Today’s Morning Buzz is by Kayla Barber-Perrotta, Budget & Performance Manager at the City of Brighton, Colo. Connect on Linkedin.
What I’m listening to: The Barbie movie soundtrack
What I’m watching: Schitt’s Creek
What I’m eating: Apples – We did a pick-your-own, and I am now drowning in apples.
What is your professional brand? When someone hears your name, what are the qualities and skills that come to mind? In a pre-internet world, a personal brand was something one could traipse out as needed for a job interview or a conference, but in a world of social media and constant connection, a personal brand has become an ongoing curation that requires care and deliberation.
Like a company brand that tells the story of a company, or an employer brand that shares the story of your organization, a personal brand is the story of you. What kind of work do you bring to the table? What do you value? What are your goals? Are you credible and trustworthy? Are you visible? A personal brand is the very intentional coupling of the strengths you want to highlight with the actions you perform daily. It is how you make yourself stand out in your career in a sea of exceptional people. It is a tool that can be used to strengthen your network, help you better identify and market yourself for workplace opportunities, and measure your performance so you recognize when you are ready for that next step.
So how can you start building your personal brand?
- Define who you are
Understanding who you are and what drives you is the first step to building your personal brand. Like any other brand development, your personal brand works best when it is authentic to who you are. It builds off your existing strengths, as opposed to trying to create something from nothing, and is sustainable because you are already doing it. The distinguishing element is simply that you are conscious of those strengths.
Take a minute to self-reflect. Ask yourself the following questions:
- What motivates me professionally?
- What do I value?
- What are the projects and skills I am most proud of in my career and why?
- Which projects energize me? What drains me?
- Which skills, projects, and professional milestones do I want to achieve in the next five to 10 years?
I find that writing these down and checking in on these questions periodically can be helpful. As people, we are constantly growing and evolving. While some of my answers remain the same as day one of my career, I have discovered new skills and had new experiences that reshaped what I see as strengths, and redefined my end goals.
- Connect your values to your goals
Once you have a good understanding of who you are, what motivates you, and what you want to achieve, it is time to connect the dots. Developing a personal brand requires strategy. I like to think of it much like one would a strategic plan for their organization. You are conducting an environmental assessment, setting a vision, and then defining the key goals and tasks to start making that vision a reality. Look at the goals you identified and your strengths. Are there ways that you can leverage some of your existing strengths to achieve your goals? Are there gaps you need to accommodate for?
It can be helpful in this stage to research your goals so you have a good understanding of what it takes to get there. For example, if you want to become a city manager, look at job postings for city managers and develop a list of the skills and experiences cities are looking for. Even though it may be a 10-year goal, knowing the skills you’ll need today can help you start building a brand that caters to the profession. Maybe you notice leadership is a key attribute cities are looking for, and you feel that is a strength you can leverage, but your portfolio does not immediately highlight this skill. By being aware, you can start to market yourself for opportunities to better highlight your leadership proficiency. It may be volunteering for that difficult project no one else wants to tackle, joining employee teams where you can one day serve in a leadership position, discussing opportunities to build your leadership skill with your manager so they can better align your portfolio, or even looking outside the office at opportunities in your community that will build this skill.
Another key aspect of this step is being able to articulate your brand. Think of it as your elevator pitch. This could be a sentence or two, or a few key values. We are all bombarded with more information than we know what to do with daily, so being able to define yourself concisely can help those around you to remember you in the way you want to be recognized. It simply makes it easier for them to place you and your talents on file in their brain, and call on that file when opportunities arise. Also, this exercise of creating a concise brand helps you to avoid the generalist trap. While it is always good to have a well-rounded set of skills, leaning too far into a generalist brand makes it hard for others to identify what is unique and special about you. By defining a few key brand attributes to highlight, you can create your niche.
- Make your brand visible
Finally, you have to get your brand out there. A personal brand is not going to be effective if you are the only one who knows about it. Start by building a network that reflects the strengths you want to be known for. Say you want to build a brand as an innovator. Look for people you can connect with who you would consider innovators. Not only is this a great way to start highlighting your own strengths in this area, but it is also an opportunity for you to learn and grow.
What are they doing that makes you identify them as an innovator? How did they get to their position? What other strengths are they leveraging, and can you leverage any of those yourself? Connecting with these individuals can give you an avenue for observation and advice. Perhaps you are struggling to find a project where you can flex your innovation muscles. They all started somewhere and had that first opportunity. Being able to understand the challenges they had to overcome can help you to develop ways to break down your own barriers. Just make sure you are authentic in connecting and developing your relationships. Networking goes both ways, so expect to share your own work, accomplishments, and challenges with them so they can grow as well.
Another great way to promote your brand is by simply getting your name out there alongside the topics you want to be associated with. This can be volunteering to speak at conferences or trainings on the topics you care about, writing articles that play to your strengths and share your insights with others, or even sharing news and best practices that you find interesting. These methods can help to highlight you as an expert in your field by making you a go-to source for information on particular topics. It also can have the added benefit of further expanding your network as people seek you out for connections.