Personal Branding: How to Make Your Mark
by Haley Lyles
One of the most successful businessmen of all time, Jeff Bezos, famously said: "Your brand is what people say about you when you're not in the room." In today's entrepreneurial landscape, building a personal brand is essential to set yourself apart from the rest.
Your personal brand helps you stand out to recruiters by creating a unified and succinct summary of who you are and what you do. While the information on your resume is confined by an 8 ½ x 11 piece of paper, your personal brand extends to showcase all aspects of your life and presents a united image of yourself to recruiters, opening the door for more professional opportunities.
What Is Personal Branding?
Personal branding is the fusion of your skills and experience that makes up who you are and how you market yourself to the world. Creating a personal brand can pave the way for new opportunities like moving upwards in your career, building recognition in your industry and improving your network.
Personal branding helps you succeed in ways that corporate branding never could with companies because with personal branding, you are the brand. By establishing a successful personal brand, you can separate yourself from the competition and make your mark on your industry.
The rise of the internet has also supercharged the importance of having a personal brand. Before connecting with people around the world was possible at our fingertips, personal brands consisted mostly of things like business cards — but with the increased popularity of professional networking sites such as LinkedIn, your personal brand can now be seen on a global scale.
Examples of Successful Personal Branding
Some of the most successful people in the world started where you are today. To get to where they are now, many successful entrepreneurs and businesspeople had to build their brands and work their way to the top.
One of the best examples of successful personal branding is technology entrepreneur Elon Musk. From Tesla to SpaceX, Elon has made himself synonymous with the tech industry and created some of the most talked-about companies in the world. With the Model 3 Tesla's EV market share around 60 percent, Musk is using his entrepreneurial talents to make his mark on the automotive industry and the world.
However, what Musk personally has done right is create a personal brand that is entirely separate from his companies. He uses his companies to build the credibility of his personal brand as a visionary and entrepreneur — and elevates it even further with his relatability and candid interactions with others.
Lesson: Make your brand more than the work you do
Another excellent example of personal branding is internationally acclaimed singer-turned-businesswoman Rihanna. Although Rihanna initially rose to fame in the music industry, she has made her mark on the beauty and fashion world as a tastemaker and entrepreneur.
She used her personal brand to build an empire with her Fenty Beauty and Savage x Fenty lines, both of which have been praised for their inclusivity in shade and style ranges. Rihanna's boldness and ambition helped her disrupt the status quo and prove her worth as an individual with an array of talents and passions.
Lesson: Don't be afraid to break the mold
Benefits of a Personal Brand
Building a personal brand can help open the door to new opportunities, highlight your strengths and build trust with your audience. Regardless of the position you're applying for, highlighting your personal brand on everything from your cover letter to your personal website is crucial to make yourself stand out.
Seeing as 85 percent of U.S. recruiters and HR professionals report that online reputation influences their hiring decision to some extent, it's clear that building a positive online presence is crucial to open the door for new opportunities. Whether you're just starting out in your professional life or looking for a career change, personal branding can give you an edge by conveying your value to recruiters concisely and authentically.
How to Develop a Personal Brand
Developing a personal brand helps add value and credibility to your application, giving recruiters a tangible idea of who you are and what you can accomplish. Keep reading for our seven steps to successfully develop your personal brand.
1. Find a Niche: What Are You Better at Than Anyone Else?
The first step in building your personal brand is to find a niche. To do this, you should start by determining your strengths and weaknesses, and assess what makes you stand out from the rest. Some questions to help foster this process are:
- What are your hard and soft skills?
- What are your passions and interests?
- What credentials do you possess?
- What would you consider to be areas of growth and areas of expertise?
- What types of projects have you particularly loved working on?
- What makes you forget to look at the clock?
It's crucial to find a niche that can evolve with you. Your interests are not stagnant, so choosing an area of focus with growth potential is crucial for long-term personal brand development.
2. Determine a Target Audience: Know Who You're Catering To
Once you've identified your niche, you should figure out who your target audience is and how to tailor your personal brand to them. While many people make the mistake of casting their net too wide, it's essential to understand that you can't cater to everyone — and that shouldn't be your goal.
You should start by determining who you want to connect with and the best ways to reach them. Are you tailoring yourself to recruiters? Maybe a specific company?
A great way to figure this out is by creating buyer personas, which are fictional representations of who you're trying to market yourself to. Buyer personas are a common tool used in marketing to create tangible examples of an ideal customer and can help you work backward to determine where and how to reach your target market.
3. Develop Your Brand Personality: You Don't Want to Seem Like a Robot
Once you've figured out your target market, you should move on to developing your brand personality, or the human emotions and characteristics that become associated with your brand.
When developing a brand personality, it's essential to stay authentic. Your brand personality should accurately reflect your goals and values — because you are your brand. To develop your brand personality, try asking yourself questions like:
- What is your "why"?
- What can you bring to the table?
- What are your most integral values?
It's important to note the difference between your brand personality and brand identity. While your brand personality highlights the characteristics and emotions that your brand evokes, your brand identity covers the more tangible aspects of branding, such as your logo.
Developing your brand identity is rooted in design. Whether you are building your resume, designing a personal website or upping your social media presence, having a consistent theme across all platforms helps tie together the idea of you as a brand.
4. Create Relevant Content: Build Your Personal Brand Equity
A great way to connect with your audience and build personal brand equity is by creating relevant content. By sharing your content, you build trust, establish yourself as an authority in the space and nurture relationships with your audience.
One of the biggest upsides of content creation is that there are so many types to choose from, so you can find the content format that works best for you. Popular formats include blog posts, mailing lists and podcasts, but there are a number of ways to begin creating relevant content for your audience.
Another way to build your personal brand equity is by sharing third-party content. Sharing helpful, industry-specific information shows your audience that you are always consuming knowledge and learning more about your field.
To increase your visibility even further, promotional aspects like guest blogging, appearing on podcasts and consistent posting can all help you build a bigger audience.
Think of it like this: If a hiring manager compares you and another candidate who has similar qualifications, your active online presence can put you ahead of the game while your competition is radio silent.
5. Build Your Social Media Presence: Take Control of Your Online Image
Along with creating a content strategy, it's important to have a social media presence to match. As 70 percent of employers admit to using social media to screen candidates, it's clear that building a strong and professional online presence is a key part of the modern-day job search. Additionally, social media as a recruiting tool is gaining significant popularity, with 71 percent of recruiters believing that social media is effective in decreasing time-to-fill for non-management, salaried positions
However, with 54 percent of employers finding content online that resulted in not hiring a candidate, it's important to take control of your online presence and regularly perform a self-audit to keep your content clean and professional.
A good trick is to Google your name and review your profiles as if you were an employer. Does the content you post support your qualifications and indicate that you're a professional?
Strong candidates will want to dominate the first page of the search engine results page (SERP). With 69 percent of employers reporting using search engines to research candidates, it's important that you take control of the results they find. You'll want accounts such as LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter or any others relevant to your industry to show up. For example, aspiring graphic designers may want to have an active Dribbble page showcasing their work.
For social media platforms such as Twitter, many people choose to have separate personal and professional accounts. Using a professional account, you can increase conversation flow and prompt responses by asking the audience questions or having CTAs in posts and stories. These direct-response methods encourage feedback and create a dialogue with your audience, building trust and credibility over time.
To elevate your social media presence even further, try having a consistent profile picture and username across all platforms. Additionally, you should always ensure your content is clean (even if your personal profile is private).
6. Learn to Network: Take the Road to New Opportunities
Learning to network effectively is crucial to building a strong personal brand. When done right, sincere networking can give you a library of new resources, increase your web of connections, and help you stay on people's radars.
One of the best resources for networking is a mentor. Finding and maintaining a relationship with a mentor is one of the most powerful tools to boost your career. Mentors usually have an extensive network of relevant industry connections and can provide unique and relevant insight into your career.
Another great networking resource is to follow industry thought leaders. Whether you are following the biggest in the business or smaller micro-influencers, engaging with thought leaders allows you to build rapport in the industry and connect with others motivated individuals in your field.
Informational interviews with people in positions or companies you want to work for are another tried-and-true networking method. These interviews can help you build connections, find a potential mentor, get referrals and receive feedback on how to make yourself a more dynamic job candidate. You may be surprised at how many people are willing to agree to a 20-minute informational interview to explain more about their company or job position.
Building your network is essential to elevating your personal brand. In many job applications, you're required to submit a reference list sheet — and having a sincere network of people who have worked with you or know you professionally can help you make a great impression when searching for your new job.
7. Sell Yourself: The Art of Building an Elevator Pitch
An elevator pitch is a roughly 30- to 60-second summary of yourself where you highlight your professional skills, strengths and experience. While you may have an outstanding job application and stellar online presence, your elevator pitch is where you can show recruiters why you stand out from the rest.
To nail your first impression, you should have your elevator pitch practiced to perfection. If you need to craft your elevator pitch, start by asking yourself some of these basic questions:
- Who are you?
- What makes you different from everyone else?
- What are your goals?
Your elevator pitch should be concise, positive, and, most of all, confident. No matter your skills or experience, delivering your elevator pitch with certainty and poise is what will make you unforgettable.
Using a Personal Brand Supercharges Your Job Search
Use Your Resume as a Starting Place
When you build a personal brand, you are "filling in the gaps" on your resume and application materials to give people a well-rounded picture of who you are and where your talents lie. Your resume contains your hard skills, work experience and education, but your personal brand gives hiring managers a comprehensive look at you as a candidate.
Make Your Mark
Hiring managers see so many job applications that standing out isn't just brownie points anymore — it's essential. With the rise of gig work and internet-based recruiting, having a united personal brand is a fundamental part of building a fruitful career. If you want to make your mark, focus on developing your personal brand to position yourself above the rest.
Your personal brand is everything that comprises you. By developing your personal brand, you become a more memorable candidate and show recruiters (and the world) that you mean business.
Whether you are a college student trying to land a great internship or an established professional in your field, having a personal brand conveys your value to others in a concrete and authentic way. No matter where you are in life, it's important to keep your resume up to date — you never know what opportunities might come your way.