By Mike Wood.
In today’s competitive business environment, it may seem nearly impossible to stand out. But many people have managed to step out of the shadows by opting for a strategy primarily used by businesses themselves — branding.
Personal branding is the key to giving yourself an advantage both in your current job and when you search for a new one.
Your personal brand is something that follows you around whether you want it to or not. It’s something that exists even if you don’t bother to cultivate it. From job to job, the way you present yourself professionally matters, and it is instrumental in establishing yourself as a valuable leader.
What exactly is personal branding?
Understanding the ins and outs of personal branding is obviously the first step in the right direction. The concept can be simply defined as the method of marketing yourself and your career to improve relationships with managers, colleagues and clients. Turning yourself into a brand helps you manage how you’re viewed and how much trust you can establish in your career. It involves creating a distinct voice, image and ethical standard.
But, it’s also something that takes consistent work over the course of your career. That is to say, you can’t write a particularly excellent blog post one time and expect that to carry you through the rest of your life. On top of that, just generally having a social media presence is no longer enough to qualify as a personal brand.
Building trust with those around you.
Trust isn’t something that flourishes naturally on a wide scale. It’s something you have to cultivate, and the best way to do that is with a unique personal brand. When it comes to who consumers trust the most, it’s almost always individuals. Corporate branding may technically be more visible, but it’s almost universally seen as less trustworthy. In fact, brand messages are shared 24 times more often if the originator of the message is an individual.
Clearly, you can use your personal brand to build trust as long as that brand reads as authentic and sincere.
Finding a niche.
One of the most valuable facets of a personal brand is discovering your niche. It can be difficult to stand out if your area of expertise is simply “marketing.” If you try something more specific, you can magnify yourself and your skills. Although your target demographic may be more narrow, you are more likely to connect with that audience. I have spent most of my career focusing on Wikipedia. May not sound exciting, but it has helped me stand out as a go-to person for those in need of a Wikipedia page.
Becoming a thought leader.
While becoming a thought leader might not be at the top of everyone’s to-do list, it can happen if you establish yourself in a niche. Whether you are writing articles or participating in interviews, a portfolio of helpful information and advice will propel you to thought leader status. Again, this is all about building trust with valuable and actionable guidance.
In order to become a respected intellectual in your field, you have to know what you’re talking about, offer genuine counsel and really mean what you say. Done well, personal branding can walk side-by-side with personal development and career success.