Take the Time to Cultivate a Personal Brand

The idea of a brand no longer applies to companies alone. Whether you like it or not, you do have a personal brand. It’s reinforced in every interaction with others, in person or online. It’s stamped across the digital world, in social networking sites and really any place you have a digital identity.

Still skeptical about whether your personal brand even exists? Think of the people you work with every day, or your good friends. What are they known for? Is there one thing they are better at than anyone else you know? Do you find yourself seeking advice from these people on specific subjects, or perhaps associating certain terms with them? These associations contribute to their personal brand.

Put your personal brand to work for you. Since you have one—even if you’re putting no effort into it—you might as well leverage some of the following strategies to help shape your brand into one that will help you become a leader, get that job you’ve been working towards, or get assigned coveted projects at work, ones that may seem just outside your reach.

Be purposeful in your online presence.

A good place to start is thinking about what you share online—and the impression it may make on others. As you leave school and enter your professional career, there’s a chance you may become friends with co-workers or professional peers online. Every picture you share, every tweet you put out into the digital universe, your profile pictures—these things suddenly matter. They leave impressions upon a person about what makes you tick, what sort of person you are, your character. So, make them count.

Leverage the power of association

Shaping your brand doesn’t have to be obnoxious or over the top. You can create impressions in others in a subtle way. For example, let’s say you’re a consultant and you snag a big time corporate client. Rather than bragging all over Facebook, you can check in to the client’s headquarters at your kick-off meeting, with a note along the lines of, “Client meeting.”

Here’s another take. If you’re looking for a gig in tech, why don’t you add your networking groups to your LinkedIn profile, as well as following some of the up-and-coming founders and investors who are active on LinkedIn? What these subtle actions tell people is: “I care about these things.” And, sometimes that’s enough.

Have strong follow through

Think about what you tell people and do a strong follow up. Not only will people appreciate that you followed your word, but it’s an opportunity to reinforce the personal brand you want to have. For example, if you mention to people that you’re well networked in the real estate industry, and then you learn that a friend desperately needs a mortgage broker, you close the loop when you connect him or her to one you trust. Or, if you say that you’d love to meet for coffee, well, follow up and make a coffee date.

Follow up sends the message that you’re reliable, consistent and you are what you say you are. If these are traits you want associated with your personal brand, make it happen.

What’s your specialty?

A lot of career experts will tell you to know your weaknesses. This is good advice. But for your personal brand, consider your top of the line strengths. Have these in your back pocket to confidently bring into play, when appropriate, during interviews or new business conversations. Or, if you choose to have a more refined online presence, such as a dedicated web site, then you can play up these strengths online, with strategic messaging.

Do you care about your brand? If so, how do you manage it?

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