There are 6 ways to polish your personal brand. Think of your favorite brand, then consider what draws you to it. Chances are, there’s something about their messaging that really resonates with your personal values – or at least what you find really, really cool.
You don’t need to be a PR unicorn to become the boss at [Your Name Here + Favorite Emoji] Inc.! If you can visualize what you’d like people to think of when you come to mind, you’re well on your way to cultivating your professional identity.
Why should you build a personal brand?
Whether or not we’re aware of it, we all have a digital footprint. A three-second internet search can reveal a multitude of things about us. Your reputation already lives online in fragmented pieces. By working on your personal brand, you’re putting all the pieces of your story together and effectively controlling the conversation. Psst…set up Google alerts to keep tabs on your online reputation!
Personal branding hands you the opportunity to show the world who you are instead of leaving people to draw their own conclusions about you. Polish your personal brand to boost your discoverability, reputation, and sales prospects.
By strengthening your personal brand, you’re standing on your own soapbox and distinguishing yourself as an expert in your niche. Why just be a zookeeper when you can be the friendliest zookeeper in the Pacific Northwest?
6 Ways to Polish Your Personal Brand
Follow along for these 6 steps to becoming the friendliest zookeeper in the Pacific Northwest. Or, as this Google marketer says, “I’m a Renaissance woman. Think Leonardo da Vinci, but with more Dad jokes.”
Define your top 5 strengths
Your professional life is a continual process of selling yourself. Whether in a job interview or a client pitch, your job is to convince people that their business is best left in your very capable hands.
To articulate this, lean on your authentic strengths and talents. I suggest writing down a list of 5 strengths you see in yourself. If you can ask friends, family, coworkers and clients for their opinion, you may discover some blind spots (the good kind).
Think of a few work-related examples that support each strength – it’s not mere bragging if you can back it up. This exercise will help you determine who you are and what sets you apart from your competition.
Just remember that for any given task, there are many people who can get it done, but no one who can get it done the way you can. Keep that in mind when putting together messaging that defines you.
Write a bio
This bio should essentially be the perfect answer to the prompt, “Tell me about yourself” or the question “What do you do?”
Write a longer bio for your Linkedin summary and the “About Me” section of your website (more on that in a second), then create a few different abridged variations for guest post bios, an elevator speech, project proposals and a one-sentence tagline.
Here’s a great one-sentence tagline on writer Michaela Alexis’s Medium profile: Ottawa Social Media Manager and trilingual content #marketer, speaks fluent ambition, creativity, and dedication.
Feel free to throw in interesting facts, a witty quip that fits you or even a story from your childhood that’s relevant to the career path you’ve chosen. A fellow social media marketer recently told me a few months ago that she “speaks fluent emoji,” and I remember her more than anyone else I met at that conference.
Michaela Alexis so effectively tells people who she is with this adorable anecdote on her Linkedin summary.
When I was in kindergarten, I ran home excitedly one day, brimming with glitter and pride, as I announced that I was “The ONLY TOOTH FAIRY at Career Day, and everybody else in my class was just dressed up as doctors and dentists!”
My imaginative spirit has not changed much since that day.
In one of her most popular articles to date, she discusses her unconventional career trajectory, in which she states that in her first dream job, she dressed up as a can of beans. What a way to drive your point home! Her vivaciousness makes her memorable.
Determine your aesthetic
What kind of imagery do you want to come to mind when people think of you? This will show who you are from your website to your business cards, so make sure it’s a reflection of your personality. Choose colors that accentuate the words you use to describe yourself. For example, if you’re selling yourself as bold and driven, make your colors loud! Use an exclamation point if it seems appropriate. Pick a font that commands attention.
Speaking of aesthetic, consider getting a set of photos that you can use professionally. Actors have headshots that display different sides of their personality – pensive, joyful, smoldering. Ask a friend with a nice camera to take some shots of you or find a local photographer who’s looking to build up their portfolio.
If you have a graphic designer bestie or are willing to take a swing at it yourself, design a logo that you can use on your website, business cards or email signature.
And make your cards as unique as you are! I get tons of compliments on the luxe thick business cards I order (with pink seams because I’m me) and personally never fail to be impressed when someone hands me a business card with gold foiling.
We may be living in a digital era, but there’s something to be said for a tangible representation of yourself. Whether business cards will be viable in the future remains to be seen, but for now I say put them to work for you – and have fun doing it.
Get a personal website
Having a Linkedin account is absolutely essential to showing colleagues, potential employers, and potential clients who you are and where you’ve been, but nothing shouts your professionalism from rooftops the way a website does. It’ll also boost your self-confidence if you think of yourself as website-worthy – because you are!
Just the act of buying a domain in your name feels kind of exciting. Shining it up by putting all your career highlights and accomplishments under a single spotlight kicks the feeling up to eleven.
A website is like a little corner of the internet dedicated entirely to you. You can paint its walls whatever color you like and put your words into your readers’ minds. Let them know what you live and work for and what your professional mission is. It’ll give prospective collaborators a resource to learn about you on their own time. With a snuggie and a glass of wine.
Don’t feel the need to fill up your website with all the bells and whistles at first. So long as the right details are there and the site is clean, you’re in good shape. You can always add on as you go.
Here’s a good example of a personal website. Notice how he shares interesting details, like what song he’s currently digging and what his goal is. By sharing your goals, you’re being transparent. You’re attracting the right opportunities and repelling the wrong ones – and we all know this world could use a little more transparency.
A good site should:
- be easy to navigate
- coherently communicate who you are
- infuse your personality
- connect to your Linkedin and (if you want) social channels
It’s a commonly cited fact that recruiters and hiring managers screen clients candidates’ social media profiles. There are many horror stories out there of job offers that were rescinded after a red cup turned up in a profile pic, but you know what? I say it’s time to nip that perception in the bud. Obviously I don’t advocate posting things that get the FBI knocking at your front door, but you’re allowed to be a three dimensional human being with a personal life.
If you like to show off droolworthy brunches and sunset photos, bake that Instagram feed right into your website and own it. You never know what CEO out there shares your love of brioche French toast.
If you have the time and feel more comfortable doing so, you might also consider making professional social media accounts for yourself. Going back to our earlier friendliest zookeeper in the Pacific Northwest, how cool would that be if she also had an Instagram account of baby penguins with a cult following?
A good rule of thumb if you plan to share your Instagram feed with the world? Curate with intention to reflect your vision, brand story, hustle and interests.
Build a network of advocates
When I was fresh out of college, I networked a lot, but I did it the wrong way. I chased quantity over quality and connected with people who didn’t know, and didn’t care, what my brand was about.
That’s what I love so much about collectives like Yes Supply. It connects you with like-minded individuals who not only want you to succeed, but are eager to offer up the tools to help you get to your professional pot of gold.
Aim to connect with people whose careers and businesses interest you, and vice versa. People who will interview you on their blogs, contribute guest posts to yours, introduce you to others in your niche, refer you for speaking engagements, and keep you in mind when the perfect opportunity comes along, knowing that you’ll happily do the same for them.
Live your brand
I know this may sound a bit vague and new agey. What I mean here is that once you’ve tied together all the little details that turn You into CEO You, you’ve got to keep them in mind with every action you take. That is, every email you send, everything you post online, every introduction you give at a networking event.
Now that you know how to polish your personal brand, go forth and work till you no longer need to introduce yourself.
Michelle is a social media marketing consultant and writer who enjoys creating inspiring content for career-driven millennial women at michellearick.com. She’s based out of the San Francisco Bay Area.