Monday, February 22, 2016 - By Andy
WHAT IS A BRAND?
Company and product branding is something we’re all familiar with. We can’t escape it whether we like it or not. But a growing and increasingly popular trend is the development of a personal brand to help with our career development. A traditional company/product brand isn’t just a logo and strapline, it evokes a collection of feelings, perceptions and awareness with regards level of quality, reputation and image. This same principle applies when considering a personal brand.
The purpose of a personal brand is to attempt to differentiate yourself in an often crowded and competitive job market. This can be particularly true in career areas where barriers to entry are high but potentially financially rewarding such as law. However, tough competition is certainly not restricted to such professions so it can be of benefit to all of us to create a ‘brand’ or reputation of quality. Sounds obvious and has probably always been the case, but in todays world of ‘social’ technology there are many more platforms from which a brand can be crafted and communicated.
PERSONAL BRAND - WHAT IS IT AND WHAT ISN'T IT?
A personal brand is all about trying to differentiate yourself from the competition, to get yourself known for something positive.
‘Personal branding is not about being famous, it’s about being selectively famous’ (William Arruda)
Put another way, it’s not about how many people know you, but how do they know you and what do they know you for.
It’s not self promotion it’s differentiation. It should not be an act, it must be who you really are.
This short clip by workyourbrand.org gives a nice succinct overview of what a personal brand is.
So, before we start developing our brand it’s important to think about
- Who needs to know you?
- What do you want to be known for?
- The image or impression you want to create in the mind of others
SOUNDS LIKE HARD WORK - WHY BOTHER?
Competition in most career areas is tough these days. In the modern world a large number of people have gone through some sort of higher education and so a University degree is less a differentiator than it was in the past. In fact, in many cases the degree simply puts you in a huge pot of people who possess the qualifications to put them in a position where they meet the minimum criterion and hence are allowed to apply for certain jobs or training opportunities. This point can apply no matter what your education / type of role you are looking for.
So how on earth do you stand out from the crowd? Displaying your intelligence on paper may not be enough, we need to show off our ‘selling points’ in different ways. What makes us unique (or as unique as it’s realistically possible to be), do we have a level of expertise and a focus in any particular area? This is hard to do and we may have to dig deep to try and carve out such a position.
Modern career planning demands that we take responsibility for shaping our own destiny’s more than ever. The one company/one job for life careers are rare these days, and moving between jobs and even careers is commonplace. Many people now adopt a ‘portfolio’ way of working, constantly balancing, developing and searching for various income streams and side projects. With this in mind it can be a good strategy to think of ourselves as head of our own one person company. As Tom Peters in ‘In Search of excellence’ said..
‘We are CEO’s of our own companies: Me Inc. To be in business today our most important job is to be head marketer for the brand called You.’
Peters also makes the point that these days ‘You’re not defined by your job title and you’re not confined by your job description’.
SO HOW DO WE GO ABOUT CREATING OUR OWN BRAND?
This can be stripped down to three suggested steps, as follows.
- Get to know yourself
Look at the various aspects of ‘you’ and build up a picture that will enable you to confidently take an angle from which to portray yourself. You need to be clear about what matters to you before you can craft and clearly communicate your brand to others.
What are your core values? What do you feel really matters? Is it wealth, independence, helping others, innovation? There are many values to consider and its vital to take the time to uncover what it is what makes you tick. But don’t forget, as times goes on keep checking on values. Do they still matter to you or something else become more important? We all change as we grow.
Think about your interests. Can anything from this area of your life help you to create a brand. Are you fascinated by new technology, love outdoor pursuits, have a need to travel and explore new places and cultures?
Take the time to evaluate your skills. Where are you strong and where do you need some development. How can you get the chance to develop these skills?
Consider your personality attributes. Are you extroverted, introverted, ambitious, friendly, argumentative, sensitive? Think of the attributes in terms of your rational and emotional charateristeristics. The rational are the core attributes that you will need to be able to perform at work. These might be assessed and compared against a job specification and a few fundamental characteristics may be essential, for example you are organised, methodical and a team player. Think about your emotional characteristics, such as good humour, a tendency to stay calm, the ability to be empathetic. These may be what help set you apart from the competition and make you stand out to those people who you need to notice you. To get a wider perspective on yourself do a 360 degree challenge by asking others how they would describe you.
Identify your niche or ‘unique selling points’. This is harder for some to do than others but if you have any skills and abilities that can set you apart it is worth considering if this should form part of your brand package – for example IT skills, an aptitude for languages, excelling at certain aspects of work
Have you identified your goals – short, medium and longer term? Do you have a career purpose? What do you want the future to look like, where do you want to be? Having answers to these questions helps you make decisions today to set you up for the future and to inform what you need to be doing and saying and to whom.
- Decide who you need to tell
Carefully consider the picture you have built up about yourself, along with your goals, and think about who you need to be speaking to to help you achieve them. Try and build a clear picture of the type of person that secures and succeeds in the job/s and career/s that you are targeting. How can you craft a position and a brand that may help you stand out as this type of person to those you need to communicate with?
Also think about who else is speaking with your target audience, i.e. your competition. How do they fulfil the audience’s needs and where can you add extra value.
- Communicate your brand
Armed with the knowledge of who you are and what you want to achieve you now need to communicate your brand. In part two of this blog, we take a look at how to plan and execute your approach to this vital step.
For help with creating and communicating your personal brand please get in touch.