If we want to take control of our career moving forward, having a clear vision around the type of brand we want to be known for is crucial, writes Alisa Bartholomew.

Personal brand is quite simply the brand that is you and what you stand for. Whether you are a full-time employee, contractor, business owner or consultant defining who we are and how we describe our brand can be really challenging for people.

The reason that we need to be thinking about our personal brands, is because with, or without, our input there will be one being created.

People will be making judgements and have perceptions of who we are. If we don’t think about it, and own it, we run the risk of a brand being created that doesn’t align with our career values, talents and aspirations.

And if we want to take control of our career moving forward, having a clear vision around the type of brand we want to be known for is crucial.

When I have a client who is suddenly confronted by having to move into the job market after 20 years, they haven’t necessarily thought about how they are going to articulate their brand to the marketplace.

And suddenly they are confronted with needing to talk about themselves to their networks, recruiters and HR managers. When people haven’t been an active participant in controlling the narrative of their own brand and struggle to articulate what this is, they are left with a more difficult battle to create one.

Whether you are thinking about career progression, moving from your workplace or dealing with redundancy, having an existing brand that you have been intentional about makes life so much easier.

It readies us for change and we are able to take opportunity on and gain faster momentum in the development of our professional and leadership brands.

Part of being successful with cultivating our brand and being in control of our own narrative is knowing and accepting who we are. This helps us create a consistent brand presence with colleagues and contacts. It can be quite a balance managing the key aspects of who we are and making sure that these align with what we promote in our careers.

 

Defining your brand  

How do we define our brand then? To work out what your personal brand is, spend some time thinking about:

• How do you want to be seen in the workplace?

• What descriptive words do you want other people to use to describe you?

• How do you want others to think and feel about you?

It is important to remember there is no right or wrong answer for how you want to seen – we each have different values that represent what is important to us, and what we ideally want to get out of our career.

It is important to make sure these values genuinely align with who you are to support the formation of your personal brand as authentically as possible.

 

How do others currently see you? 

A really great way to evaluate our brand is to ask other people what they think of us.

I have clients do this both informally just through a conversation, and more formally by giving them an actual form to complete. If your organisation does 360 reviews, take a look at the feedback and think about how it makes you feel.

While this can be a challenging exercise it can be critical in identifying issues with your brand so you can target this moving forward. A nice outcome of the exercise is that this can give you lots of positive reinforcement about your skills and make you realise areas or strengths that you hadn’t previously identified.

 

Develop your profile

Once you have worked out what you want your brand to look like – do a self check – how do you think you are doing? Are there examples of achievements at work, projects that you have worked on, improvements that you have suggested and embedded that demonstrated the key aspects of your brand?

If there are you need to do two key things:

  1. Write them down – great for your CV and keeps track of what those achievements are but also great at performance review time.
  2. Tell people about them – you need to be able to clearly articulate what you can do – why are you useful and again what are the strengths that you could bring to any future leadership roles.

If you are thinking about your brand and realise that you have no examples that demonstrate how you want to be seen then you need to get moving. And there are so many things that you can do to achieve this – but be prepared – they all take time and energy.

• Get involved in extra projects at work – go the extra mile. But make sure those projects serve a purpose for you and achieve your brand goals.

• Get a mentor – informal and formal mentoring is out there – identify someone that you think will support you – that will help champion your brand for you and work with them. Get feedback and ideas re what you should be doing, your performance and how you can extend yourself.

• Do a course – make sure this is relevant to the skills that you want to grow and nurture in the future.

• Join a professional association.

Please know that this process is not going to happen overnight. It does take time. A deeper more memorable brand takes a number of months to really embed and if we want to change or elevate this brand, this takes continual effort and energy to develop and really cement with people. Plan for this to take months and then make sure you don’t stop.

 

Know and develop your story

After thinking about our own brand and what we want this to look like, we then need to put this together into a short sharp ‘story’. Be able to articulate this both verbally and on platforms like LinkedIn. This means you need to write it down, practice it and be aware of what you have put up on LinkedIn.

I often have clients that forget what is even in their profile and that is definitely not selling a very good story at all.

 

Learn to articulate your strengths

Talk to your colleagues about what you actually do and ensure senior leaders and managers know what your achievements have been.

If your organisation has conferences or awards you can apply for – do it. Practice how these strengths sound when you say them out loud so you feel comfortable and confident talking about them.  Write them all down so you can pinpoint the ones that you want to develop further.

 

Grow and nurture your networks

Get networking – go to industry events, talk to other departments at work, go to social events and reach out to people on platforms like LinkedIn to build your network.

Giving back to those networks though is how relationships are embedded and become long-term. Make sure you are as open to promoting someone else’s brand as you are your own – this will help create a strong network willing to support your brand and ultimately your career.

 

LinkedIn

One of the benefits of knowing and being able to articulate your brand is that you can use this on social media platforms like LinkedIn.

LinkedIn is great – especially in New Zealand as we have such a high proportion of the workforce using this. It is such a nice easy way for us to articulate and promote our own brands and engage with our networks as well – so if you are looking for time-saving brand promotions techniques – this is for you.

There are some key sections on LinkedIn that you can utilise to promote your brand including your headline, the summary section and your employment history.

You can also take a look at additional sections on LinkedIn including projects, awards and volunteer sections. To further endorse your brand, ask colleagues to write a recommendation for you on LinkedIn – you can even help them by suggesting the strengths and skills that you would like them to promote for you.

 


Alisa Bartholomew is the founder and principal coach at Careers by Design where she specialises in coaching solutions that help clients shape their career and navigate the job market. She has more than  18 years’ experience leading initiatives that span job search strategies, interview preparation, career coaching, career assessment, personal brand and, importantly, CV writing and LinkedIn. She collaborates with IMNZ on personal brand and LinkedIn projects.

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