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Create a Personal Brand for Career Advancement

05 Jan

“Branding” is a marketing term that traditionally applied to products and services and their characteristics. It is a way of bringing a product to life so to speak and a way of making it easier for consumers to both identify and identify with it, and is therefore a critical component to a customer’s purchasing decision. One would typically talk about the corporate brand (Grace, Digicel, BMW), and the product brand (supligen, BMW M3 Coupe).

These days “branding” has taken on new dimensions and no longer solely applies to products and services, but now also people and what they do (medical technician, architect, car salesman). This is termed personal branding. Though this concept has been around for several years, and I notice has been discussed exhaustively throughout the internet during this time. Nevertheless many people still hold the belief that personal branding is just for celebrities such as Halle Berry or Denzel Washington, yet according to the experts each and every one of us is a brand. Since personal branding, by definition, is the process by which we market ourselves to others, as a brand, they say, we can leverage the same strategies that make these celebrities or corporate brands appeal to others. We can build brand equity just like they do.

Though I get the concept of personal branding and see the benefits of it, I have to admit that the idea makes me feel somehow robbed of my humanity; as if I’ve been reduced to the status of an inanimate object. But despite of this, I see that it is now the way of the world and definitely what I ought to be doing, especially in the present job market where everyone is looking for a leg up on the competition. And even though Jamaica is not as advanced as many nations of the world in how we use social media for business, we are making advances in this area more and more.

Now, the difference between today and over ten years ago when the concept was first mentioned, however, is the rise of social technologies that have made branding not only more personal, but within reach. These days, customer complaints and opinions are online and viewable through a simple search, on either Google or through social networks. There is no hiding anymore the pundits say, and transparency and authenticity are the only means to survive and thrive in this new digital world. Mmmm. I’m sure with limits though, because there have been cases, globally speaking, of persons who have lost out on jobs because the information and images they posted about themselves on the web put them in an unsavoury light, showing them partying and carousing, etc. Clearly they were too transparent.

However, when professionally approached, Dan Schawbel, the author of “Me 2.0: Build a Powerful Brand to Achieve Career Success”, and owner of the award winning Personal Branding Blog says we can have just as much presence as most startups and mid-size companies and products. Social media tools have leveled the playing ground and have enabled us to reach incredible heights, at the cost of our time. Now, this all sounds nice, but it needs to be broken down further. Just how does one develop a personal brand in line with current technologies? I went online to educate myself about the latest in the topic and steps to take to get myself “up to speed”. Here’s what I discovered:

First step: Find your brand.

In getting started you need to bear in mind that your personal brand is extremely important whether it’s with your blog or on other social media sites such as Facebook. The single biggest mistake people make in putting together a personal brand is that they either brand themselves just for the sake of doing it or that they fail to invest time in learning about what’s in their best interests. The key to success is the tried and true advice, which is to be compensated based on your passion. In order to find your passion, you need a lot of time to think and to do some research online to figure out what’s out there. Take time to understand what it is your personal brand represents. Decide what you have to offer others. Brand discovery is about figuring out what you want to do for the rest of your life, setting goals, writing down a mission, vision and personal brand statement (what you do and who you serve), as well as creating a development plan. What special knowledge do you have that could benefit the lives of others? Have you ever been called intelligent or humorous by your peers or coworkers? That description is part of your brand, especially if you feel those attributed pertain to you. Discovering your personal passions and building your personal brand around them can lead to a very profitable lucrative business with dedication and consistency.

Before you enter the next step in the personal branding process, you’ll want to select a niche, whereby you can be the master of your domain. For example, Joel Comm has mastered the Google Adsense niche and brands himself using his name, and Brian Solis owns the social media PR niche with his PR 2.0 blog (under his name). Domain means an area where there aren’t many competitors and literally, your online domain name. Strive to become an expert in your particular niche, and continue updating yourself and honing your skills so that you constantly have updated value to offer to others. Once you sort this all out, it’s time to create your brand. Sounds interesting to me. So let’s take it further.

Second step: Create your brand.

Once you understand what your personal brand represents, start adding value. You must make others aware that you are a leader and expert within your area of expertise, and you can do this by adding value to the lives of others. Once you do this, you start becoming attractive and will stand out from the crowd. Take massive action to get your personal brand out there. Don’t feel the need to copy another person’s personal brand. Individuals are overwhelmed with an array of messages everyday and remember that you are trying to stand out from the crowd and the best way to achieve this is to be yourself, your own brand, unique. And in developing this brand, consider that though crucial to stand out from your competitors, it is incredibly important that you’re not forgotten about.

Now that you know what you want to do and have claimed a niche, at least in your mind, it’s time to get it on paper and online. The sum of all the marketing material you should develop for your brand is called a Personal Branding Toolkit. This kit consists of the following elements that you can use to highlight your brand and allow people to easily view what you’re about:

1. Business card: Irrespective of your station in life – university student, CEO, or a consultant, everyone should have their own business card. It is recommended that the card contain your picture, your personal brand statement (such as Jamaican Financial Expert), as well as your preferred contact information and corporate logo if necessary. You can create your own business card and share it. On the web, BusinessCard2.com is a recommended social network for creating and distributing your personal business card.

2. Resume/cover letter/references document: These are typical documents that you need for applying for jobs and when you go on interviews. Be sure to prioritise each document with information customised to the target position. Take your resume online and add social features to it to make the ultimate social media resume, promoting your personal brand to the world and making it shareable.

3. Portfolio: Whether you use a CD, web or print portfolio, it’s a great way to showcase the work you’ve done in the past, which can convince someone of your ability to accomplish the same results for the future.Figdig.com and carbonmade.com are social networks for people who want to show off their creative skills to the world.

4. Blog/website: You need to own yourname.com or a website that aligns with your name in some fashion. Depending on who you are, how much time you have on your hands and if you can accept criticism, you should either start a blog or stick with a static homepage. Those who blog will have a stronger asset than those who don’t because blogs rank higher in search engines and lend more to your expertise and interest areas over time.

5. LinkedIn profile: LinkedIn profile is a combination of a resume, cover letter, references document and a moving and living database of your network. Use it to create your own personal advertising, to search for jobs or meet new people.

6. Facebook profile: Over 160 million people have profiles, but almost none of them have branded themselves properly using this medium. Be sure to include a Facebook picture of just you, without any obscene gestures or unnecessary vodka bottles. Also, input your work experience and fill out your profile, while turning on the privacy options that disable the ability for people to tag you in pictures and videos (allowing people to see the ones tagged of you).

7. Twitter profile: Your Twitter profile should have an avatar that is carved out of your Facebook picture and used in your LinkedIn profile. You need to use a distinct background, fill out your profile and include a link to either your blog or LinkedIn profile. Twitterbacks.com, developed by internet mogul Jim Kukral, has templates you can use to sculpt your very own Twitter background (Photoshop skills not included). Twitbacks.com is another solution that also lets you promote your Twitter profile.

8. Video resume: A video resume is a short video of you talking about why you are the best for a specific job opportunity. You get about a minute or so to communicate your brand and are able to send the link, once you upload it to YouTube, to hiring managers.

9. Wardrobe: Your personal style is tangible and is extremely important for standing out from the crowd. Select clothing that best represents you because it will be viewable through your pictures/avatars online, as well as when you meet people in reality.

10. Email address: Don’t overlook your email address as not being a significant part of your toolkit. Most people use email over all social networks and when you connect with someone on a social network, you are notified via email. Your email address poses a great opportunity for your brand. I recommend using gmail because of the acceptance of Google and since GTalk allows you to form tighter relationships with others. For your address, use “firstname.lastname@gmail.com.”

Once you get your personal brand’s message out there don’t waiver on it. A consistent message and visitor experience will be important factors for your branding. Consistency will build trust. Also, people welcome honesty and integrity; therefore do not offer anything you cannot provide. Rather, acknowledge your own fallibility and deliver on your assurances. So in a nutshell, it’s a lot of work to create a personal brand, but the advice is that once achieved, it can lead you down a path of freedom and a lifetime of purpose and passion. I like that thought, so I’m going to ensure that I’m on top of things. Hope to see your information out there too!

 
 

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