So how do you get started? Whether you’re building your brand from the ground up or just need to give your existing identity a bit of a facelift, here’s an overview of three steps that you can use at any point in your career or job search—all of which we’ll cover in more detail below.
1. Determine your brand attributes. Decide on the three or four descriptors that best define your brand, which will be key to developing a tagline and impression that is powerful, memorable, and truly you.
2. Draft your branding statement. Before you panic, know that we won’t be asking you to write a novel—just one or two sentences that capture who you are based on the attributes you chose.
3.Refine your profiles. At this point, you’ll update your social media profiles to reflect your newly drafted brand statement. The objective here is to make your online presence consistent and compelling (we have advice coming that can help!).
Step one: Determine your attributes
Identifying the attributes that define your brand involves not only understanding yourself but also how you are perceived by others. You might think you know what your greatest strengths and attributes are as a professional, but do you, really?
It can be challenging to objectively identify your own strengths and personality traits, but you can learn a lot about yourself by getting feedback from the people who know you best.
To start, choose eight to ten trusted friends, peers, and mentors and ask or email them the following questions:
How would you describe me in three words?
If you had to introduce me to a new professional contact or colleague, what would you tell him or her about me?
What traits do you most admire or enjoy about me?
What makes me different from other people you’ve worked with in the past?
Listen and take notes. It can be helpful to do this with two different groups—one made up of people who know you more intimately, such as close friends or family members, and one made up of more distant acquaintances, like former colleagues, mentors, teachers or bosses.
Now look again at all the descriptions you gathered. What are the three to five descriptors what people seemed to agree upon? Circle those that seem like strengths, and underline those that could have a negative connotation, so you have a better sense of the whole picture you’re working with.
Now in your own words, write down the five words or phrases that you agree are accurate (try to be as objective as possible!) and that you’d like to convey to a potential or current employer. Feel free to rephrase these in a way that would be most appealing to someone you’re trying to impress or aspiring to work for.
For example, when Jennifer, a project manager, asked these questions to a group of her peers, friends, and mentors, they described her as:
“Always willing to help others”
“Puts others before herself”
“Reliable and friendly”
“Easy to get along with”
“Likes to smile a lot”
“Follows through on tasks”
“Works hard for others”
From these descriptions, it sounds like Jennifer is personable, friendly, and altruistic; she’s also a hard worker and reliable. So here’s one way Jennifer might describe her attributes: “Affable, agreeable, and gets along well with others.”
But wait, here’s an equally accurate description: “Relationship builder, strong follow through, and motivated to collaborate.”
So, which should she lead with? The first describes someone you’d probably want to be friends with, while the second is someone you’d want to hire on your team. In terms of branding herself professionally, Jennifer should probably opt for the latter.
But what if the feedback you get back isn’t so clear cut? Or what if, some of it is critical or negative? Here’s how Zach, a sales manager, handled this. When he asked his group of friends and colleagues the same batch of questions, their responses were:
“Smart and occasionally irreverent”
“Determined and hard-charging”
“Passionate and occasionally stubborn”
“Willing to take risks”
“Authoritative, loves to take charge”
“Intelligent and ambitious”
With Zach, a different kind of profile is emerging: he comes across as smart, motivated, and risk-oriented, but not as collaborative. In fact, based on this feedback, you might even describe him as brusque or overbearing.
Again, would those descriptors appeal to an employer? Probably not. Zach would benefit far more from positioning himself as an ambitious leader and confident go-getter who will go the extra mile to achieve a goal.
As you see in these cases, making yourself more visible in the workplace isn’t just about describing yourself. Yes, you need to hone in on words that capture you, your strengths, what motivates you, and your aspirations—but you also have to put it through the filter of, “would someone want to hire or work with this person?”
So, for example, rather than saying “enjoys helping others,” you might write down ”natural mentor” or “problem solver.”
Step Two: Drafting your branding statement
Disclaimer: The branding statement you are about to write today is not carved in stone! In fact, from month to month and year to year, you should continue to refine how you define and brand yourself. But for now, let’s create that first draft.
The basis for your branding statement will be the attributes you defined in the first step. But you don’t have to stop there; consider adding a few additional elements that are more tailored to you and your mission—for example, the skills and attributes more specific to your target industry, the service or expertise you offer, or that describe how people benefit from working with you. Note that, if you’re still juggling multiple career path options, it may be helpful to craft a slightly different brand statement for each.
Of course, your brand statement should communicate not just who you are today, but who you want to become. So come up with a few words that describe who you’d like to be (but be realistic; if you know you’re a card-carrying introvert, don’t put down “social butterfly”).
You might also want to draw inspiration from people who have similar attributes to you, or who work in jobs like the ones you’re after. What words do they use to define themselves? (LinkedIn is a good place to look for this). What common terms do you find in their personal profiles? How are they separating themselves from their competition? If you come across words or phrases that resonate with you and your vision, add them.
Now that you have all your key terms phrased in a way that will paint you in the most positive light, it’s as easy —and as difficult—as combining it all together in a few brief sentences.
For example, after going through these steps, and here’s what Jennifer came up with:
“Consensus-builder with keen people skills; project management expert who seamlessly works across large organizations to get big things done.”
Zach’s brand statement became:
“Driven leader who excels at leading sales teams to achieve aggressive goals—and keeping everyone laughing along the way.”
This is going to sound like a crazy statement to make in a career piece, but don’t worry too much about your CV at this stage in the game. For now, we want you to zero in on creating and finessing a narrow, focused brand statement that captures the essence of you in just a few sentences—think of it as your personal elevator pitch.
Step Three: Refine your profiles
Now that you have a branding statement, it’s time to start communicating it to the world and making your skills more visible. Of course, you won’t always use it exactly as it looks above- you’ll need to tailor and refine it to specific employers or your job – so think of it as more as a cheat sheet to help you craft everything you use to present yourself, including what we’ll cover next: your social media presence.
Surely it won’t surprise you to learn that these days, most job searching is done online; and that goes not just for job seekers, but for employers and recruiters as well. Trust us, while you are scouring the web for jobs, recruiters are scouring the web for qualified candidates, which means that a strong social media presence – with profiles that not only clearly communicate your brand but do it using the right keywords and language- not only gives you an opportunity to impress employers or professional contacts when they check you out online, but it makes them that much more likely to find you in the first place.
If you’re at a point where you haven’t landed on a single career path yet, you have two options for what to do in this step. If the career paths are even somewhat similar, the same personal branding may apply to both—for example, if your brand statement emphasizes being a go-getter and a team leader, it may not matter whether you decide you want to land at a start-up or a PR firm . But if your career paths are far enough apart that you’re not ready to commit to a brand that you’ll share with the world, feel free to bookmark this feature and come back to it later.
Now, you probably have a number of social media profiles, and to some extent, they can all be used to showcase your personal brand and make you more visible to your boss and potential future employers. For the purpose of establishing yourself in the professional arena, we recommend focusing on LinkedIn. A LinkedIn profile that accurately communicates your brand and career goals is pretty much a must; as the largest professional social network out there, LinkedIn is the ideal place to establish your professional identity, network with professionals who are in your desired career path and connect with future employers.
A compelling Linkedin presence can be a gamechanger in making yourself visible online- see this guide for making your profile shine , and to up your visibility create a personal website. A website is the perfect vehicle to display your work, connect with others, and establish yourself as an expert in your field.
Once your ‘personal brand’ is pulled together in this way, put yourself out there by creating content, participating in conversations, and carving out your unique voice.
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