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  • Writer's pictureMadison Giddens

How to Build Your Professional Personal Brand

Updated: Jan 5, 2023

Imagine your scope is stolen by another individual within your company. Or that you delivered successful products more effectively than another who received that promotion. Perhaps you are moved from one team to another and must prove your value. Again.

These are realistic fears for most employees in the corporate world. Excellent employees across the globe are often not rewarded or recognized for their accomplishments. Why? Because they lack visibility.

And what about those colleagues that get the recognition, the promotions, and the leadership approval? Those individuals, in most cases, are successful because they’ve built something that supersedes their actual contributions.

They built a Personal Brand.

Your personal brand is the combination of your reputation, the causes you stand behind, the quality of your work, and the unique perspectives you bring to the table. The quality of your personal brand determines if others think of you when great career-shifting opportunities arise.

Branding is not something reserved for large companies selling a product or service to customers. It’s also not something limited to influencers establishing their personal brand for advertising deals. Branding is vital for success in your personal career.

Jenni Flinders, a personal branding expert, spoke to the TEDx crowd at Bellevue College about personal branding in the professional world. Flinders argues that your personal brand comprises how others would describe you, what they would say your passions are, and what they believe you stand for. Being able to articulate your brand is the first step, aligning this with how others speak about your brand is the ultimate goal.

Unfortunately, having a personal brand is not a guarantee that your career will be smooth sailing. Layoffs and downsizing still occur to individuals with stellar personal brands. Life happens. Fortunately, if you have built a brand that is respected by others in your company, your local community, or your industry, your transition to a new chapter will be much easier.

What It Takes to Build a Personal Brand

To get started, you’ll need to begin thinking like a public relations specialist. Public Relations (also known as “PR”) is the process of making it crystal clear what you stand for. By the way you talk, the messages you proclaim, the people you associate with, the companies you partner with, and more.

The more you clearly communicate what you stand for, what value you bring, and how you operate, the better. In addition to communicating clearly, you must understand that it takes time and consistency. This isn’t something that can be accomplished overnight.

Branding yourself at work starts with:

  • Visibility and Clear Communication

  • Establishing Yourself as an Expert

  • Connecting Others and With Others

  • Supporting a Cause Outside of Your Day-to-Day

  • Using Your Personal Experiences to Benefit Others

Visibility and Clear Communication

1. Communicate Your Contributions

It is imperative that you keep track of your contributions. What did you deliver (not just what did you do)? What value have you brought to your team or your organization? Communicate those items on a regular basis to your leadership, colleagues, and partners. This could look like a post within your company’s messaging platform, or an email sent out on a monthly basis. However your company spreads information internally, ensure that your contributions are communicated clearly and regularly!

2. Recognize Others for Their Contributions

When speaking about your contributions, make sure you’re giving kudos and recognition to those who have partnered with you or supported you along the way. This does a few things: 1) shows leadership that you’re a team player, 2) shows colleagues and partners that you appreciate their contributions, and 3) encourages others to partner with you for future recognition and visibility. This builds your brand by pushing your message through other internal circles and communities.

3. Set Expectations

Setting expectations is vital to the health of your personal brand. If you are consistently overpromising and under-delivering, word will get around. Ensure that you’re setting expectations that you can meet and saying no when you’re overloaded. Pointing additional and valuable work to others within your circles can be a great way to connect others and establish yourself as someone who wants to push projects forward, even if you cannot be involved.

4. Lead with Authenticity

The best way to establish your personal brand is to be authentic in your place of work. If you don’t like football, don’t fake an interest to connect with others. This can easily backfire and show others that you change yourself to fit in. It’s not a good look. Rather focus on being uniquely you and connecting with others who have similar interests. Be authentic, unless you’re authentically a jerk.

5. Knowledge Management and Escalation Paths

Another great way to ensure your personal brand stands the test of time is to document everything and make it easily accessible to others. The project you worked on that accomplished that amazing thing? Document it and ensure you’re known as the leader in this space.

Knowledge Management is a vital aspect of establishing a personal brand at work. It also helps people to effectively escalate questions pertaining to specific subjects. If you’re the expert or strategic mind behind a subject, you should be listed as the escalation point. This furthers your ability to stay connected to meaningful work and to be seen as an expert in your niche.

Whether you are trying to get recognized internally at work, or externally in your industry, Search Engine Optimization should be top of mind. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the process of making content easily searchable. For example, if you’re an expert on a product built by your company, any content or documentation you have created should have keywords and tags pertaining to that specific product or project. SEO allows colleagues and partners to find your information and further establish yourself as an expert.

Establishing Yourself as an Expert

1. Produce Quality Work

Like mentioned before, set expectations for partners and only promise to complete work that you can actually deliver. When you deliver this work, ensure that it is of the best quality. When establishing yourself as an expert in any specific area, delivering low quality work that wasn’t thoughtfully created will cause your colleagues and partners to lose trust in you.

To avoid this, ensure you’re asking thoughtful questions and understanding their expectations. Show partners a first “rough draft” to ensure you’re on the right path. Including them in the creative process will allow you to shift directions before too much effort is expended, as well as produce quality work in partnership with others.

Building a successful personal brand is impossible without the trust of others. Do your best to produce work of excellent quality.

2. Create Content that is Helpful

In addition to creating documentation based on work you’ve completed for your employer, create content that is helpful for others personally. This could look like a lesson learned from a project you recently completed and how others can apply the learnings in their projects. It could also be an opinion piece on a recent technological discovery or innovation.

Creating content that is educational and useful by others within your industry or company is an outstanding way to establish your personal brand. Write about the things that interest you most. This opens doors to opportunities that align with your personal brand.

3. Speak at Events within the Company/Industry

If your company hosts speaking events internally or externally, volunteer as a speaker. This, of course, is only a good option if you enjoy speaking and are a great communicator. If not, you may be setting yourself up for failure.

Speaking on topics that interest you and are within your area of expertise is one of the best ways to establish your personal brand. You are able to speak directly to your audience and communicate who you are as a person, as an employee, and as a leader or visionary. Use these opportunities wisely and strategically to establish your personal brand.

Connecting Others and With Others

1. Network within Your Company/Industry

Networking within your company or industry allows you to meet likeminded individuals that can help you grow in your career. This doesn’t need to be salesy, or even related to the specific work that you do in your day-to-day. It can be based on causes that you support or hobbies that you have in your personal life. The success of your career is determined largely by the network that you create. Ensure that you’re actively networking and maintaining relationships throughout your career.

2. Be a Connector of Others

In addition to networking, make sure that you are connecting others. For example, say you know a product manager that is working on a new application in the food and beverage industry. At a networking event, you meet someone that is also working on this type of product in the same industry. This is a great opportunity for you to act as a connector. Offer to introduce these individuals via email or text so that they might partner or work together in some way. As you help others to expand their networks, you may find yourself being introduced to others that benefit the work you're doing as well. Basically, when you boil it down, this is just good karma at work.

Supporting a Cause Outside of Your Day-to-Day

1. Support a Cause That You Believe in by Joining a Group

If you are passionate about a cause, a particular subject, or any innovative projects, join groups of individuals already working within this space. In large companies, this might look like joining a resource group. For small companies, it might be joining something external to your company that is happening in your local community or your industry as a whole.

Whatever your situation, seek out opportunities for partnership on causes and topics that you personally enjoy and that would align with the personal brand you’re building. By aligning with others who are also interested in this space, you’ll connect with people that will be able to support you throughout your career, as well as communicate to others what you stand for and how you operate.

2. Create Programs to Serve Others

One of the most rewarding ways of getting involved is to create opportunities for others. For example, say you’re a writer in the Bay Area. You want to join a writing group, but there are none advertised online. Perhaps there are none occurring at all. If this is the case, creating your own group may be your best bet.

Creating the group, advertising in all of the places you had previously looked for groups, and inviting others into your group are the first steps to establishing yourself as a leader in this space. I’ve personally done this within the company I work for at this moment and it has allowed me to grow personally and establish my personal brand.

Using Your Personal Experiences to Benefit Others

Last but not least, use your personal experiences to benefit others. Creating a personal brand is just that: personal. Perhaps you’re an immigrant, a single mother, or an artist. Whatever makes you authentically you is something that can benefit others. Any hurdles you’ve experienced, changes you made in your life, or lessons you’ve learned the hard way are stories that can be shared with others for their benefit.

Being transparent about your personal experiences is sometimes hard and weird in a work environment. Yet, it’s one of the best ways to attract others who can benefit from your message and viceversa.

In 2023, I pray that we can all focus a bit more on our personal brand. With the uncertainty being felt globally, this is one thing that an employer cannot take from you. A personal brand is something inherently you. If it aligns with your purpose, then you’ve hit the sweet spot.

So, what will be your personal brand? What will you stand for and bring to the circles of individuals around you at work, in your personal life, or in your local community?

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