Whether it’s Illy, Nespresso or Starbucks, some of us cannot start the day without the powerful beverage. Wherever we go and whatever we do, we are branded! Brands are ubiquitous! It's either the coffee, the pen, the watch, the glasses, the bag, or the phone that tell a story about who we are.
Just like we choose brands we identify with, others will choose us for what we represent. Just like we adore a feature of a product or a service because it makes us feel a certain way (Starbucks coffee) or enables us to perform in a particular manner (Nike trainers), the very same way others will choose to work with us, interact with us, follow us, talk to us because of the value we provide to them.
Personal branding is the story people tell about you when you're not in the room
What do you say to others about your favourite brand? That you're happy you discovered it because of the value you get, because of what it enables you to do, because of the amazing experience you've had with it? When you flip it to yourself being a brand, Personal Branding is the story people tell about you when you’re not in the room. So it’s about how others perceive you, how you show up, what you do consistently most of the time. In the Age of the Individual, we have to be our own brands regardless of our age, regardless of the position, regardless of the business we are in.
I had an amazing chat with Liene, an ambitious business owner, recruiter and a friend, about all things Personal Branding. What it is like to have a brand called YOU? How to create your own brand and then market and maintain it? What makes you YOU? What is so special and extraordinary about you? What value do you offer? How to uncover your uniqueness and what to do with all this self-awareness? Why Personal Branding is so important? Why do you have to sell yourself? Why would you want to stand out? How can the value you offer to others positively impact your life?
In our exchange we challenge why knowing your value is crucial to living a meaningful life. Once you know what you are good at, you can do more of that. Once you do more of what you're good at consistently, you get a feeling of pride, fulfilment and satisfaction. In consequence, you become an expert, you become recognised, appreciated and your expertise and uniqueness get acknowledged. You get to love what you do. Therefore, investing in finding out what makes you YOU is primordial! Knowing your strengths, talents and passions, will have you be yourself to the best of your ability. Thus personal branding is not about singling yourself out, being in the spotlight and boasting about how great you are. It is about appreciating your strengths and making the best out of them, serving others to the best of your ability.
1. Create a brand called YOU
Tom Peters, the father of Personal Branding, advises to start with identifying what you value.
He insists: “Become relentlessly focussed on what you do that adds value, that you’re proud of and that you can shamelessly take credit for”. Second, identify what makes you unique, third identify how you want to be perceived as opposed to how you see yourself and four identify your speciality. Be patient however - creating a brand is a process. It takes time but it's fun and very rewarding. It doesn't have to be daunting. It is an investment in yourself, it boost your self-awareness, it helps your reach your potential and it will lead to a meaningful life so it should be seen as such - meaningful.
Personal branding is being yourself to the best of your ability
Personal branding is being yourself to the best of your ability so you first need to know who you are. Book in a few meetings with yourself and put "self-discovery" in the subject line of the meeting. Ask yourself: what do I love, what am I passionate about, what could I lose myself in even if there were little resource, what gives me indescribable pleasure and satisfaction, what do people appreciate about me, what would I do no matter what for hours? Write it down, cross out anything you don’t absolutely love, what’s not true anymore. What is the theme? What is your story telling you?
To continue 'your value discovery', identify where you stand out, how you're special, how you differentiate yourself from your peers or colleagues, what you want to be known for and build a reputation around, what is it that your service does that makes it different?
Get a Clifton Strengthsfinder assessment to identify your talents. It'll give you a very accurate description of your strengths and what actions to take to do a lot of what you do well.
Feedback is a gift. Ask your family, friends, customers, colleagues, ex-colleagues about your greatest and clearest strengths and compare your impression of yourself with that of others - be ready for it as there might be some discrepancies. Welcome both positive and constructive feedback because there is no learning without feedback! I had a client who suffered from low self-esteem and was convinced everyone saw her this way. When I spoke to her network, they described her as a confident and communicative person. Even when she learnt about it, she was not comfortable with the positive feedback.
There's no learning without feedback
Personal branding is about acknowledging and taking pride in who you are and what you are good at so learn to take credit in how you add value. Otherwise you risk missing out on brilliant opportunities. Perhaps this modesty about celebrating our achievements comes from our upbringing where it was frowned upon rather than encouraged. I can personally relate to it, as growing up in Poland the focus was more on the weaknesses, so if I got three As and a B in maths the question was about the one B and not about the three As.
2. Market your brand
Once you've gained more awareness about your value, you'll have more commitment and confidence to communicate it in everything you do. The most important thing is visibility and presence. Tom Peters said it already in 1997 so it’s all the more important nowadays.
According to Forbes magazine “Your personal brand should follow you everywhere you go. It needs to be an authentic manifestation of who you are and amplify what you believe.” With this in mind, your personal brand is not only a reflection of your jobs but also values like giving back.
Everything from the way you handle phone conversations to the email messages you send to the way you conduct business in a meeting is part of the larger message you're sending about your brand. In meetings, do you keep your contributions short and to the point? Do you prepare for your meetings, is there an agenda, do you take ownership of the meeting and send a report or a follow up with the main points agreed?
How do you relate to others? How do you build rapport? How do you greet? One of my managers always used to put his mobile away in his pocket when greeting others to show respect and be fully there when giving the hand-shake.
It's all about visibility and presence
To market yourself, create and seize new opportunities and responsibilities – take every occasion to be seen. Take initiative and sign up for an extra project inside your organisation, just to introduce yourself to new colleagues and showcase your skills or work on new ones. Talk about what YOU have done rather than what we have done. Be assertive and ask for what you deserve.
3. Maintain your brand
A personal brand will not happen overnight. It is a lifelong project that keeps evolving. "Building your brand is not a one-time deal. Once you create it, you will be required to maintain your brand moving forward and always be consistently assessing and reassessing yourself to make sure you are living up to the promise of the personal brand you have presented.” says Mohammed Altaee, one of the most passionate and generous personal branding bloggers out there today.
Be in charge of your brand
I'd advise to bear in mind that we are in charge of your brand no matter what job or project you're in. It's vitally important to be aware of the impact you leave on others and remember all we have is our own reputation and that's our brand. Reviewing and reassessing your brand and reaching out for honest, helpful feedback on your performance, growth and value will ensure the consistency of the message you want to convey. Also, keeping a positive attitude and helping others will only help grow your brand in the long run.
4. Why is personal branding important?
There is this widespread belief that if you do your best, someone will notice. In many cases it isn't enough. We need to take initiative to market ourselves. Opportunities don’t happen, we create them, so we're entirely in charge of our brand.
Once you know what you're good at, you will want to do more of it
When we know what our personal brand is, we will perform at our best because we’ll be doing something we’re interested in and enjoy doing. Being aware of our strengths, we’ll be confident and proud of delivering an added value. We’ll be happiest in an environment where we can be authentically ourselves. Work does not feel like work when it aligns with our talents, skills, and abilities. We feel a greater sense of satisfaction, fulfilment and achievement.