We all agree that branding is important to businesses, companies lose money when bad press comes out. How they respond can say more than the mistake or bad press. The same is true for your personal brand. Your personal brand is important to how you are viewed by people and companies. Your brand is more than your resume or LinkedIn profile. It includes, your online presence such as blogging and tweeting, in addition to your interactions with others in your industry. Whether it is big or small, everyone has a personal brand.
Your Personal Brand Will Proceed You
Your personal brand will walk two steps ahead of you at all times. This can be a difficult concept to truly understand when you are interviewing with potential employers. It might mean the difference between getting a phone screen or not getting a call at all. When you are starting out in your industry, the best thing your brand can say about is that you’re “new”, at worst it can say “immature”. After being in your industry for a few years, people will know you and have already formed opinions about you. If you know someone at company you are applying for, then their opinion of you means a lot. If they have a negative opinion of working with you, then you will probably lose the job.
Sometimes it has nothing to do with working with you. Sometimes it is a perception that you may not be aware of. Always being social and friendly with coworkers can make you look too social or that you don’t take work seriously. Cultural norms and understandings can make a difference in that perception too. It is important to know the expected norms of your industry as well as the company.
How do You Build a Personal Brand?
One way to build your personal brand is to keep it professional. That doesn’t mean being stiff necked or without personality, no one wants to work with someone who doesn’t smile. Like a standup comedian, it is important to read the room. Know who your audience is and speak politely in all cases. Take your time to understand how people interpret conversations, this is especially true in the modern workplace. Diversity is a good thing for companies, it drives innovation, but it can cause misunderstandings. One thing I learned is that jokes do not always translate well. While humor is universal, it is cultural at heart.
Steps to Build Your Brand
There are plenty of ways to build your brand, but there are some key steps you can take to start. These steps are general to most industries.
- Start by learning the industry you are in and understanding the norms and best practices.
- Stay friendly with coworkers, but don’t try to be friends with everyone. There will always be people that you get along well with and others that you will not. When you see conflict, read the room. Was there a misunderstanding? It is better to apologize for a misunderstanding earlier than later. Be professional in all cases with all people.
- Build an online audience and presence. It will be easier to build an online audience after you have built and demonstrated one offline. By blogging and writing articles on LinkedIn (and other sites), you are building a following.
- Interact with others online. While sharing is caring, interacting online spreads the word. Follow other bloggers in your industry and share comments. People are more likely to read your post when you show that you taken the time to interact with others.
- You have one life that you need to keep separated in two parts. It is easier to believe that you have a personal life and a professional life, then the reality that you don’t. You have one life that is divided between activities. Take care of yourself with proper sleep and balance, the rest will fall into place.
- Your work will speak for itself. For better or worse, how you work and your output will be reviewed by others. Do you make a lot of mistakes? Are you always volunteering for projects? These will impact how you are viewed. It is important to know that volunteering for projects and work is a double-edged sword. If you are taking on too much, your quality of work may suffer in addition to your quality of life. If that happens, you will be hurting your brand. The other downside is you might not be viewed well by your coworkers. Some team members will be suspicious of anyone who volunteers, others will be jealous. If that is happening, take a step back and encourage others to volunteer.
- There’s no place for a Casanova in your office. Working in an office for 40 plus hours a week you might find yourself fall for someone. Office romances traditionally end badly. Even if you end the relationship on good terms, you are hurting your brand. People will always remember that you had a personal relationship with a coworker.
In the End
Your personal brand is slow to build, important to maintain, and easy to ruin. We have all heard horror stories of graduates losing a position because of a Facebook post or someone losing their job because of a comment online. Sometimes it isn’t something you posted that holds you back from a raise or a promotion but instead a misunderstanding or a perception among colleagues.
The best way to maintain your personal brand is balance. Do not allow your work to consume your life, learn to disconnect, and spend some me-time. Small investments in yourself will pay large dividends in your quality of work which will build a positive personal brand.