Lately, I have been obsessing about my personal brand. Every other page, blog or website I visit is coincidentally talking about the same thing, personal branding! I don’t believe in coincidence, so it is high time I address it.
When you enter any room, people will watch as you walk in, and each and every one of them will form an opinion about you. Regrettably, you have no control over this: if the opinion is positive or negative. They will all judge, just and unjust, imagining what kind of a person you are. You have done it too. We all have judged, fair or not. You might be thinking that well, it doesn’t matter what they decide because at the end of it all, you will introduce yourself and change their already formed opinions. In as much as that is true, I hate to announce that it only works for first impressions. You can change someone’s impression of you or redeem a damaged image by introductions where you explain yourself, mentioning your achievements and success and so on. Unfortunately, it is not the case with personal branding. Personal branding is beyond first impressions.
So what is it about personal branding? Neil Patel and Aaron Agius define personal branding as ‘a symbol, design, name, sound, reputation, etc., done on a personal level and that separates one person from another‘. It is built or earned just like respect, not said or imposed on individuals. It is a description of you that comes to peoples’ minds when they hear your name, see your photo or meet you. For instance, I think “POWERFUL” anytime I see Oprah Winfrey (even in my dreams)! She could be any other woman among the millions existing on planet earth, but there is something that sets her apart to make me associate her with power. Could be her influence or how she overcame obstacles to get to her current position. I don’t know. Another example, when I mention soda what comes to your mind? I can bet my last coin on this that you thought of CocaCola.
There is a crystal clear correlation between branding and success. A distinct personal brand helps you establish yourself as a leader and opens professional opportunities. Your brand offers a clear direction to your career development, therefore, understanding and developing your unique personal brand is a launching pad to new heights. So how can we change the perceptions people create when they meet us? How do we ensure that their judgement is real and positive without having to explain ourselves first? In short, how do you build your personal brand? I would like to single out a few insights on building my brand that I apply in my life daily. I believe they are common to any given field.
For starters, be consistent and unique in your dealings with others. It is common to try and imitate your mentors, advisors or even colleagues as you learn from them. This imitation does not set you apart from the competition. It does not build you as a brand. What sets you apart, makes you stand out as yourself are your story, your skill-set, your likes, dislikes, quirks, or lack thereof, and personality traits. This entire package defines a unique product that is you. Famously put as “be yourself because everyone else is taken”. This will help you define who you are and why you are the best to offer what you have to offer. Your personal brand will, then define your professional life; this means that you will consistently deliver what you are offering, selling or building, since it is based on the brand.
Secondly; be professional. I cannot stress this enough! If you want to be taken seriously in whatever you do, you need to present yourself, your work or your products with an air of professionalism. But what does “being professional” truly mean? For some it is neatly hanging your advance certificates on a wall in the office, others, dressing smartly to work, but professionalism encompasses that and more. I like to go with Osmond Vitez’s description of professionalism, that is, the strict adherence to courtesy, honesty, and responsibility when dealing with individuals or companies. It is taking responsibility for the quality of your work and your performance. This can create or destroy your brand and your reputation.
Finally, strategically position yourself. For fresh graduates, for instance, there are thousands of graduates with the same degree as yours. What makes you different? Find that one thing that separates you from the rest of the pack. This leads to the issue of the elevator pitch. Are you able to briefly and precisely sell yourself as a product that will solve the problems of the potential employer? This elevates you above the rest. In business, say selling sensors, what is different about your product? Do you have great maintenance services to set you apart or top notch customer service?
Secret: CONTINUED LEARNING. If you don’t know your brand yet, take the time to learn it and once you find it, build it!
About the Author:
Keziah Khalinditsa is an upcoming engineer and business woman. Her interests are to work with fellow engineers to eradicate poverty in African countries. She believes through engineering and technology, women can be part of something that will change the lives of their fellow women in Africa.