Defining your personal brand is a vital modern career investment. Understanding and being able to present your unique combination of skills, experience and personality in a coherent shorthand is a guide to your value for employers but also a personal compass for your own career choices and a way to attract the kinds of opportunities that truly align with your values, aims and needs. As more of us choose portfolio careers or career journeys that are not strictly linear, particularly women who are often looking for flexibility and agility in their working lives, a strong personal brand can help us and others understand the golden thread that runs through our work lives. A personal brand gives you the power to design how the world sees you — and whether you are starting out in your career, or further along, it’s vital to invest in crafting your personal brand. But building a personal brand doesn’t have to be a huge time investment or be stressful — take the first step and try these three fun exercises to move yourself forward in 15 minutes or less.
WHEN YOU HAVEN’T CONSIDERED, OR NEED TO UPDATE, YOUR PERSONAL BRAND, IT’S TIME TO FLATTER YOURSELF
Personal brands all start with the need to understand who you are and what you want to be known for. And these are questions that are as relevant to someone who has been working in their role or industry for years as they are to a newbie entering the workplace for the first time. It is never too late to refresh our view of ourselves and check in with our talents, needs, wants and vision for our future — and by extension refine our personal brand to help our careers stay fresh and relevant. However, when it comes to congratulating ourselves, or considering what we really want, we can often censor ourselves for fear of being seen boasting or as a result of imposter syndrome. To allow yourself the freedom to really explore, try reframing your self-awareness – and have fun by flattering yourself instead.
The exercise: Draw a line down the middle of a piece of paper and make two lists; the first list is the ‘Flatter Yourself List’. Here, write down all of the things that you’re great at and that you feel are positive in your career. Don’t hold back; if there is a hint of truth in something — ‘I’m quite good at asking questions in meetings’, the chances are there’s probably far more than that in reality, so remember to flatter yourself. Then compile a second list, entitled ‘Be Real with Yourself’, with the things you struggle with or avoid doing. A combination of the two should provide an invigorating and balanced snapshot of who are you are now — and what you might want to craft into your personal brand going forward.
WHEN YOU’VE WORKED ON YOUR PERSONAL BRAND, BUT WANT TO TAKE IT TO THE NEXT LEVEL, IT’S TIME TO THINK OF YOUR ENEMIES
Once you’ve got clear on your skills and talents then it’s time to…get clear on what you stand for. You are pulling all of these elements into what is effectively a mission statement, and the single most important level in your personal brand identity. However, it can be quite daunting to decide on What You Stand For off the top of your head and to see how all the smaller elements fit into that. Reverse psychology means that sometimes being clear on what you’re against actually makes it easier to understand what you do stand for. But you want to be able to do this with clarity and not get bogged down in emotion. Using narrative frameworks outside yourself and your real life to explore this will allow you to focus on the essence of things in a neutral, yet equally informative way.
The exercise: Ask yourself the question: ‘If your personal brand was a superhero, who are the bad guys?’ You need to know who your nemesis is and why — what are you trying rid the world of as a superhero in your field? And while you’re at it, ask yourself, ‘What are my superpowers?’ — a great supplementary question if you have extra time. Your answers as to what your superhero/brand is against, when turned to their positive equivalent, will shine a powerful light on your values, your greater purpose and your authentic career goals, factors that drive you and should be an integral part of your personal brand.
WHEN YOU’VE DONE THE GROUNDWORK, YOU’RE READY TO AMPLIFY IT AND IT’S TIME TO BE YOUR OWN MARKETING TEAM
You’ve got an idea of what your skills and interests are, you’re clear on what you stand for and your personal brand is taking shape, but you’re going to need to put it to work out in the world. You need to be intentional about marketing your personal brand, simply blogging ‘into the void’ or showing up occasionally on social media won’t work. And you can learn a lot around this from the way successful commercial brands create their narratives, align their messaging and deploy both to cut through in a crowded marketplace. The same rules of marketing – coherent message, compelling content, community creation and feedback loop — apply as much to a personal brand as they do a commercial one. And like commercial branding you will need to weave your personal brand into everything you do — so consider your brand as a product and get creative about marketing it.
The exercise: Think of a global brand you admire and imagine it has taken over your personal brand. Choose three things on your flattery list that you’d like to amplify, then consider three channels and three ways a marketing team in this brand might do that. Don’t dwell on how you are going to do anything or if it’s a ‘good idea’ — this is an exercise to open your mind to possibilities around expressing your personal brand and channels to do it in, from a new slogan (for your Twitter account) to a LinkedIn endorsement to a website refresh/change of packaging or a networking campaign to create community or change around a personal brand value.