Personal branding for professionals
If businesses can have brands, why can’t we? We return to brands we like, we’re loyal to certain ones, we trust them, we want people to know we affiliate with them and they can even shape our identities.
Imagine how employers, clients or people you want to network with would view you if you had a brand they liked.
‘Your personal brand is your unique identity,’ says Mickey Wilson, founder of brand specialists Firestarter. ‘This is made up of your personality, appearance, skills, expertise and track record. Elements of your personal brand come through in your every contact with the outside world.’
Personal brands are especially important if you’re early in your career journey, or even if you’re still studying.
‘It’s your personal brand that will get you career opportunities in the first place. Before any potential employer decides to invite you for an interview, they will review your CV and check out your LinkedIn profile. They may even do a deeper dive and look for you on other social platforms. Getting these things right first will put you on the starting blocks,’ continues Wilson.
How to portray the best version of yourself
- Think about what you wear and what it says about you
- Learn about body language and how people read into it
- Make sure your personality shines through
- Consider how you can best demonstrate your ideas, thoughts and expertise. For example, by writing an article on your specialist subject for LinkedIn
- Decide where and how you should show up. Which social platforms? Perhaps a personal website?
- Make sure your profiles are up to date and consistent across all platforms, and that your achievements are clearly listed
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How do you develop a strong personal brand?
It’s all just social media, right? It’s so much more, says Wilson: ‘Remember your personal brand is made up of your personality, appearance, skills, expertise and track record. This will clearly come through on social media, but it’s also the way you dress, the way you speak, your body language and the way you behave.
‘Consistency is very important, as is cohesion. You need to “make sense” to people. For example, you may proclaim your commitment to sustainability and green energy in your LinkedIn profile, but if you splash your love of fuel-guzzling sports cars on Instagram, this won’t make sense to people. It’s imperative, therefore, that you portray yourself as your true self at all times. Or at least the best version of your true self. This will build trust and certainty. Plus it’s so much more liberating.’
Wilson’s top three personal branding tips
- Be yourself. ‘This involves a little deep work – soul searching, if you like. The aim is to understand your goals, your personal values, your strengths, your personality. But most of all, your unique value – what is it that’s special about you that people would pay to have working in their companies, their projects, their teams? This could be something you are amazing at doing. It could be how you do what you do. Or simply your unique perspective. It’s very likely to be linked to why you love doing what you do. Essentially, this is your secret sauce and when you’ve identified it and poured it into your social profiles and beyond, you will start to attract exactly the right opportunities for you.’
- Invest in a great headshot. ‘Many people will spend out on clothing for an interview or a big meeting, yet they’ll use an old pic of themselves in a bar with their mates as their profile shot, or a blurry, distorted selfie. Some photographers charge as little as £50 for a studio shot. Aim for professional, but in a way that your personality comes across.’
- Your CV. ‘Don’t just think about what it says. Although, of course, this is essential. It’s important to consider other factors too – the layout. Does it look like you’ve invested time into it? Is it clearly structured? Well spaced out? Is it inviting to read? We have rejected many candidates before even reading their CVs because they haven’t invested any time in the presentation to make it an easy/enjoyable experience for the reader. Remember to triple check for typos (especially if you are in a sector where accuracy is paramount). Then get someone else to check it too.’