“Your personal brand is what people say about you when you’re not in the room.” Jeff Bezos, founder Amazon.

My neighbor retired this summer after 36 years with the same employer. This used to be a common occurrence, but no longer. Now this gentleman is definitely the exception to the rule. It really got me thinking about what it takes today to be successful in a career and employable throughout your working life.

The world of work has changed forever. In this new world, there is little or no job security, so you need to begin to change the rules! Rather than being defined by your job or your employer, consider yourself as a one-person enterprise no matter where you work,in other words, a personal brand. Instead of waiting for opportunities to come to you, you can attract opportunity by taking control of how you are perceived.

In fact, you already have a personal brand, whether you know it or not. Everyone does. Your brand has been formed over time based on your behavior, treatment of others, appearance, lifestyle, personality, friends and interests, as well as the quality of your work and the things you say. These things combine to create a clear perception of you by others; a reputation, a label, a brand.

Branding used to be seen as an executive-level strategy. However, branding is a powerful technique that works for professionals at all levels, no matter what kinds of positions you’re seeking. Take advantage of this powerful way to differentiate yourself that executives have been using for years. Personal branding generates interest and opens doors.

How does having a distinctive brand, clearly articulated, help you succeed in your career ? Not only does your brand affect you in ways you may not realize, but you may need your online presence and network to help you find new opportunities or that dream job!

Your brand can benefit you in the following ways:

  • Whether you will be considered for a promotion, a job opening or other opportunities.
  • Whether your ideas are respected or viewed as credible.
  • Whether others are willing to help or hinder you.
  •  Influences others’ perceptions of the quality of the service or work product you provide.
  • Gives you a sense of focus, confidence and purpose.

Now that you are considering the merits of branding, how do you go about it?The first step is to define your “wow” factor! People with strong brands are clear about who they are. They know and maximize their strengths.

No one else can claim the exact same brand as you. It is as unique as you are. Dig deep and start formulating all the qualities that differentiate you from others doing the same kind of work. Ask your peers and co-workers to give you feedback about your performance and strengths. A measure of your brand is what the people who work with you have to say about you. Consider their input when building your brand.

Asking yourself and others some of these questions can help you define your strengths and come up with a personal brand statement:

  • What are my passions; what would I continue doing even if I didn’t get paid?
  • What differentiates me from someone else who does the same job as I do?
  • What are the qualities that others acknowledge in me?
  • When working in a team, what role do I fill?
  • What are my “go to” skills when faced with an obstacle?
  • What skills and competencies do others look to me to provide?
  • What has been my most successful project or role?
  • What are my blind spots?
  • What steps do I need to take to get to the next level?

Don’t be discouraged if it takes time, thought and lots of rewrites to distill all of your ideas into a brand statement. This is not easy!

Once you have your personal brand defined, take it online. It is time to review your current online presence or to create one. Like it or not, most companies and recruiters are checking social media profiles, especially LinkedIn, before making hiring decisions or before deciding to interview you. Not being on LinkedIn, or having an incomplete profile without a photo, can give out the brand message that your skill set is out of date.

To create an effective online presence, you should, at a minimum, create a profile on LinkedIn. There are many great resources, books and online articles  to help you craft your profile if you need help! Recruiters and employers actively use LinkedIn to find and research potential employees. Equally important, LinkedIn allows you to build a network of connections and relationships. Finally, LinkedIn allows you to post your experience, testimonials, recommendations and endorsements of your work and skills.

Other social media sites to consider are Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and Pinterest. There are benefits to all of them.

The basic things to consider when creating a profile on any of these sites:

  • Use a photo of yourself that is appropriate for your brand as your profile picture.
  • Compose a brand summary. The tone of your summary should be in your authentic voice and display your  true character while aligning with your profession. It creates a sense of your personality as well as your skills. The summary gives a focus and direction to your brand. It gives others an opportunity to see where you might “fit” as well as what skills you could bring to the table!
  • Keep it “G” rated.
  • Keep your brand consistent over all sites.

Finally, once you have defined your brand, online and offline – live it!Be your brand. Walk the walk. Think about your choices.

  • If your brand is about being a leader, should you be spreading gossip about your co-workers?
  • If your brand is about being outgoing and generous, should you be a wallflower at a networking event, refusing to connect with others?
  • If your brand is about being positive and “can do,” should you be online complaining about your current project and that it will never succeed?

If you find that you can’t consistently live your brand or if it feels fake, you need to go back to the drawing board! After all, the purpose is to find and market YOUR brand, not someone else’s.

Defining and communicating your personal brand is a process. It doesn’t happen overnight. Your genuine brand comes from within. The process of branding allows you to take control of your career and to showcase your talent in order to stay competitive in today’s job market.be-yourself-on-tshirt

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