Personal Branding: Just Do It

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Whether we realize it or not, brands influence us. The Union Starbucks always has a line even though there’s a coffee station a few counters down. Barrilla pasta still makes sales, even though there’s an identical product with a Great Value label right next to it. And have you ever brought up Coke to a Pepsi lover? (Hint: Their reaction won’t be warm.)

I could go on and on about product branding. I won’t, because I’ve seen my friends respond with enough blank stares to finally understand that most people don’t care. The bottom line is that how a brand makes a person feel determines whether or not they want it. This is where it becomes relevant: your personal brand does the same.

Developing a personal brand is a vital step in building your career. People yearn for things to set them apart, and being able to do that through a branding statement does this in a direct and catchy way.

So, how do you do it?

 Step 1: Determine Who You Are
This is the behind-the-scenes work. This part isn’t meant to impress anyone. Dig into your personality and figure out what it is. Think about personal characteristics you have. Think about how you tend to make people feel. Think about what you’re known for. What would make people say, “Oh that’s so you”?  Who do you surround yourself with? Why is that? Ask people you’re close with how they would describe you. Think about how you want to be perceived and seek out comments that reinforce that.

Step 2: Spin It
Take what you’ve gathered and pull things you find to be most true and the best selling points. Figure out what from that list is most relevant for your field. When I asked my closest friends to describe me each and every one of them said “sarcastic”. While I appreciated their honesty, it is not something I’m going to sell myself as. Discard pile. Another word they used was “creative”. I’m going into Marketing, perfect. Personal brand pile. I took personality tests, they showed I was analytical. So I started calling myself a Right-Brained Analyst. It’s a little weird, it’s true, and it’s concise. It’s part of my personal brand.

Step 3: Maintain It
A lot of people interchange personal brand and reputation. They’re not the same thing; a personal brand is much more narrow and particular. However, it is good to keep the word reputation in mind when you’re dealing with a personal brand. What you define and sell yourself as needs to be credible. This means that what you sell yourself as needs to be reinforced by what else can be discovered about you. This takes us back to lesson #1 in the job search: careful with your social media. If you’re selling yourself as a compassionate teacher don’t tweet about how ignorant your students are. If you brand yourself as someone who needs to be busy, don’t Instagram daily pictures of your legs by a pool. If you sell yourself as a health and fitness freak, don’t have a “Deep Fried Food <3” board on Pinterest.  Google yourself, see what comes up, and make sure it’s all aligned.

So, figure out who you are, figure out how to distinguish yourself, and own it. I promise this will make the inevitable “tell me about yourself” question much, much easier.

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