You know the story. A virtual nobody emerges from nowhere to become the “it kid” in a particular field.
Suddenly, someone barely known is on everyone’s short list of people to meet.
That’s the gloss.
Yet, while it seems magical, and that it happens only to younger people, anyone can do this.
What’s the secret?
Hard work, focus, and understanding how to create a “personal brand.”
What Is a “Personal Brand”?
No worries if you don’t know the meaning of “personal brand.” This term is not part of the typical vocabulary.
Your “personal brand” is your reputation.
Or, in Jeff Bezos’ famous words —
“It’s what people say about you when you’re not in the room.”
The term, personal brand, gets bandied about a lot in marketing circles and is understood almost intuitively by many millennials.
The term is frequently misunderstood as self-promotion and chest pounding. Wrong!
Genuine personal branding is not telling people how terrific you are, but showing them through your expertise and generosity.
Personal branding is sharing your ideas and offering to help, putting your best foot forward in a particular area, and demonstrating humanity while doing so.
Why a Personal Brand Is Required Today
Once upon a time you did not need a personal brand. If you’re like most people, you grew up believing your resume was your calling card.
Your resume documented your credentials, experience, and accomplishments. Heck, what more did you need?
Today, your resume and accomplishments are not enough if you want to continue to work.
If a company is deciding between someone with a magnificent resume and someone else with equally good credentials plus a recognizable brand, they are likely to hire the person with brand recognition. That employee will add luster to the company.
And your personal brand will distinguish you.
If you plan to start your own company, there is no better ticket to building your business than establishing your brand. Your personal brand will differentiate you from everyone else in your space. And add cachet.
You Already Have a Personal Brand
Despite these advantages, some people shy away from the term believing that branding yourself is somehow cheating or fake. In fact, I have had people tell me authoritatively, “I do not believe in personal branding.”
There’s just one problem —
You cannot avoid having a personal brand — even if you do not want one.
After all, everyone has a reputation.
What the concept of a personal brand does is to change the terms of engagement. No longer are you letting others define you. Now, you are setting the rules.
Done right, a personal brand is a powerful concept that can change the course of your career. Your personal brand will do the following:
- Provide name recognition.
- Differentiate you.
- Make people want to engage with you.
- Showcase your expertise and personality.
- Ease you getting another job or starting a business.
- Package your years of experience into a message people can relate to.
Just like a product has key elements associated with it — such as coolness, beautiful design, and ease of use for the iPhone — so too do people associate you with certain traits.
Whether you like it or not, you are labeled. It’s a shortcut for people to understand you.
Finding and Defining Your Personal Brand
Here’s a quick exercise to discover how are you perceived by others.
- Ask a few friends or colleagues to describe you with a few phrases.
- See if other people’s assessments match your own.
If those descriptions don’t match your own view, what can you do so so your self-perception matches that of others? [Hat tip to Dorie Clark, speaker, consultant, professor, and author of Reinventing You, among other books, for suggesting this exercise. ]
So now that you know what a personal brand is, how do you get one?
1. Ask yourself these questions…
- What are you passionate about?
- If you could do just one thing, what would it be?
- What gives you meaning and purpose? How can you do more of that?
- What are the few qualities you would like people to say about you?
- How do people misperceive you?
- What are you doing now that is getting in the way of what you want to do? Can you eliminate that activity or behavior?
- What skills do you have? What skills do you need to acquire?
- How are you different from other people in your area of expertise? How can you make yourself better?
- Are your skills suitable for another industry?
Your answers should help point you in the direction you need to go.
2. Create your elevator pitch.
An elevator pitch is a few sentence which describe yourself. This can be aspirational at this point.
Use it to help you state your mission. Make it engaging and connect where you have been to where you want to be.
Let me show you what I mean.
Let’s say you’re a lawyer who now wants to work with non-profits. You might say,
“I am passionate about helping non-profit companies use the law to advance their mission.
In my years working with corporations, I learned how to help large companies grow their businesses through legal channels.
Now, I want to apply my expertise helping corporations succeed to helping non-profits and give back some of my hard-earned skills.”
People often err by mucking up elevator pitches with credentials focusing on say their 30 years of experience and their career trajectory from manager to senior vice present. Instead, talk with passion and enthusiasm about what you want to do. Paint a story that makes people care.
Once you get your elevator pitch down, use it on your social media profiles. It’s an effective way to describe what you’re about. For your profiles, remember to use key words people are likely to search under.
The Bottom Line on Creating a Personal Brand:
These are first steps to take to begin to create a personal brand. In future columns, I will show other steps to take along with featuring people who have successfully created a brand. I hope you will join me in this personal brand journey and look forward to your creating robust personal brands.
More About Job Search:
- Beating the “Too Old” Bias: Being Visibly Up-to-Date
- Beating the “Too Old” Bias, Learning New Skills
- Goal Setting for Success
- Job Search Advantages of Being Over 50
About the author…
Wendy Marx is a personal branding and reinvention expert for seniors. For many years, she ran a PR and marketing firm where she turned virtual unknowns into industry icons through personal branding. Wendy is the author of Thriving at 50 Plus about finding more meaning and purpose in your life at 50 plus through rebranding and reinvention. Connect with Wendy on Linkedin and Twitter. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org, and visit ThrivingAt50plus.com.