• Kenneth Flakes, PE

7 Ways to Build Your Personal Brand and Elevate Your Career

Regardless of age, regardless of position, regardless of the business we happen to be in, all of us need to understand the importance of branding. We are CEOs of our own companies: Me Inc. To be in business today, our most important job is to be head marketer for the brand called You.” — Tom Peters

Kenneth Flakes, founder of Professional Plus

When most people think about brands, they often think about celebrities and athletes with recognizable brands. Oprah, for example, has a brand steeped in her ability to connect with people. Kim Kardashian has built a famous brand based on self-promotion. Lady Gaga is well known for her music, but she has established a brand based on her fashion choices when performing. Sports icons such as Tom Brady and Michael Jordan have constructed brands based on their winning.

A strong brand, however, is not just for celebrities and athletes. Branding applies to everyone, including those in the workplace. In fact, if you do not have a personal brand, you may be hurting your career progress.

What Is a Personal Brand?

Your personal brand is your identity at work, in the community, or both. It is based on your experience, talents, and personal accomplishments. Your personal brand is also the image that you want to be conveyed to your company. According to Amazon founder, Jeff Bezos, “Your brand is what people say about you when you are not in the room.”

Why Is Personal Branding Important?

A strong personal brand is more important than ever as it can show your value to management and lead to career opportunities. A strong personal brand also allows you to differentiate yourself from your peers. In a crowded workforce and online community, branding is more important than ever before. “It’s important to build a personal brand because it’s the only thing you’re going to have”, says serial entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk. “Your reputation online, and in the new business world is pretty much the game, so you’ve got to be a good person. You can’t hide anything, and more importantly, you’ve got to be out there at some level.”


How Does One Develop Their Brand?

The first step in developing a brand is to figure out who you are and what you want to be known for. Think about what your interests and passions are. Think about what you are known for or would like to be remembered for. Below are some examples of talents and interests that could be branded. Also, know that your brand could consist of multiple interests.

1. Become a subject matter expert.

  • Conduct in-depth research.

  • Read industry publications.

  • Obtain degrees, certifications, and licenses within your field.

  • Attend workshops and conferences in your field.

  • Study under other SMEs.

2. Share your knowledge.

  • Publish articles about your work.

  • Present your work at a conference.

  • Lead lunch and learns or knowledge-sharing sessions at work.

  • Document your lessons learned for your colleagues to learn from.

  • Create procedures for how to perform tasks.

  • Develop training courses.

  • Become an adjunct professor.

  • Contribute to a focus group.

3. Become an ambassador for your profession.

  • Speak to underserved communities about opportunities in your profession.

  • Participate in K-12 career days.

  • Bring a child to work.

  • Organize a field trip to your job.

  • Write about technology or a trending topic in your field.

4. Volunteer your time.

  • Join a committee.

  • Participate in a group.

  • Take a leadership role within an organization.

5. Mentor.

  • Provide guidance to younger colleagues.

  • Be a role model to younger students studying your profession.

  • Practice reverse mentorship.

  • Connect others.

6. Become an advocate.

  • Praise and promote the work that other professionals are doing in your field or area of interest.

  • Support public policy related to your work interests.

  • If you are a technical professional and STEM is dear to your heart, then promote careers in the STEM field.

  • If you are passionate about diversity and inclusion, find a forum to discuss your goals for a more level playing field.

7. Become a problem solver.

  • Request the tasks or projects that nobody else wants to perform.

  • Volunteer to assist colleagues with solving their problems at work.

  • Identify problems before they occur and present solutions.

Who Is Your Audience?

Once you have begun to develop your brand, the next thing is to determine your audience. Is your target audience your colleagues at work? Are you trying to reach your company’s leadership team? Is your goal to reach recruiters or individuals at another company? Is your goal to influence others? If so, think about who can benefit the most from your brand and address them. Do you want to address men, women, minorities, specific generations, specific industries, etc.?

How to Promote Your Brand

Once you have identified your audience, the final step is to promote your brand. Social media is probably the best way to promote your brand with LinkedIn being the most effective at reaching a business audience.

To grow your brand on LinkedIn, first start by updating your profile to highlight any accomplishments, awards, or recognition that you have received. Next, make sure that you are posting regularly. If you are doing any of the seven examples mentioned for developing your brand, now is the time to share with your audience.

LinkedIn is great for reaching a business audience, but there are other social media platforms that you can use to grow your brand, too. Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and Tik Tok have huge audiences that you can target, for example, but be aware that people engage and interact differently across the various social media platforms. As a result, you may need to be unique in your approach to each platform.

Another way to promote your brand is through your writing. This could consist of publishing a blog or writing a book/eBook related to your interests. Publishing video content to YouTube or creating a podcast could also lead to great exposure for your brand.

How to Create Long-Term Success

When evaluating your interests to decide what your brand is, make sure that you chose interests that you are passionate about. A brand comprised of your authentic self will go much further than an inauthentic brand. Another way to create a successful brand is by showing the value in the content that you share. Try to make your content unique or present it differently from others who have similar brands. Lastly, successful brands aren’t built overnight. They require consistent effort. Be patient and trust that your efforts will be successful long term.



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