Marty Neumeier, author and speaker on all things branding, defines a brand by first laying out what a brand is not; “A brand is not a logo. A brand is not an identity. A brand is not a product … a brand is a person’s gut feeling about a product, service, or organization.” A brand is a story that people tell about you when you are not in the room.
What do you want people to say about you when you aren’t in the boardroom? After your MBA or job interview, what do you want them to remember? At networking events, what kind of vibe do you want to leave behind? What you want people to say, remember and feel about you is your personal brand – rather than leaving it to them to create for you, let’s take some time to build one instead.
Here are three steps you can build a personal brand that truly reflects who you are, what you stand for, and where you are going.
1. Know who you are at your core.
Being introspective about who you are at your core and aligning that with your values is the key first step to building a personal brand.
Knowing your core values helps you establish the essence of your personality. This will allow you to be authentically you, no matter where you are. Your core values will be your north star. If asked to take on a project that doesn’t align with your personal brand, it will be easier for you to say no in order for you to keep pursuing things that serve you.
To establish your core values, try this simple exercise from Gino Wickman, author of Traction. Begin by listing six people who, if you could clone them, would lead you to personal and professional success. What are the qualities they exemplify? What do they do that puts them on the list? Write them all down so you may see all of the possibilities.
Your core values are somewhere in that long list you’ve just created. The rule of thumb is to narrow that final list down to 3 to 7 core values–less is more.
Once you’ve established your core values, do an honest SWOT analysis (Strength, Weakness, Opportunity and Threat) on your skills, personality traits, past and current roles. Do your current and past roles align with your core values? Then think through the following questions: What motivates you? What drains your energy? What inspires you?
2. Determine your goals and what you want to be known for.
With your values and strengths in mind, time to determine your goals. Start with the end in mind. Doing so will help you self-manage your life and your career. This roadmap will help you keep a pulse on where you are and where you are headed.
Think about where you see your life in the next five to 10 years. Ask yourself what you want to be known for. Do those goals align with your values?
Once your goals are established, work backwards to reach your goals. What organizations can you be a part of to build a network towards those goals? What MBA programs, certificates and classes would help you retool or expand your skills? Write down your vision and consider what actions it will take you to get there.
3. Be consistent.
To alter the perception of those sitting at the table when you aren’t present, your personal brand must be consistent. The roles you take on at work, your lifestyle, your hobbies, and extracurricular activities should align. Your social media presence should also communicate your personal brand.
Before posting on social media, applying for a new role, or building a new friendship, ask yourself, “Does this fit with my brand?” These questions shouldn’t feel like a daunting task since your personal brand should naturally align with your core values and career goals.
Once you know who you are, where you are going and the steps to get there, live and breathe this in all areas of your life – this is the key to building a lasting personal brand. Excellence happens on purpose. For example, Beyoncé didn’t become a household name by accident. She developed her goals, she understood her values and what she stood for, and has been consistent for decades. To that point, your personal branding never stops, and it takes time to develop. So, give yourself grace and permission to take control of your narrative, or someone else will.