Invest in your career by developing a killer personal brand.
It’s news to no one that consumer brands are enormously powerful drivers of purchasing decisions. The promise of a certain quality or experience has us opening our wallets faster than you can “ipad 3”. But are you aware that people have brands too – and that these personal brands have a similarly strong effect on purchasing decision.
If you think of employers, clients or – in the case of entrepreneurs – investors as ‘purchasers’ of your services, it becomes clear why your personal brand matters. People wanting to pay for your time or expertise want to know what they’re buying. Are you reliable and cost-effective (McDonalds) or high-tech and hip (apple)? Are you reliable but stodgy (IBM) or sexy and irreverent (Virgin)?
In the employment market, certain characteristics increase the demand for your services and enable you to price yourself at a premium. The keys ones are specialist skills, experience and connections, but it depends on your industry. Our fashion clients, for example, often put a premium on stylishness or ‘edge’.
So, how do you go about getting a brand? Well, the good news (and possibly the bad news) is that you already have one: it’s what people say about you when you’re not in the room. The art of personal brand management is in shaping that conversation.
We could – and do – run a full day course on just how you define, build and monitor your personal brand, but for the purposes of this one-latte blog, we’ll keep it simple: stand for something and stand out. The strongest personal brands belong to people who have something to say about their profession and find creative ways to start dialogues about it. They blog, they Tweet, they write articles, they volunteer, they join LinkedIn groups, they give free advice and they speak at conferences. Basically, they use the same techniques as consumer brand managers: they articulate a unique selling point, they promote the hell out of it and they build a loyal base of brand advocates who will stay loyal and convert other people.
Your brand advocates are your network, and growing this network is the single best thing you can do for your career.
When you have a strong network of people who ‘get’ your brand and recommend you to other people in their network, managing your career becomes more a case of juggling calls from head hunters and less a case of furtively scanning seek when your boss is out of the office.
If you’re interested in learning more about personal branding, check out guru Dan Schwabel’s website. Dan’s own brand is a fascinating example of personal branding on steroids. He pretty much owns the ‘personal branding’ space despite the fact that he didn’t invent the concept. We can’t all be a Dan Schwabel – there are nowhere near enough orthodontists in the world for that – but we can all be someone. Who are you going to be?