I’m sitting here writing this in my Nike jogging pants and Nike t-shirt, socks and tennis shoes. I’ve got that Nike “swoosh” all over me. It’s crazy how we consciously and subconsciously surround ourselves with trusted brands. Social media has catapulted celebrity brands (hello, Gwyneth and the Kardashians!). But branding is not just for the rich and famous. Personal branding has changed the way we manage our careers. Polishing your brand is always essential, even more so when you’re in the job market.

You already have a brand. Your family, friends, staff, customers and managers have a perception of you. When your name is mentioned, they immediately think of attributes and words they associate with you. It may not always be good. So, what is a personal brand? It’s being self-aware and communicating what makes us unique, especially the positive attributes. Our brand conveys what we stand for, those skills, attributes, values and passions that describe us and differentiate us from our peers, colleagues and competitors.

Branding is not being what others expect of us. And it’s even less about creating some marketing glitz. It’s all about being authentic, knowing yourself and what truly differentiates you, your unique value proposition. Whether we’re a senior executive, engineer, service professional or recent grad, employed or unemployed, we have to understand, develop and communicate our personal brand to create a competitive advantage.

Creating your personal brand begins with knowing yourself. Here are five actions you can take to discover the real you:

  1. Become self-aware. Know the compelling value you provide. What are your core values, purpose, passion, mission, abilities and goals? Know what you stand for and don’t be afraid to express it. To capture insight into who you are and what’s important to you, assessments are key.  Here are a few suggestions: Edgar Schein’s Career Anchors, Keirsey, Meyer’s Briggs, DISC, and Campbell Interest and Skill Inventory. Identify your one-year, three-year, five-year and ten-year goals in career, family and friends, spiritual, community, health/fitness, financial, and personal growth. We need to understand and communicate this exceptional combination of attributes, a.k.a. our unique value proposition, to present our brand to the world.
  2. Your network already has an image, perception (or misperception) about you. It may be in line with your authentic brand, and then again, you may be hauling around some extra “bags.” So before you start developing your brand, begin by interviewing clients, business leaders, peers, etc. Ask for honest feedback. What values do they associate with you? When they hear your name what comes to mind? What do they see as your strengths? How would they describe your work? Compare and track how you’re perceived, how you want to be perceived, and how you think you are perceived. The gaps will tell you how hard you’ll need to tweak your brand to reinforce or change perceptions.
  3. Identify your target audience, your brand champions. Who is in a position to help you achieve your personal and career goals? They could be family, friends, key internal and external customers, staff, peers, managers, executives, suppliers and business partners. These people need to know who we are and what we stand for, and we need to communicate a consistent and compelling brand presence.
  4. Know the “competition.” Are they colleagues? Do they work at your organization or another company? In another industry? What are those  attributes that differentiate you from your competition? Let’s ensure that your target audience, the decision-makers, knows your compelling brand value.
  5. Work with a coach. Your coach will guide you through this career planning and personal branding process. Recchion and Associates is available to provide that personal, professional guidance and coaching expertise to assist you in creating a compelling personal brand so you stand out, add value to your business and career, and achieve the personal and professional success you aspire to.