Let’s get one thing straight.
You don’t need to be an entrepreneur, a business, or a celebrity to have a personal brand.
Everyone has a personal brand. A lot of people, however, choose to ignore their brand and let others form that brand for them. As your parents may have told you while growing up, “Be a leader, not a follower.” Well the same concept applies here. And from that concept, we derive one painstaking truth.
No one is going to hire a follower. In fact, genuine leaders are largely in short supply. Today we see it more than ever — with outsourcing on the rise and technology overtaking more and more jobs, we need to ask ourselves: how do I set myself apart? The answer is in how strongly you represent your personal brand. It’s not easy, let me tell you. I’ve actually flip-flopped my own personal brand several times in the past few years — from technical to business to branding. It’s never an easy journey, but it can be incredibly rewarding.
So what do we define as a “personal brand”? A brand is what encompasses the very nature of the product it represents (in this case, yourself). A brand must fully express in utmost brevity the exact reason for why someone should partake in mutual business. You may be asking yourself, how does one do this?
There’s a simple 3-step process which I follow each and every day. It goes like this:
While I could definitely come up with a silly acronym for this process (MNP, PNM, PMN), it does no justice. Remembering these three words will be key in the success of yourself and your brand. Therefore, let me explain each one in detail.
Always take the opportunity to casually talk yourself up. You’re a web developer? If you strike up a conversation with a local handyman, give him a tip or two on expanding his local presence online, and mention that you specialize in that area. Don’t be pushy, but hey, if you have a business card, now is the time to shine. Which brings me to my next point.
Make sure that you take advantage of networking events. These include meetups, pro bono work, conferences, and professional events. Networking is what I believe to be my specialty. My networking skills have led me to have conversations with Fortune 500 CEOs, top C-suite exec’s for a number of tech & insurance companies, and successful entrepreneurs. Networking is the art of getting to know someone on a first name basis.
This is absolutely critical in addition to the first two steps in the process. Performing by under promising and over delivering is the key to success as a professional in any field. Think a project might take a few days? Tell the client it will take until the end of the week. Chances are you will not meet that deadline as soon as you think, because life can creep up on you in unimaginable ways. That way, when you deliver the project Thursday morning, the client will be impressed and you will have a greater chance of being rehired in the future. Likewise, there may be a detail that you missed, and providing the client with extra time to review the project will reduce stress on both ends.
But how does an employed professional use these skills to excel within the 9–5 workplace? My response: how does one not use these skills? If you take this process for what it is — Market, Network, Perform — you will realize that not only should you be doing this in your occupation already, but it should encompass the very progress of your average work day.
Take time out in the morning to converse with upper management, maybe mention a project or account you are working on. Make the move to invite fellow co-workers or co-workers from another department to a round of golf on the weekend. Or maybe you can crunch those numbers a little faster or close that sale a bit sooner and impress your boss! Taking initiative on these little things can lead to a greater impact on your career later on. That means potential promotions, raises, bonuses and recognition. Who doesn’t love that?!
All in all, follow this process and DO NOT think for a moment that a personal brand is something left for the better half of the professional world. Your brand only starts when you begin to take it seriously. So start today.
“Branding demands commitment; commitment to continual re-invention; striking chords with people to stir their emotions; and commitment to imagination. It is easy to be cynical about such things, much harder to be successful.” –Sir Richard Branson, CEO Virgin
By: Zachary Braden
We would love to know which branding methods have worked for you, so please comment with any relevant info.
Zachary Barden is a serial entrepreneur & startup consultant who specializes in professional branding. He lives in NYC and is obsessed with networking.