A question I’m frequently asked is, “What is personal branding, and why should I care?” My advice is the same regardless of career level or aspiration. Your brand is the experience that people have when they interact with you, whether that’s in person, on social media, or via your content. The number one goal of your professional life is to be the CEO of your career. To do so, you need to build a strong personal brand. Your brand is yours, and it’s portable.
Brand building occurs both online and offline, via a series of purposeful interactions. You must remember that you will have a personal brand, whether you actively manage it or not, so be sure to stay on top of it to ensure that it’s conveying the appropriate message. You want your brand to communicate the unique value that you bring not only to an employer but to your approach to life. The number one thing that most people get wrong about personal branding is that they lack vigilance. Becoming complacent can be dangerous. You need to stay on top of both your online and offline brand and to realize that everything you do affects them both.
Most importantly, you should be aware of the messages—both implicit and explicit—that you put out to the market. You want your brand to be positive, energetic, and uplifting, not dejected, and negative. Keep in mind that every interaction you have helps to shape your brand; remember that when you’re dealing with clients, coworkers, or even the barista. Remember that networking is a two-way street, so offer to help people in your circle when you can. Also, look to expand that circle by positioning yourself as an expert. You might speak at conferences, use social media platforms, contribute articles to industry publications, or even post to your own blog. Anything thought leadership you put out there that says “this person knows what she’s talking about” promotes your brand, increases your sphere of influence, and broadens your network.
Lastly, don’t be a jerk. Don’t monopolize conversations or fall into the trap of having to be the Smartest Guy in the Room. No one likes that guy. Be humble, seek advice from those who are more knowledgeable than you are, and give credit when credit is due. Be appreciative of accolades, but also be receptive to criticism. Take advantage of constructive criticism to help improve your brand.