What makes one firm different from another, one candidate more sought after than others or one employee get the promotions and accolades? A lot of times, it comes down to branding. Branding is your reputation. It's the thoughts and words that come to mind when your name is brought up. Think of brands such as Wal-Mart, Apple, Whole Foods and Starbucks. Each name conjures up an image, a feeling or an opinion as to its value.
When people are talking about you among themselves, what are they saying? Is it positive or negative? Keep in mind that in the world of branding, perception is reality.
Personal branding is about building a name for yourself, demonstrating what sets you apart from others, and consistently adding value to each situation you find yourself.
It's never too early or too late to shape your personal brand. Most job-seekers are not proactive in establishing and building their brand. They tend to think that their work will speak for them when seeking promotions or new jobs, but that's not how it works most times. It is the person who is most visible that gets the shine, credit and the opportunities.
So how can you start building a personal brand that will get you noticed?
Define who you are and what you do best. If you aren't sure, ask people that know you well and will be honest with you. If some unsavory things about you are revealed, think of ways to change that.
Keep track of your accomplishments, awards and successes. When I was younger, my mom encouraged me to have a portfolio of newspaper articles I was featured in, awards received, summaries of things I accomplished, etc. Doing that portfolio was invaluable when having to go back and reference things I've done for future opportunities.
Show that you are serious about your craft by getting the necessary training and education to become proficient. The best aren't content in what they already know. They consistently strive to get better and outdo what they've done before.
Don't be shy about promoting your accomplishments and ideas. No one will know what you can do if you don't tell them. Look for opportunities to showcase what you can do. Pitch a few organizations with an idea for a lunch and learn you want to conduct. Send sample articles to that publication you want to be featured in. Too many times people wait around for opportunities to come to them and that's a perfect way to go overlooked. Be a go-getter and actively seek out the opportunities you desire.
Become an Expert
Become an expert in your given field. When a certain topic or issue comes up, you want to be the first person on people's radar. You can showcase your expertise by writing articles and doing speaking engagements. Leverage your social media by becoming a thought leader in your industry.
You can't get to the next level by yourself. You'll need people in your corner supporting you and championing you. Start building your support network and circle of influence. Remember to approach every relationship thinking of how you can add value to them, not of what you can get from them.
Be True to Your Brand
Once you've gotten a firm handle on what you're about and what you want to be known for, say no to things that don't align with your brand. Curate the activities in your life to see where you can make some changes and alleviate the things that no longer fit.
Your brand can make or break you. So be sure to take the necessary steps to be intentional about how you're being received and perceived and go after those opportunities that you deserve.