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Building a Personal Brand

by Sarah Wilkinson, Class of ’17

Last week, I discussed personal branding and the importance of creating and maintaining a personal brand.

So how do you create a personal brand? Think of your personal brand as your trademark – what makes you unique. The first steps include establishing your branding points and then writing your personal brand story.

Branding points are keywords that people associate with you. For example, driven, funny, energetic, problem-solver. To find your branding points, take a piece of paper and give yourself two minutes to come up with as many words that you want people to associate with you as you can. With your list of words look for similarities and put each word into a group.

For example, maybe you wrote down “driven, A-student, involved, open-minded, problem-solver, determined, go-getter, well-connected.” You might group these into three groups: 1. Driven, determined, go-getter, A-student. 2. Involved, well-connected 3. Open-minded, problem-solver. Just like that, we’ve found your branding points: Driven, involved, problem-solver. This is the brand you might want to focus on communicating to others.

Now, it’s time to write your personal branding story. When you’re finished, your story could help you write your LinkedIn summary, your blog’s “About Me” page, or even craft your elevator pitch. Stories are one of the most human ways to communicate – it’s how we make friends and get jobs.

Your branding story seeks to answer these questions: who you are, what you offer, and where you’re going. Or, maybe these questions: what you stand for and what makes you stand out. Your story should draw on personal experiences from your past, but should mainly focus on the future and what you can offer the world. If you don’t know where to start, here are some other questions to ask yourself:

  1. Describe the path you took to get where you are today.
  2. What inspired you to be on the career path you’re on?
  3. What do you value?
  4. How can you set yourself apart in your industry?
  5. What do people often come to you for?
  6. What three things do you want your brand to communicate (think branding points)?
  7. What are your strengths and weaknesses?

Another great place to look for clues to your personal branding story is your LEAD 202 assignment, if you’ve completed one.

If writing a personal branding story isn’t your thing, think about your branding points and consider these other ways to establish your brand.

  1. Build a personal website that reflects you as a person and your career goals. Portfolios or blogs are great personal branding tools.
  2. Find ways to create value. Use social media as a way to produce and share content that matters and is in line with your personal brand.
  3. Associate with other strong brands. Mentioning in your blog bio that you go to Champlain College, that you intern with Burton, or are a member of a Facebook group from your industry is a start. Guest-posting for a blog or contributing to a community newsletter are other ways to build your brand.
  4. Business cards are small but powerful branding tools. Design (through an online service or on your own) a business card that lines up with your personal brand, or with what you want others to see. This might mean something colorful or simple, ambitious or use more illustrations than words.

The key to personal branding success is consistency. Make sure your behavior and decisions reflect your personal brand, and that means auditing your online presence. Every Facebook post and Tweet you send, consider what message you’re sending to others. If something goes against your three branding points – the staples of your personal brand – then you probably shouldn’t send it out to be forever visible on the web.

Sources: UMD Careers, Forbes, The Ladders, WikiHow