Let’s start off by defining what personal branding is. Personal branding is the practice of people marketing themselves and their careers as brands. The term is believed to have been first used and discussed in a 1997 article, The Brand Called You, by Tom Peters.
Essentially a personal brand is no different than branding for a group or organization. Additionally, Seth Godin defines a brand as, “ a story, a set of emotions and expectations and a stand-in for how we think and feel about what you do”. Based on that definition, you already have a personal brand whether you’re actively shaping and developing it. Your personal brand is the way people perceive you based on your motivations, interactions with people on a daily basis (in person and online), the content you share on social media, and even the search results of google searching your name.
The Benefits of Consciously Shaping Your Personal Brand
Since you already have a personal brand it’s in your best interest to curate it to work to your advantage. What exactly do I mean by that and where should you get started? For starters, do you have a professional website or social media accounts? I’m going to approach this from the view of being a graphic designer since that’s where my experience comes from. Being a graphic designer you need a portfolio of your work, proof of your experience and ability to produce creative work efficiently and effectively, and as a way to be contacted. Putting together a portfolio is a whole topic on its own, but to sum it up your portfolio is a collection of your best work. But it’s not just your best work, it is a selective collection of design solutions that share the thought process behind your work, the value you can provide potential clients or employers, and the work that you would like to do more of. For example, if you want to work in packaging design you need to show packaging design. To be even more specific, if you want to do packaging for children's toys show examples of work that is suitable to that industry. From there you need to meet people in the industries you want to work in and try to develop meaningful relationships.
In addition to your professional website, you may eventually want to create "professional" social media accounts where you can share work in progress, completed work, and most importantly connect with people in your industry. When you’re starting out it’s best to start with just one social media platform and develop a solid routine of active participation. If you start out with more than more you run the risk of being overwhelmed and not achieving a solid understanding of how to consistently engage on any platform. As a graphic designer or illustrator, I recommend Instagram as a good place to start. Another important tip for social media is to interact with people the same way you would in-person.
Defining Your Values, Mission, and Purpose
Now that you have a better idea of what a personal brand is and how to use it to your advantage, how do you come to an understanding of what your personal brand is and how to be the best version of yourself?
Defining your values and the values you want to embody is a great place to start because your values are a prominent guiding factor in the choices you make in your life. Your values are your core motivations, your morals, your beliefs, and the people you hold most dear in your life. Your values should align with your actions and the person you’re striving to be. They will determine the direction of your mission and purpose. For example, what jobs you choose will be affected by your values as well as how much quality time you spend with your family or friends.
Make a list of your top five core values. Think about the people, moments, and feelings in life that bring the most joy to your life. This is a good place to start.
Family & Friends
After you determine your values it is important to assess whether they are in alignment with the way you carry yourself, in your daily actions and interactions. For additional help, you can ask your family, friends, or peers how well your values align with how they perceive you.
Once you’ve identified your values, you can use them to provide clarity and direction on your mission and purpose. Before we move onto the next step I want to mention that your mission and purpose are not fixed or set in stone, they are a foundation to work from. They must be evaluated and renewed over time as your grow as a person and gain a new understanding of yourself, your values, mission, and purpose. There is also the possibility that you might stray from your values and need realignment. I prefer to focus on the good and what's to come, but it's important to acknowledge that we all fall short sometimes.
Your mission is your direction. I heard it explained best by Corey Miller on episode 02 of Invisible Details, a podcast on the Seanwes Network, I am doing X to provide, this target audience with this kind of solution. When you turn your mission into a single statement or sentence like the example it will provide you with clarity on your brands direction. Your mission is how you’re doing the things you do for your employer, clients, and/or audience that make improve the quality of their lives, experiences, and their business.
Your mission will provide your brand with clarity and direction.
People need a reason to care about your mission, they need to know you have a purpose. Ask yourself, why are you doing what you do and why should people care? There may be hundreds of people with the same skills you possess, however, those people don’t share the same exact unique experiences, passions, and motivations as you. Those things make up the drive and determination for your mission to get from point A to B and/or make a positive change in someone or something. The reason you do what you’re doing has to be more than money. Why should someone see you and your brand as unique or valuable and want to be a patron or fan of what you do?
People need a reason to care about your mission,
they need to know you have a purpose.
Ultimately, people want to know what you’re going to do for them. You’re not the hero of their story. Your potential audience, customer, or employer are the hero of their own story and your purpose is what resonates with them. It allows them to make a choice and say, “This is something I want to be a part of because it’s going to help me be a better version of myself.”
You also want to make sure that you are growing and improving within your own story. That’s why it is important to reevaluate your values, mission, and purpose. You should be consistently reflecting them in everything you do. Your actions need to speak louder than your words.
Your actions need to speak louder than your words.
Your values, mission, and purpose are the foundation to establishing and building trust. You want to connect with your audience and you want them to resonate with you so that you can accomplish your goals together.
Whether you are developing your personal brand for the first time or re-evaluating it, I wish you well. If you have any questions or comments about working on your personal brand feel free to share them in the comments.