always, eventually, find themselves in a situation where the truth comes out. And then their personal brand is no longer that aspiration; it’s a lack of credibility. Months or years of trust can be reversed in a single moment. I can’t think of a faster way to jeopardize a relationship.
As Oscar Wilde once said, “Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.” Spend time thinking about your talents and what you bring to the table better than anyone. If you need help, ask your friends and closest business associates. And if it is some sort of “work in progress,” then be proud of that. No one should be ashamed about wanting to be more skilled tomorrow than they are today. I admire when someone says, “I may not know the answer today, but I will find it and get back to you.”
Do an authentic, personal inventory of what makes you uniquely awesome, and use that as a starting point for your brand. When people get to know you more, it will just reinforce that brand.
Many people have talents, but they don’t leave something of value. I believe this is a missed opportunity. Be known for bringing value to every meeting you have.
Whether you are meeting with one person or 500, think about how you can be valuable to that audience. Value can be as simple as a piece of advice that is appropriate to the audience, or a personal story that inserts a little humor in their day. When people repeatedly witness that your presence brings value, your brand will be even more desirable.
Your brand should also portray engagement, rather than a message via megaphone. By this, I mean don’t just bring your mouth to the meeting; bring your ears. People want to be heard, and when you engage with them, you learn more about how you can solve their problems. You deliver a better product. You make them feel like they are a part of the meeting, not just a target of your message.
Ready to start branding (or better branding) yourself? Begin writing why you are uniquely awesome, the many ways you can be valuable to others, and how you can better engage with your audience. Write down the positive attributes your brand will deliver. Be sure to convey your brand consistently and intentionally because your legacy depends on it.
Now Go Forth and Conquer!