When we think about brands, we usually think of companies, not people. By definition, a brand is something that separates one thing from another and is a mark of trust or quality.
Good examples of these are Apple’s slick logo and marketing, or Nike’s ‘swoosh’ design and ‘Just Do It’ slogan. These brands clearly identify the companies, differentiate them from the competition, and help personify what the company is about.
Branding may have begun with businesses. But whether we like it or not, we all have our own individual ‘brands’ – even with our friends and family. Perhaps you’re the sociable one that always arranges meetups? Or maybe you’re known for your kindness and reliability, as someone to turn to in times of need?
Even without meaning to (and often without realising), we build and continually reinforce our own personal brand with the actions we take every day.
In today’s world of work, it doesn’t matter whether you’re looking to establish yourself in a completely new career – or get that next promotion – one of the most important things you can do to help reach your goals is to develop your own clear personal brand.
Here, we explain what we mean by a personal brand in the workplace and how it can help you. We’ll also offer some simple suggestions of ways to get started with building yours.
1. What is a personal brand?
In the workplace, personal branding is becoming increasingly common (and important). Personal branding is about who you are, what you stand for, and what you do.
Just like with a company brand, it’s a mark of trust and quality. Your brand determines how other people (including potential employers or business partners) see you. It’s about the image you put forth and how you present yourself. Your brand is what differentiates you; what makes you unique.
If you’re considering making a career change, it’s incredibly important to think about how you’re going to position yourself and your skills in the ever-evolving job market. Are you someone who gets the job done with minimal fuss? Are you a big-picture strategist? Are you a networker who connects others? Or perhaps you’re a technical expert with high levels of competency in your field.
Having a personal brand can help to make you memorable as a candidate and allow potential employers to clearly understand where your skills lie and where you’d fit in their organisation. Whatever type of career you’re looking to pursue – whether it’s freelance writing, photography, marketing, or IT – it’s key to think about your own unique experiences, skills, and insights.
If you’re a marketer, what type are you? Do you thrive in a digital, data-driven world? Or do you love researching your audience and turning that into brand values and positioning? If you want someone to hire you, it’s helpful to think about why they should hire you specifically.
What is your unique blend of skills and experiences and how do you package that up succinctly? What’s your story? How much experience do you have? What do you bring to the table that others don’t? Building an effective brand isn’t something that happens overnight, of course. But the more you focus on developing it, the stronger it’ll become and the more visible you’ll be.
It’s also worth noting that in today’s interconnected world, your personal brand often extends outside of your current workplace into the wider sector and industry. Often, you’ll see the same faces at industry events, work with similar suppliers, and so on.
For this reason, it can be useful to think about the personal brand you want to project outside of your organisation too. You never know when you might be looking to an industry supplier or competitor as a potential future employer or business partner.
2. Identify your skills, passions, and values
The first step in crafting your personal brand is to build an authentic foundation.
Being true to who you are and knowing what you want to achieve is the trick to accomplishing this – because your brand isn’t a persona or facade. Instead, it’s a genuine reflection of who you are. Although, of course, it’s the side of yourself that best showcases your skills and expertise.
To develop a brand, you need to know who you are and what side of yourself you want to share. At this stage, you should think carefully about your values, passions, and skills.
Your values are the things that are most important to you. They define your priorities and the way you live and work. Your values could be anything from the importance of your family and friends to ambition or honesty.
These become especially important when you encounter difficult times or tricky decisions – as it’s then that we tend to reach for our strongest values. In terms of branding and business, your values are important because they can help a company determine whether you’re a good fit. For example, if an employer sees that you hold the same values as them, they may be more likely to hire you.
Passions are about what you enjoy – and these are usually (but not always) different from your values. To develop your personal brand, it’s worth taking some time to think about what your personal and professional passions are.
Your personal passions might be walking in the country, cooking, and spending time with friends, whereas your professional passions could include writing, design, and communication.
When you’re thinking about developing your brand, it’s not only helpful to identify your skills, but the particular skills that correspond with your passions, values, and the types of roles you’re interested in.
For example, if someone has years of experience working in admin and marketing, they’ll likely be very good at writing emails and communicating. And if they’ve taken several IT courses, they’d have a keen understanding of how company websites work.
If you pair these skills with the professional passions mentioned in the section above (writing and design), it’s reasonable to think that this person would be really good in a web content role, where they help companies develop content and improve their website.
This is just an example, of course, but isolating your key skills and figuring out what your main values and passions are can help you to identify which direction you want your personal brand to take.
To help you define your skills, passions, and values, you might want to ask yourself some of the following questions…
- What special skills do I have?
- What are my values?
- What am I passionate about?
- What experiences have shaped who I am?
- How can I best serve my target audience?
- What can I do that others can’t?
3. Plan what you want to achieve
At this stage in life, you’ll hopefully have a relatively clear idea about who you are and what you have to offer. The next step is to translate these ideas into a clear vision of what you want to achieve to enable you to create a plan to move forward.
It’s important to note that not all of us will have ideas or a vision at this stage. Many of us never planned to make a career change and may be feeling overwhelmed and anxious, rather than excited. This is perfectly normal – and expected.
The good news is that the more you think about the type of opportunities you’re interested in and what you’d like to achieve (and the more you develop your brand and identify your special traits and unique experiences) the clearer things will become. But first, you need to start thinking about your goals and planning what you need to do to get there.
To pinpoint what you want to accomplish and figure out how it correlates with your personal brand, try answering the following questions…
- What do I want to achieve personally and professionally?
- What do I want to be known for?
- If I could be a leading expert on any topic, what would it be?
- What are the main messages I want to communicate?
Think about your ideal job opportunity. Then try to identify the actions that’ll help you chart your path forward.
If we use the same example as in the previous point – a person who might be suited for a web content role – what steps could they take to add a new dimension to their brand?
Is there a specific online course they could enrol in? Are there any books they could read that would help develop their knowledge? Are there specific people they could reach out to and connect with? Are there any projects (either paid or unpaid) that they could help with to expand their portfolio?
It may seem like the amount of admin or research there is to do at this stage is overwhelming, but try to remember that building a personal brand is an investment. Each step you take now, however small, is helping you build momentum and taking you closer to achieving your goals.
While you’re planning your next steps, this can also be a helpful time to put together a vision board. This is a visual representation of your goals and ambitions, and looking at it daily can act as a powerful motivator and help you to stay on course.
To find out more about the benefits of creating a vision board, and how to get started, check out our article here.
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4. Build your online presence
For some people, the theoretical side of developing a personal brand is the hardest part. Identifying exactly what it is you want to do and achieve can be surprisingly difficult – particularly if you’re making a career change out of necessity rather than desire.
But once you have an idea about who you are and what you want to accomplish, and you’ve identified the pillars of your personal brand, you can then focus on the practical side of showcasing your brand to the world. An important part of this is building your online presence.
The first way to do this is via social media. Platforms like LinkedIn and Twitter are good places to get started socially, as they can help you to network, find job openings, and begin establishing yourself as an expert in your field. When setting up your social profiles, it’s important to ensure that everything you write reflects the brand message you want to convey.
For example, do you want your brand’s voice to be authoritative and serious or light-hearted and fun? Don’t be shy about owning your skills and strengths here too. To find out more about how to build your brand on social media, why not read this guide by Grin? And for more advice on how to use LinkedIn for your job search, take a look at our article; Changing careers – how to use LinkedIn to get a new job.
Once you’ve set up your account, take some time to follow relevant people. These could be brands you like or companies you want to work with. If there are any influential people you admire, you could also follow them and look at the type of content they share. Studying the types of posts that get the most engagement will help you understand what content works and what doesn’t.
Once you have this information, you can start thinking about how you could put your own twist on these types of posts. Remember that each time you share an article or comment on someone else’s post, you’re shaping and developing the story of your personal brand.
Having your own website or blog can be another helpful way to showcase your personal brand. Having your own website can help you network with other people in your industry, establish your expertise, position yourself as an industry leader, and create a connection with your readers and potential clients.
Plus, having your own website is one of the most effective ways to acquire new customers and clients if you’re running a business or enterprise.
When you’re using your website for your personal brand, it’s important to consider how new visitors will discover what you’re all about. Your site should contain an ‘About Me’ page, where new readers can learn about who you are and what you do. This is a really good place to highlight your key skills, values, and passions.
You should also have a ‘Contact’ page, so people can communicate with you. This article by Thinkfic has some good advice on how to optimise your website in a way that promotes your personal brand.
Of course, we know that setting up your own blog or website is easier said than done, and if you don’t have experience in this, it’s hard to know where to start. If you’d like to read an in-depth article on how to set up your own site, check out our guide on how to start a blog in 6 easy steps.
Remember that every interaction you have with people online – whether it’s replying to a quick email or commenting on a post – should be seen as part of your personal brand. So whenever and however you’re communicating, always think about what your brand message is and try to stay true to it.
When it comes to developing a personal brand, there’s a lot to learn and do – and, at times, this can feel like just another thing to have to think about. As with most things, it takes time to find your feet and figure out what works and what doesn’t.
The first step is to simply be aware of your own ‘brand’ and how others might perceive you. It’s a long-term investment, but over time, even small changes can lead to significant benefits.
Remember that the very best brands develop from trial and error, not instant perfection. The great thing about having a personal brand is that you’re in the driver’s seat. You can develop it as quickly or slowly as you like and build on it over time.
If you’re in need of additional career advice or inspiration, you might find it useful to have a look at the rest of the jobs and careers section of our website. Here, you can find everything from CV and cover letters tips to inspiration for your next role.