As a small business branding expert, I spend a lot of time helping small businesses find and promote their identity. But recently I realized that even more important than a strong business brand is a strong personal brand.
I get it: at first glance, this is no great epiphany. Most of us have all heard for years that we need a personal brand, but I always took that to be more anecdotal than objective advice. Of course, we want people to know us as honest, hard-working, trustworthy, etc. yet as I dive deeper into the way that society works, today I believe that a personal brand is now more relevant than ever.
The necessity of a personal brand has always seemed to me to apply more to authors, speakers, and celebrities than your average, everyday individual. However, today’s economy really demands that everyone has a personal brand. Whether you are looking for a job, starting a business, or moving up the corporate ladder, the way you market yourself matters. This now goes so far beyond just being known as a reliable and trustworthy individual.
Today’s economy is all about setting yourself apart. If you’re looking for a job, you could be competing with 200 other applicants; if you’re a business owner you have hundreds of competitors; if you’re climbing the corporate ladder, so are dozens of your coworkers. So how do you stand out in the crowd?
Here are three quick tips that can help you build a personal brand and get on your way to creating personal success:
1. Stand for something you believe in.
I write a lot about the need for businesses to define themselves by their cause or purpose – the same is true for you as an individual. The world is full of political correctness drones who are too afraid to speak their mind or even form an opinion. Those that are willing to stand up are the ones that get noticed. I am not saying that you need to get ultra political or think that it is ok to always speak your mind no matter who you insult, but I am saying that it’s ok for you to be known as someone who fights for what they believe in and are willing to put their neck on the line, or their money where their mouth is, as the saying goes. Just to throw in one more cliché, those who stand for nothing will fall for anything. cliché, yes, true? Absolutely.
2. Become the expert.
An expert is someone who people recognize as a master of their trade. People come to experts for advice and trust their counsel. The difference between an expert and a layman is that the expert studies their craft – they constantly seek new information, learn from other experts, and experiment with new ways of thinking and doing. An expert can then break down all the information, data, and new tools into replicable pieces that they can teach to others. An expert is both a student and a teacher of their trade.
3. Be the leader.
A leader is someone who can combine points one and two in order to guide others towards a common goal. To be a leader, you have to be willing to stand up for what you believe in, and you have to be an expert of your cause. A leader is followed because they are able to communicate vision, prove their competency, and empower those around them with the knowledge that they have gained.
Creating your own personal brand is not simply about dressing well and repeating a slogan about yourself that you came up with. It is not about ego, and it is definitely not about touting past successes. A personal brand has to be lived, seen, and felt by those around you. If you want to be noticed, you can’t blend in: you have to step out of the crowd and forge your own path.