Working as a freelancer for a few years, I had to learn a lot about personal branding. I’m a journalist so showcasing stories I’d written via LinkedIn or Instagram helped to build my credibility in the industry (especially if I’d written for a prestigious publication), showed that I was consistently getting work and kept me front of editors’ minds when they were looking to assign work. For a freelancer, personal branding really is essential.
Now that I’m in a full-time role, though, I still see the value of personal branding. In fact, I still see it as essential for any full-time employee working in any industry. And Taryn Williams, founder and CEO of The Right Fit, agrees. “Not only does building a personal brand make it easier to get job opportunities and to get promoted, but it also affords you opportunities that wouldn’t be available to those who haven’t taken the time to build one,” she says.
Williams says the biggest mistake people make around personal branding is thinking it’s not relevant for them because they aren’t a celebrity, CEO or public speaker. “If you’re applying for a job, you can be guaranteed one of the first things the prospective employer will do is to Google you,” she says. “Going on a date? Same story. I believe everyone should be conscious of their personal brand and how they are portrayed or received by others.”
In short, whether or not you want it, you have a personal brand. So, what that in mind, what are some ways one can start to control it? Ahead, we share three simple things you can do to start.
Decide What Your Values Are
Firstly, when building a personal brand, it’s important to figure out what your values are. “For example, my personal values lie very much around innovation, growth, connection and learning,” says Williams. “Then create a Venn diagram with three circles – what are my values?, what am I good at? and where are there jobs or commercial opportunities? At the centre of where those things overlap is the area to focus your personal brand on.”
Another way to figure out what your values are is to figure out your own story, says Tory Archbold, entrepreneur and business coach at Powerful Steps. “By embracing the past and understanding your professional patterns, as well as the influences and life decisions that propelled you to where you are now, your value set becomes clear,” she says. “That then acts as an anchor to your personal brand. I act with passion; I believe in integrity and I deliver — these values are the anchor to personal and professional brand.”
Next, when building a personal brand, you want to be authentic. The mistake most people make is that they try to please others, says Archbold. “But if you aren’t being authentically you, how can you attract what you deserve in life?”
Being authentic is particularly important when it comes to social media. For this reason, Archbold recommends considering with every post ‘how is this authentically anchored to your brand values and audience?’. “Do not chase ‘numbers’ and instead embrace engagement,” she says. “Your channels will naturally grow when you are in alignment with who you are and what you stand for.”
Williams adds that if you aren’t being authentic and if the way you’re showing up doesn’t truly speak to who you are, it will feel contrived and simply isn’t sustainable. She also suggests embracing engagement. “Remember that social media is about ‘social’ — that means two-way conversations and connecting,” she says. “You can’t just ‘post and ghost’. You need to spend time engaging with your audience and others if you want to see growth in your audience. Also, think about ‘how am I adding value?’ What are you sharing that’s interesting, informative, engaging, funny, inspiring, helpful to others?”.
Grow Your Network
And finally, one powerful way to grow your personal brand is to network. “Networking allows you insights and opportunities that may otherwise have not been available to you if you hadn’t put yourself out there,” says Archbold.
“I built my business, PR agency TORSTAR, into a global brand through committing to three coffee dates a week. One with someone I knew, one with someone I wished to partner with and one with someone outside of my comfort zone. These conversations deliver lasting impressions when they are aligned with your values, intent and purpose.”
Williams says she too is a huge advocate of networking and that some of her most important commercial relationships have come from developing and fostering relationships with people she initially met informally.
“Building a strong network not only helps you in business but also makes you more well-rounded, with a better view of the world outside of your own silo,” she says. “Networking gives you the opportunity to informally showcase what your areas of expertise are and to be recognised as a thought leader in these areas.”
“Again, attending networking events and conferences, volunteering to guest-speak at events or mentoring at your old university does take time, commitment and follow-up. But it’s incredibly powerful. The old saying ‘it’s not what you know, it’s who you know’ has held true for so long for a reason.”