I am a workplace rights attorney turned career strategist and workplace consultant. For years I helped legal clients navigate workplace issues. From bakers and graphic designers to college professors, inventors, and doctors, I helped hundreds of people from a variety of industries and career backgrounds resolve their most challenging workplace problems.
If you are contemplating a career shift, you may have seen the term “personal brand” thrown around. If you’re like many people, you may be skeptical at the thought of fostering a personal brand. I understand. As a career and personal branding coach, I help clients overcome preconceptions and develop strong personal brands for their careers.
Contrary to popular belief, personal brands aren’t just for celebrities or the Insta famous. You don’t have to be a Kardashian to have one. Everyone has a personal brand—yes, even you. Even if your day starts with a toddler elbow to the temple and your commute is punctuated by daycare drop-offs. Even if you work a “quiet” job and you eat the same desk sandwich every day. And yes, even if you’d rather take another toddler elbow to the temple than see your name and face splashed across the Internet.
Well, first because, as a career strategist and personal branding coach, I’ve studied personal branding and have worked to implement successful personal branding strategies in my clients’ lives.
Second, and perhaps even more important, I know this because I have successfully built my own personal brand. I’ve built my brand from a Buffalo employment attorney focused on local matters to a trusted global voice on career and workplace issues with a committed following of over 150,000 people across the world and a reach of millions more each month. I’ve published over 140 bylines on the topics of career, work, and motherhood, and have been featured in dozens of media articles.
In less than three years, I created a trusted global brand from my living room while chasing after three kids five and under.
I did it as an introvert with strong boundaries, an aversion to social media, and zero experience in audience building. Finally, I did it all with no ulterior motives except the passion to effect change in people’s lives.
In fact, it should be the complete opposite. Your personal brand should fit like a well-tailored suit (or a dress with pockets).
Your personal brand is the thing that sets you apart—your best qualities, accomplishments, and areas where you excel all wrapped up in one unique you-shaped package. It’s the thing that makes you stand out during a job search. It’s your knowledge and your voice served up in the way that only you can deliver.
Developing the essence of your personal brand takes time, commitment, and dedication. You have to understand who you are and you need to know your “why.”
When building your personal brand, you need to know your strengths. Set aside time and take stock of your strengths. What are the things people tell you you do well? What are the activities you’re naturally drawn to? Is it mentoring others? Your writing skills? Your quick wit? What do you do best? What are your greatest qualities? In what area are you an expert? Figure out where you excel and take note.
Once you determine where you excel, work to enhance and refine those areas. Take ownership over them. This isn’t the time to be shy. You need to root yourself in your expertise and build your experience and knowledge base. Expand your sphere of influence. Grow your strengths and skills and truly take ownership of them.
Once you know your scope of authority, allow your expertise to define you—at least professionally. Identify your target audience and refine the delivery of your message. Become known for speaking, writing, commenting, and advising on those topics. Whether that means building an online presence, appearing on local television or radio, speaking at trade association meetings, writing a book, teaching a class, or publishing the occasional op-ed, contribute in the way that best suits your style. Better yet, do a combination of those things. Diversify your platforms. Knowing who you are and having a signature method of expressing it is a vital part of standing out among the crowd.
Fourth, once you’ve established yourself as a leader in your chosen area, work on growing your sphere of influence. Don’t limit yourself to your local community. Pitch your ideas to national and international publications—and use your real name! You can’t position yourself as a leader without saying who you are.
Create a blog. Contribute a column to a print or online publication. Get quoted in news and magazine articles. Appear on television, radio, and podcasts. While landing media spots may require some effort, you may encounter requests for media interviews and appearances without ever having to do any outreach.
This was my early experience as I built my personal brand. As a brand building novice at the time, I had no idea I’d land on the radar of so many different media outlets. But, that’s the magic of building your brand and refining your message—when you write and speak with purpose, your people find you.
When building your brand, you should always know other leaders in your niche. Connect with mentors and experts in your field and in related fields. However, you must always find ways to provide value to those in your network—this is not a one-way street. Lead and connect with authenticity.
Don’t expect anyone to pay or pave the way for you. Let me repeat that. Do not expect anyone to do the work for you. Don’t hound people in your life and on social media networks because you think they can be your rocketship. Furthermore, if you choose to outsource certain tasks related to building your brand, be sure your voice and values remain front and center. Nothing kills a personal brand faster than being inauthentic.
Your work is not done once you have established your personal brand. Commit yourself to expanding your knowledge, growth, and career. Continually invest and re-invest in yourself: through continuing education in your subject area, through professional associations, through masterminds, and more. Continue to level up and excel as a leader.
And remember—you don’t need to be the loudest to be heard. You just need to be you.
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© 2021 Alnaji Career and Workplace Strategies, LLC |
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