Monday, December 1, 2014

Building Your Personal Brand

Let's all face it. Resumes and references are mattering less and less these days. Business journals and media outlets are repeatedly publishing articles for how common it is for resumes to lie and for references to actually be imposters. In fact, it has been commonly suggested that traditional  resumes, references, and even curriculum vitaes will soon disappear.

As this is the case, we have moved into an era of personal branding. After all, the job market is a MARKET. And, just as we shop in a store and trust brands, hiring managers have already begun to sift through their applicants in a similar manner. It won't be long before personal branding IS your resume.

This post is all about building your personal brand, how to strengthen key elements of it, and how to protect it.

Building Your Personal Brand

1. Your Image.
The first and perhaps most important thing to any brand is their image. Not the image the brand hopes to present, mind you. It is all about the image which the consumer envisions in their mind before they actually lay eyes upon you. Your image is comprised of physical, social, individual, real, and imagined interactions made visible to anyone and everyone.

This spans between the way you interact with your customers, your colleagues, your co-workers, etc. This also includes your "speech" in social media, the content you share, the links you retweet, and anything else which may comprise your digital footprint. And, while this may be unfair -- this also has to do with the way you physically present yourself. This has to do with something in psychology called the "Halo Effect" which basically states that attractiveness and familiarity gives a favorable bias to your brand. If you look the part, you ARE the part. This only needs confirmation from the fact that you can act the part. After all (unless there are samples!) when in a grocery store, don't we buy first, then bite? This is how we confirm the brand we just bought. If we like how the food tastes, we'll go back for more. If not, we'll move on.

To build your image, be sure you act the part, look the part, and sound the part in everything that you do, in all the media outlets that you have, and, most importantly in how you live your life. Someone is always watching. Give them a show which speaks positively and accurately to who you are.

2. Your Experiences.
Your collective actions, conversations, observations, and collaborations comprise your experiences. The manner in how you have connected with the world constructs the lattice in which your brand is fleshed out. Think of this as the foundation and framework of a building. For a hiring manager, they look at both your work experience and your life experience. I can guarantee you that people will be more willing to hire someone with interesting stories  versus "by the book" blandness.

Your experiences certainly include your past jobs, the brand of your education, where you have traveled, volunteered, and what your hobbies are. Certain experiences can serve as a strong brand multiplier. This can include graduating from top tier programs, interning/working at internationally acclaimed firms, and having meaningful media exposure. These days, hiring managers are being ever so encouraged to make sure the "right stuff" in an applicant is calculated by the sum of their experiences rather than the fact they have a certain amount of experience.

It's no longer about the length of time you've done something. It's about how well you do it. In other words, "It's not what you do, it's HOW you do it." Excellence will elevate your brand.

3. Your Personas.
Everyone has multiple personalities depending on outlet, context, social circles, etc. Sometimes we're the alpha. Other times, we're hanging back. There are moments when we provide the shock value and there are other situations for which we are just the observer. Regardless of who you are personally, how you behave defines the identity of your brand's persona. More importantly, this is ultimately defined by how others PERCEIVE you to be and WHY they wish to (or wish not to) connect with you. This can include sociopolitical postures you present on social media, your physical posturing in person when you interact with co-workers, and the manners in which you serve a customer. It is here that emotional valences are most pronounced. If you come across as a positive person, people will view this favorably. If you come across as a negative and perhaps critical, it may not be so favorable.

Manage your personas carefully as they play an important part in defining your personal brand. Managers hire likeable people. Be likeable. Be kind. Be gracious. Such will grow your brand equity.

4. Your Relationships.
We've all heard it before: "It's not what you know, it's who you know." Who you are and have been associated with plays an important part in branding. Such pairings can serve as a brand multiplier. Other times, it can really hurt you.

Let's just examine the effects with this list:
  • Pizza + Beer
  • Wine + Cheese
  • Baseball + Hot Dogs
  • Bar + Wings

(okay I'm a little hungry right now... those are the examples I have, LOL!)

In any case, it's important to safeguard who we allow to be associated with us and who we aim to associate with. It is just as important to pursue meaningful relationships in the same vein. Our relationships all bring with them their own images, their own experiences, and their own personas -- and, all of these facets ultimately paint the finishing strokes upon the artwork of your personal brand.

You can either choose to have smears upon your canvas, or masterful brush strokes. Be favorably relatable and choose good, healthy, meaningful relationships to nurture. This is the final element of building a personal brand. It can just as easily make your brand... or break it.

Some Closing Thoughts
We're heading into a time in human history when information is so rampant we don't even know what to do with it anymore. This transcends our personal, professional, and even the private facets of our lives. Personal branding goes beyond just the business itself. It will certainly impact our relationships, our families, and every possible social and business circle in the future. There are definitely profound implications to the youth of our times in this regard. There are also encouraging strategies to regain control of personal brands so that who you are and who you are known to be eventually become one in the same.


  1. Recently in one of my communication classes we were talking about image and identity. Personal branding from what I have gathered is all about image and identity. I think the anology of the pizza and beer, or the wine and cheese, is a great way of teaching the effects of how whom you allow yourself to be associated with can either boost your reputation or not. personal branding consultant

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