As a marketer, you understand that strong brands open new markets, create buzz, and attract lines of customers stretching around the block.
So, why don’t you pay more attention to your personal brand?
In the employment market—as in the consumer marketplace—a strong, strategic brand makes the difference between being in demand and being lost in the crowd. It gets you noticed, acknowledged, considered first for opportunities. Just like a consumer brand, a great personal brand doesn’t happen by accident; it takes strategy and work.
Shoppers line up for the latest iPhone: Does your personal brand have the same effect?
Take Colin Powell, a fantastic leader with a precise personal brand. Every speech he gives leaves you in no doubt of the exact message he planned to deliver. Or consider Lady Gaga, whose outlandish brand almost belies the amount of thought she puts into appealing to her followers, from the way she engages online right down to the shoes she wears.
You don’t need a brand strategy for life but you should have one for the next two to five years. Next time you assess your professional goals, consider what type of brand will get you there, and align accordingly.
Four building blocks of personal branding
Your brand is everything people notice about you. Its building blocks are your professional assets, including your networks, the achievements on your resume, and the way you present yourself. Some assets are expensive—suits or golf clubs, for example—but others cost little more than time. Consider these:
1. Your online image:
It costs nothing to keep social media profiles up to date and on brand. Join groups strategically, post content regularly, and engage the right people.
Guard your online brand carefully, and think before you post. Language can be misconstrued online—consider the associate sociology professor recently placed on leave for sarcastically asking Facebook “where I can find a very discreet hitman” after a bad day. Search engines will ensure that this is part of her brand forever.
2. Your elevator pitch:
First impressions count; people form an opinion of you within 10 seconds. Make the most of that window with a prepared “pitch” introducing who you are, why you’re here, and what you stand for.
I have several elevator pitches. I have one for events in which the aim is to build my network and reputation as an expert, for example. I arrived on the first day of my current role at Vocus with a new pitch explaining what I’m here to accomplish.
Prepare several of these crucial assets. Practice them until they come naturally.
3. Your network:
Network with the people you work with and meet. Learn about their role and what they do. Follow up and continue to engage with them, so you can reach out in future.
Network with everyone: alumni, family, and friends. Even a neighborhood party can be a forum to build your networks. This April, I introduced two neighbors: one working for Microsoft in IT, one working for an IT professional services firm and looking to make a move. The latter now has a job at Microsoft based on that connection.
4. Your resume:
Even the strongest personal branding efforts won’t disguise a poor track record. Just as in business, you need a great product to support your brand long-term. Always maintain a focus on your performance, your responsibilities and the extra value you can deliver.
You can turn a poor brand around with new accomplishments over time. Take President Bill Clinton, once a textbook example of bad decisions and fumbled communication. Today, people are willing to look past it, due to his later achievements. Personal branding turnarounds like this are amazing to see.
A last word for cynics…
Don’t want to participate? You can choose not to pay attention to your brand, but remember that other people always will. Your brand is like your body: You can’t separate yourself from it. Just like your body, your brand serves you better when you look after it.
What are your best brand assets?
Holly Paul is the chief human resources officer at Vocus. A version of this article first appeared on the Vocus blog.