A lot of people are under the misconception that only companies have a brand. That could not be further from the truth.
Your personal brand defines you as a person. It’s visible to your employees/employers, and it is crucial when hiring/applying for high-level jobs. You need a personal brand that defines you accurately and honestly.
These tips are a great starting point, but you’ll probably need to do more research. We suggest checking out this guide to personal branding. It will dive deeper into the process of building a successful personal brand.
What is a personal brand?
Your personal brand is essentially what makes you, you. In broader terms, it is a combination of the skills and qualities that set you apart from everyone else.
It should be accurate and show you in a positive light, not only online, but also in person. Ideally, your brand will make a good impression on both recruiters and engage your online audience.
Why it’s important to have a personal brand
Without a personal brand, how will people know who you are? It is a public representation of yourself. Of course, it’s understandable to be cautious about posting on the internet, but there are many reasons why it matters.
Almost all hiring processes take place online. The purpose of online branding isn’t just for submitting online job applications. Your personal brand also impacts jobs where the entire recruitment process is done in person. How?
Recruiters are likely going to Google you before finalizing a decision, and if nothing pops up, it’ll look suspicious. Even worse, another person on the internet could share a name with you (especially likely if you have a more common name)—but what happens if this person is your polar opposite (in all the wrong ways). That person’s branding could be mistaken for yours, only hurting you in the process.
Additionally, universities will Google applicants of similar academic quality. Your brand is the perfect opportunity to showcase your achievements and qualifications. Without any branding, it could be difficult to differentiate yourself.
As you can see, personal branding is relevant to students and professionals alike. It’s important that your personal brand reflects you.
10 tips for building your personal brand
Not sure where to start? Keep reading for tips on building your own personal brand.
1. Start ASAP
You need to start working on your personal brand as soon as you can.
It’s never too early to start. You might feel hesitant because you think you need more time to grow or have everything perfectly in place first.
Maybe you don’t have all of the right qualifications, a nice website, formal pictures, or a game plan.
And that’s okay. It’s better to something, potentially less polished or complete than you’d like, than nothing at all. Plus, employers will love to see positive growth and development. It shows that you are striving to be better every day.
For many of us, though, it’s procrastination. A personal brand is immensely important—it deserves your attention and effort immediately. If you don’t start now, you might regret it in the future.
2. Find yourself
The first step is to define yourself. This journey of self-discovery is life-changing. But what does it look like?
Self-discovery is reflecting on your answers to personal questions. In examining your answers, you should have a better understanding of yourself. Some examples will be provided below as a starting point, but you can dig even deeper into the exercise and come up with some of your own. It helps to write down your answers, so you’ll have notes to reference in the future.
The questions need to go beyond the surface. Your answers should help you gain clarity about who you are. Many people often start by analyzing their strengths and weaknesses.
Think about your motivations, likes, dislikes, political ideologies, religious views, or anything else that is important to you. It’s all about developing a deep understanding of yourself and how to authentically communicate who you are to the world.
3. Associate yourself with something that makes you unique
What makes you unique? You need to pay special attention to this question. Your answer directly contributes to your brand image. You want to be known for something that is unique to you.
Understand that you don’t have to be the only one doing something for it to be considered unique. Maybe one of your interests or activities isn’t super common, and you wouldn’t mind being celebrated for it.
Employers will be Googling you to see what makes you stand out from other candidates. You’ll want to set yourself apart in a positive way.
Even hobbies can set a tone for your brand. For example, if you love hiking, it could show employers that you’re adventurous and energetic.
On the flip side, employers could also perceive that you are a risk-taker, which might not be a popular trait for certain job roles.
Though you can’t always guarantee how you’ll be perceived, it’s wise to highlight the skills and interests that would be assets to employers and their companies.
4. Don’t try to be someone else
Your personal brand should reflect you. Once you’ve started the journey of self-discovery, it’s important to accept and embrace who you are. Don’t try to imitate others. People want to see the real you, not a copy of someone else.
Some people will try to imitate celebrities or other popular influencers in their branding, even if it doesn’t represent them accurately. This can come across as fake, and the results you see will be disappointing at best.
Avoid latching onto certain ideologies or belief systems to impress someone else. Projecting insincerity or a straight-up false narrative about yourself will only hurt you in the end.
Remember that imitation and inspiration are different. When taken too far, imitation blindly copies others. Inspiration is useful in recognizing and celebrating ideas; it convinces others to contribute positively.
5. Cater to one crowd
It’s impossible to please everyone. Once you discover your personal brand, you need to know your audience.
Remember the example of how different employers will perceive an interest in hiking differently? One perceives the applicant as adventurous, while the other perceives the applicant as a reckless risk-taker. The first employer is more likely to hire the applicant.
The bottom line? You can’t please everyone.
People tend to forget this, and they will do anything to impress others. They even start doing or saying things that they wouldn’t normally do or say. Don’t fall into this trap; as a wise man once said, “Haters gonna hate.”
All jokes aside, focus on the type of employer that values the real you and forget the rest. People with successful brands know their worth and don’t worry about pleasing everyone.
Cater to the crowd is a match for you and your personal brand.
6. Get out there
After gaining confidence in your own brand, you are finally ready to develop both an online and physical presence.
Let’s start with the easier task—creating an online presence. There are many ways to do this. With all the social media sites available, such as Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter, it’s easy to begin showcasing your personal brand through posts.
If written posts are not your thing, videos are a great way to connect with your audience. YouTube has become a popular platform in daily life. Why not capitalize on that? Grab a camera and make videos that reflect your brand.
If you’re wary about posting your life on social media, you could always start a blog to share your thoughts every so often.
Building an online presence is a piece of cake in this day and age, but it’s a little more complicated building a physical presence. You need to actively network with others. Find common ground and similar topics of interest when talking with others; it’s a great way to break the ice. From there, you can start conversations about your career and skills.
As you continue to develop your online and physical presence, you are that much closer to creating a desirable personal brand that makes for an easy hire.
7. Don’t contradict yourself
Now that your brand is out there for the world to see, you need to be careful about what you say and how you act. Your audience is always watching; plus, anyone can be a private investigator when it comes to the internet.
Nothing hurts your brand more than contradicting yourself. This is a crime that a host of celebrities are guilty of committing, and the internet does not forgive or forget easily. Always remember to practice what you preach.
Your words and actions should be a positive and honest reflection of who you are.
8. Stay out of drama
As I alluded to above, it is way too easy to get “cancelled” in the midst of drama or scandal.
Cancel culture is the practice of ignoring and boycotting people who are deemed problematic to society. This means that you want to be extra careful when sharing opinions online.
Cancel culture can have a positive impact on society. For example, the “Me Too” Movement exposed celebrities for committing heinous crimes. However, there have also been several misjudgments that have severely tarnished reputations.
The bottom line: steer clear of controversy. It hurts your brand image and can make you a polarizing figure—another undesirable trait in the job market.
9. Ask for help
Personal branding is an ongoing process—you have to keep growing. Stay consistent, set goals for yourself, and actively record your achievements.
This shows that you are determined and don’t give up easily. Having a healthy growth mindset reassures employers that you will stick with a company for a while.
If you stop working on yourself, you could be perceived as unmotivated. No one wants to hire an employee that doesn’t have the necessary motivation to work and grow.
10. Keep working on yourself
You won’t always judge yourself fairly. We’re often either too hard on ourselves or we think too highly of ourselves.
This is why you need an outside opinion. Ask your friends, family, or even colleagues to help you. Be open to feedback and criticism; it will help you build an honest and accurate personal brand.
Chances are, the people closest to you might think of something positive to add that you hadn’t thought of before. Or, they might be able to point out areas for potential growth. Lean on the insight of those who know you best when it comes to figuring out your brand.
The process of personal branding isn’t simple, but it’s worth the time and effort. These 10 tips should help you build a personal brand that highlights your best qualities and skills. In showing the world the real you, you’ll be surprised at what opportunities come your way.