The talented comedian, actor, writer, producer and singer Steve Martin once said, "Be so good they can’t ignore you."
This theory expands much further than the entertainment industry. Rather, it is an excellent goal for any individual who wants to grow their professional life and build a successful career.
You may think branding and marketing are for the public relations and communication departments; however, you will never be considered for a job opening or special project lead if no one knows your name. If people remember you, what they know about you and how they talk about you is all part of your personal brand.
Certainly having a resume and an accomplished work history is important, but your personal brand — how people identify you — is the selling point in your career success.
Personal brand expert Dan Schwabel gives one of my favorite definitions: "Personal branding is all about discovering what makes you special, and then communicating it to the right people, through the right channels."
Building an effective brand, sharing your brand, and then continually strengthening and protecting your brand are the three steps to lead you on the path toward increased salary and personal job satisfaction.
1. Build Your Brand
Before you can build your personal brand, you must know what your existing brand is. You may ask yourself, "How can I know what it is if I have not built it yet?" While you may not know what it is, others have already been creating it for you. How you act, present yourself and treat others and how hard you work all reflect people’s opinions of you, which is in fact your brand. Ask a trusted superviser, mentor or colleague to describe how others perceive you.
Leverage this information and the following checklist to start planning how you will refine your brand.
• Define your professional goals and how you will accomplish them.
• Use this career map to identify the key elements of your personal brand.
• Create a brand statement that details how you want to be known and what you want to be known for.
2. Communicate Your Brand
Although you might have built a great personal brand, it is only useful if you are able to effectively communicate it to the professional world. To communicate your brand, you need to:
• Ensure that your supervisor, boss and other executives in the company are aware of your unique talents as well as the value you add to the corporation. Do this by maintaining regular communication on your progress on projects and the results that you deliver.
• Start paying attention to your daily interactions with those around you, including colleagues, clients, and even friends and family, consciously aligning these interactions with your personal brand goals.
• Remember the timeless saying that your actions speak louder than words. At work, volunteer for extra projects and take on new responsibilities that are in line with the talents and traits you want to showcase.
• Social media has enhanced the way companies market their brands and connect with their customers. You can implement this same technique to network and market yourself to employers. The key to creating a strong brand image through social media is consistency. Use the same name, picture and personal tagline when registering for different sites to assure people recognize your profile. About.me is an excellent way to link your different profiles, blogs and websites. You can personalize this page to reflect your brand image as well as track activity.
• Consider starting a blog or creating a personal website to showcase your work. This allows you to build your reputation as a subject-matter expert, which is important to maintain after you have landed your dream job. Link your social media profiles with automatic cross posts to make this easier. In addition, reaching out through blogs and other communication outlets opens the door to grow your professional network with other bloggers.
• Update these other communication tools to help you highlight the brand you want to communicate: business cards, résumé and cover letter, work portfolio, and wardrobe.
3. Strengthen and Protect Your Brand
To climb the corporate ladder you need to market yourself and your brand image. This includes maintaining a professional appearance and behavior at all times. As a result of increased technology, especially social media outlets, the lines between your personal and professional life often blend together. "There is no professional or personal anymore," says successful entrepreneur and businessman Peter Shankman. "There’s simply your brand, and it’s up to you to determine whether your brand is affected positively or negatively."
The following steps will help you strengthen and protect your personal brand:
• Continually update your brand, and your professional achievements will grow. Maintain records of projects you have worked on, as well as the quantifiable results of these projects. This proof is what you will need to present when you are ready to ask for a promotion or raise.
• Protect your reputation by regularly monitoring your social media accounts, website, blog posts and other communication outlets. Review pictures, comments and posts to assure they are appropriate and professional. Your brand should be a positive reflection of you.
Building, improving and maintaining your personal brand takes a great deal of work. Managing your brand is a continuous process. It is not easy, however; taking the time to align your career goals and how you want others to perceive you is a proven way to help you confidently ask for a raise or bravely go outside your comfort zone to pursue a new opportunity. Ultimately, your personal brand will help you achieve your career dreams.