In Her Words: Choose a Personal Brand That's Really ‘You’
Creating a personal brand for yourself is important whether you’re hoping to become a social media sensation or you simply want to make a good impression on your bosses and potential employers.
Too often, women choose a brand that they can’t live up to. The reason: The brand is too far from the woman’s personality, style or behavior, so acting, dressing, and talking in a way that supports that brand doesn’t come naturally. A better bet for someone who wants to adopt a sustainable brand—and solidify a reliably good reputation—is to curate one that is a good “fit” from the get-go.
Here are five suggestions to help you discover a personal brand that’s right for you.
Choose a brand that’s authentic
If you would like to present yourself as a dynamo but you’re excessively introverted, you won’t be able to pull that off. It will be too hard for you to consistently behave in a way that doesn’t come naturally to you, if at all.
A big part of my own personal brand is kindness. I want to be known as a kind person; a person who treats others with compassion, empathy, and respect. So I can’t snap at people or make snarky remarks; I can’t roll my eyes at others whose views differ from mine. Instead, I have to simply be nice to other people.
This isn’t a stretch for me. I grew up in the South where I was raised to be nice. My whole life, I’ve tried to be nice to everyone—even to those with whom I disagree. And, I like it when others are nice to me. This brand works for me because it comes naturally. It’s already part of my identity. In short, my brand reflects my authentic self.
Choose a brand that says, “I’m successful”
Maybe you’re not at the top of your field yet. Maybe you don’t even have a job yet in that field. Still, your brand should say you’re already there. You might be young and new to the workplace, and you might like to dress in comfortable T-shirts, jeans and sneakers for work. That might even be perfectly acceptable where you work. But is that how people dress for the next job you hope to land?
Look at the managers, the president of the company and the members of the board of directors. Do they wear cool kicks to work? Or do they wear a jacket and dress shirt every day, and walk around in polished, leather shoes?
You can’t establish a brand as a successful business person if you don’t dress like a successful business person.
Choose a brand that will sell the message you want others to receive from you
I work in the sales field, so believe me when I say that your personal brand is the thing that will sell you to others: to potential employers; to bosses and teammates at work; and to clients, teachers and acquaintances who are in a position to write letters of recommendation for you or refer you and your company to their colleagues.
Pin down what you want, and then choose a brand that will get you what you want. Make a plan that will serve as a roadmap for getting what you want. Make a plan that will help you sell yourself.
Choose a brand that will position you to help others
Branding is all about selling yourself, so figure out how to use your brand as a personal sales tool. One thing I know for sure is that people are most likely to buy what you’re selling if there’s something in it for them. Selling yourself is no different from selling products or services. You can spend all day talking about how great your product is, but you’re never going to sell it if the buyer doesn’t see the value in it. What value do people see in you? Your brand should make that obvious. Do you present yourself as someone who can help others solve their problems? Advance in their careers? Dress nicer? Save money? Be more popular? Your brand might seem like it’s all about you. But a successful brand shows others that you’re a person who can do something for them.
Choose a brand that you will stick with
It’s not unheard of for a politician to switch to the other party or to flip-flop on an issue. It’s not impossible for a stockbroker to become a cooking and decorating maven (Martha Stewart) or for a figure skater to switch to fashion design (Vera Wang) or for a college professor to move to a career in sales and consulting (me).
But making a total 180 means, for most of us, pretty much starting over with our branding. And that means undoing the brand you already have and creating a new one to match the new you.
So, as you choose your brand, carefully consider if this is what you want for the long haul. In this age of technology, branding will involve a significant investment of time—and perhaps even money—in creating and curating a social media presence, developing a style for your platform, and steeping yourself in the language, trends, history, and background of the world you’re building your brand around.
For more on crafting a personal brand, check out:
In Her Words: Every Job is a Sales Job
In Her Words: How to Build a Personal Brand That Stands Out
In Her Words: What a Career Transition Taught Me About Life
This article was written by Dr. Cindy McGovern, otherwise known as “the First Lady of Sales.” Cindy is the founder and CEO of Orange Leaf Consulting, a sales management and consulting firm in San Francisco. She’s a sought-after speaker on topics related to sales, management, and negotiation. She is the author of Every Job Is a Sales Job: How to Use the Art of Selling to Win at Work, to be published by McGraw-Hill in September and available now for pre-order on Amazon.com.