Developing a personal brand is the key to planting the seeds for future opportunities, making it easier to cultivate a career that is always advancing. Whether you acknowledge it or not, you have a distinct public image, which determines how others perceive and interact with you. Take control of the message and character you project, so you can leverage your personal brand to expand your professional outlets.
1. Learn What Others Want
From a branding perspective, your traits and skills only matter if they fulfill a need and offer something different than your competitors. As you network, pay attention to the goals, roadblocks and skills that are most relevant to professionals in your field. To ensure a consistent and genuine narrative, your personal brand should be the meeting point between what others want and what keeps you motivated.
Practice describing what makes your experience or business valuable in 15 to 30 seconds, so you are prepared to pitch your brand at any moment. If you fall asleep listening to yourself, expect others to do the same.
2. Invest In Business Cards
The point of shaping a personal brand is to expand your sphere of influence, so others think of your expertise when they have a problem or opportunity. Don't make them hunt around for your contact information. Buy professional business cards, and keep the layout simple with your name, phone number, email address, personal website and LinkedIn profile address.
3. Create an Online Portfolio
The Internet is a valuable tool for exposure, but it can be your greatest weakness if your online profiles are unfocused, empty or outdated. A weak Internet presence makes it difficult for interested parties to gauge your level of involvement in the industry and determine whether other professionals respect your expertise.
Your online profiles should collectively function as a call to action, prompting others to learn more about you. Make your credentials readily available by keeping an up-to-date resume and work samples on your LinkedIn profile, blog and personal website. Engage with positively branded professionals or companies online through comments and guest posts to show your insight and improve your public image by association.
4. Start Small, but Think Big
Advancement rarely happens overnight, so consider how local opportunities can strengthen your personal brand and spread your message. Join trade organizations, and make friends with event organizers who can help you land spots on panel discussions or committees. Seize opportunities to promote your lesser-known skills while reaching a wider audience. For example, volunteer to teach a workshop or write for a professional newsletter. Boost your online audience by creating e-books and video tutorials.
5. Show Gratitude
Remind others that you are a person and not just a marketing machine. Use handwritten thank-you notes to show your appreciation whenever a new contact spends time helping you out, whether it's making a beneficial introduction or answering your questions about the company. Include a business card to keep your name fresh in others' minds, and personalize each message to remind them what you discussed.
Self-promotion may feel artificial if you don't believe in your value. Instead of focusing on job titles, think about the knowledge and skills you possess independently of your employers, so you can craft an authentic personal brand narrative that captures your individuality.
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