Brand Yourself for Success
Branding yourself is an essential component of career building. Some people do it naturally, some try to do parts of it and others don’t do it at all. So what is personal branding and how do you do it?
What is a brand? A brand is a shortcut to a decision.
Think about these decisions and which brands come to mind:
Thinking about fast food for lunch?
Maybe you thought of Subway, Panera, or McDonalds. If you live in the Chicago area like me, people go crazy over Portillos, an upscale hot dog, burger and sandwich joint. I can drive by the local Portillos at almost any time of day and see a line of cars at their drive up window.
Do you want to buy a new laptop computer?
How about Apple, Dell, HP or Lenovo? Each of these is a powerful brand and has distinct attributes. These are all product or company brands.
So how do brands apply to people? Think about these decisions:
“I need to hire an outstanding project manager who knows how to deliver on time and on budget.”
“I need to hire a product manager who is innovative with consumer products.”
“I need a corporate executive with strategic instinct and the ability to lead people in a manufacturing environment.”
“I need a good mechanic to fix my car.”
Would your name come to mind if a hiring company was looking for someone in your profession?
Many of us know Bill Gates as one of the richest men in the world, the guy who started Microsoft, an aggressive and highly successful entrepreneur. Most of us don’t expect to have a brand like his. We might be striving to simply be a good salesperson, nurse, car mechanic, carpenter, teacher, administrative assistant or middle manager.
What is Your Brand?
Your brand is made up of your name, your skills, experiences, accomplishments, college education, employers, personal attributes, etiquette, image, and your value proposition (what business benefits you achieve for a company).
There are many components in a personal brand. The first is your name. How well are you known? Your skills, experiences and accomplishments say a lot about you and what you can do for an organization. Your college degree is part of your brand. Did you go to a prominent university?
Your past employers carry a lot of power with respect to your brand. Have you worked for a prominent organization such as Chase Bank, IBM, Proctor and Gamble, Toyota or Walgreens? Or maybe a well-known local organization in your community? If you are employed successfully with a well-known organization, it carries a strong brand image that translates into who you are. It can imply that you are a select individual who met tough screening criteria and performed in an environment of excellence.
Your personal attributes are a key element of your brand. These include personality and values. Are you smart, reliable or lazy? What is your personality? Are you easy to get along with? Are you enthusiastic? Honest? Do you place customer interests first? What is your image? How is your etiquette? What do you look like?
Your Value Proposition
Your value proposition is a vital attribute that can differentiate your brand. Most don’t even know what a value proposition is, much less think about how it plays into their career. What do I mean by a personal value proposition?
Your value proposition describes what you can do for an organization in terms of business benefits. Here are some examples (ideally these should be measurable):
- Improved manufacturing or supply chain process
- Increased customer satisfaction
- Developed an innovative product
- Achieved operational or capital cost savings
- Reduced staff turnover or increased employee satisfaction
- Increased sales
- Improved financial management and profitability
- Expanded a business
Here is an example statement about a professional and their value proposition (italicized):
“I am an information technology project manager and nursing professional. I have an excellent understanding of patient care processes and related software. I help healthcare organizations increase their care delivery efficiency and quality.”
Assess Your Brand
You can get an initial gauge of your personal brand via this tool. The answers to these questions begin to define your personal brand. How did you do? You might also want to get input from peers, and your current and former boss. Is your brand where you want it to be?
Five Fundamentals of Personal Branding
I’ve identified Five Fundamentals of Personal Branding based on my research of professionals with top brands and my experience as a marketing executive for a leading consulting firm. There my job was to build consultants’ brands, because they were our “product.” Here are the five:
- Plan. Many of us set financial goals, weight loss goals or other goals, but very few set career goals and create plans to make them happen.
- Perform. You must generate results to build a strong brand. Examples are increased client satisfaction, increased revenue, product/service innovation, improved financial performance, quality, processes or efficiency.
- Be Relevant. If you are working on something where you are making a positive and meaningful contribution to a goal that is important to your company’s senior leadership, then you are likely relevant. If you aren’t, you might be on the radar for outsourcing, off-shoring or downsizing.
- Be Visible. If senior management, key customers or industry leaders know who you are and what you do, then you are visible. There are proactive ways you can become visible without appearing self-serving.
- Build Relationships. Relationships build your brand. The best way to build relationships is to help others. For example, you can provide knowledge, contacts, moral support or do tasks for people, without expecting anything in return.
So if you haven’t thought about your personal brand, you might want to consider a brand self-assessment, developing plans and applying the five fundamentals to boost your brand, and your career success.