Personal branding is not a one-time thing and it does not consist of creating a perfect resume, cover letter or LinkedIn profile and leaving it at that.
Every journey has to start somewhere and before departing, we must know what our starting point is. We must know who we are today so we can start working on the person we want to be tomorrow.
What follows is 6-step process for analysing our existing personal brand, from interviewing people that know us best to entering the mindset of a recruiter and revising what we have to offer, but first step is always self-reflection and self-discovery.
1. Identify your values.
Self-reflection allows us to tap into what makes us beautifully and uniquely us. The foundations of strong brand rest on being authentic and staying true to who we are and what we believe in. It rests on our ability to discover values, passions and personality traits that represent the core of our identity.
Ask yourself what are your personal values.
Values are at the core of our being – they represent what we consider most important. Some people may value integrity and honesty above all; others may put more value into intelligence and independence. Values are individualistic and very personal.
At the same time, not all values are equally important. We value certain things more than others. We might value family life more than professional achievements or perhaps we put active contribution to our community first.
Whatever our personal values are, it’s important to be aware of them. It is not easy to identify the drivers behind our actions or to make the right decision. But when we know what we value the most and what would bring us happiness and fulfillment, we can use that knowledge as an internal compass.
Knowing what your personal values and passions are will make it easier to choose your desired profession and compatible employer.
If you value volunteering activities and community engagement it is best to look for companies that value the same and have established pro bono programs. If you, on the other hand, value independency and being able to express yourself artistically you should try to find the company that will allow you that freedom.
2. Identify your passions.
Although they may overlap, passions are not the same as values. While values are much broader category and correspond to which we consider right or wrong, passions represent something that we find of interest.
Our passion can be traveling and exploring new cultures. It can be our interest in new technologies and their impact on our life. Or it can be design and creating compelling visual stories.
The power of our passions is that they make us explore, learn and get better for purely personal reasons.
If your passion is design you will find time to practice and get better at designing whether someone pays you or not. If your passion is exploring new cultures and sharing your knowledge, you will find a way and time to travel and write about your experiences.
Passions bring us satisfaction, make us happy. That is why it is very important to identify them and find a way to incorporate them into our professional and personal lives.
3. Examine your skills and competences.
Now that we know what our personal values and passions are, it’s time to look back on our experiences and examine what we can offer to our future employer.
What makes you unique and valuable team member? What will distinguish you from all other candidates competing for the position you want?
Think about the things you are good at: Are you detail oriented? Do you have that gift to become friends with people you have just met in under five minutes? Are you a great influencer? Perhaps you are the one to go to for innovative problem solving? Are you a great writer?
Skills and competences you identify and that correspond with your desired profession should be highlighted by your personal brand.
4. Consult people that know you best.
Next step is getting feedback from people closest to you. Their input is valuable because they have had the opportunity see how you perform when faced with various tasks and they have your best interest in mind.
Share with them what you have found out about your values, passions and competences and ask for their feedback.
Ask your friends and family about traits and attributes, good and bad, you are known for, as well as working environment and profession they can see you excel at.
Do they see you as an artistic person that has the gift of painting beautiful pictures using only words? Do they consider you the person to call if there is a community event to be organised?
Think about the way their perceived images of your strengths and affinities resonate with image you have formed about yourself in previous steps, as well as with your desired future.
5. Pay attention to words and phrases people use while introducing you.
College mentors, coworkers, colleagues and teammates can all provide valuable insight into your existing brand. Some of them may have already seen you perform in professional environment – on academic projects, volunteering activities or summer internships.
Are you introduced as a “hardworking and brilliant new intern” or “very communicative salesperson loved by all her clients”? Do your colleagues know you do your best work when left on your own or are you considered a team player?
Think about the reasons you are perceived as such, and if you want to keep those trends going.
6. Walk a mile in recruiter’s shoes.
If a recruiter Googled you right now, what would he see?
Would he see the image of you that you have in your head or something else?
What stories your social media profiles tell? What would you think about recruiting such a person? Would you consider it a serious candidate?
Which profession is persona presented there compatible with? Do you think she fits the profile of your desired profession? Would you entrust that person with your clients?
Are you taking advantage of the opportunity to have your own blog or website that serves as a personal platform that is completely customizable and under your control?
It is very important for your online brand to correspond with, and compliment, your offline one – to highlight and showcase your competences and achievements in best of lights. Is your existing online presence serving that cause?
If you follow the process presented here you will be able to see a gap between how you are perceived by people now – offline and online – and how you want to be perceived in order to make your dreams and aspirations reality. You should be able to identify which aspects of you existing brand align with how you want to be perceived in the future and which do not, so you can manage them accordingly.
Through this whole process of self-reflection and self-discovery try to be as objective as possible, open for feedback and true to yourself.
Whatever conclusions you come to, and feedback you receive, do not be discouraged! The goal of this exercise is not to keep us stuck in the mold of old opinions and behavioral patterns but to form a good starting point for our future victories.
This post is part of Personal Branding for Students and Graduates Campaign. In our previous post we talked about what we are missing out on when we are not actively managing our brands.