How to build an effective Personal Brand

Today we live in a consumer society where we are bombarded with product placement and brand identity everywhere we turn. Overwhelmed by choice, we opt for brands that speak to some part of us with a clear message, be it a promise of youth, organic credentials, good value, effectiveness or something else.

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The same can be said to apply for gaining success in our careers – we need to have a clear message about what we do so that employers, themselves overwhelmed by choice, can choose us for that promotion, to deliver that interesting project or that new job because they understand clearly what it is we bring. We don’t really think of ourselves as a product with a brand – why would we?

However the latest buzz around careers is just that – to think about how we want our current and prospective employers or clients to view us, and to create our own unique personal brand. Dan Schawbel, given the title of personal branding guru by The New York Times, suggests “personal branding is about unearthing what is true and unique about you and letting everyone know about it.”

Many clients I have worked with feel a bit uncomfortable talking about themselves using marketing/ brand terminology but it is simply a useful tool to plan coherently what we want people to know about us in order to achieve a specific goal such as gaining promotion, getting more job satisfaction through being chosen for specific work or projects, increasing visibility at work, gaining more clients or getting a new job. Whatever it is, it is worth spending some time identifying your goal so you can target your brand activity appropriately.

The key to an effective personal brand as I see it is to be authentic, and to break it down into the following 4 sections:


What does your body language, clothes and posture say about you?


How do people remember you when you’ve left the room?


What special skills do people around you know you for?

What do you want to be known for?


What makes you different from other people around you?

career advice personal brand

You will be able to answer some of these questions easily but for others you may need to enlist a trusted friend or colleague to give you some honest feedback either directly to you or via a 360 mechanism. CareerTree’s 360 feedback tool which is offered as an option within the Career Change programme is one example. This exercise is all about knowing yourself, and deciding what you want to focus on. You may have lots of things in each box so it is important to decide what you want the world to know about you.

You need to look for themes and decide which are most important to you. If, for example, you get feedback that you are a good negotiator, brilliant at telling stories, extrovert, stylish, open and honest and always have time for others then you have coherent elements that mean your brand already emphasises that you are a very strong communicator.

Think of these tenets of your personal brand like the roots of the tree – they give balance and stability but are flexible enough to allow growth and development. Roots though need a little help to establish themselves, and so it is with your brand – you need to feel comfortable talking about yourself in this way – create a description or message about yourself that you would feel happy using at work/ when you meet someone new/ at an interview/on your CV. Practice using it, testing it out and refining it.

When you are ready you need to evaluate how you share and promote your brand, thinking especially carefully about your online presence – make sure whichever routes you use reflect your message. Cultivate the conditions that will enable your brand to grow and establish its presence whether to your existing employer or a potential new one. If you can’t gauge whether the message your LinkedIn or Twitter profile is sending is congruent with your brand then ask for objective feedback from those whose opinion you trust.

Then you need to start living your brand – become who you aspire to be. Send out little seeds that can grow into your brand – attending events, writing articles, commenting on blogs, connecting and reaching out.

And don’t forget your brand needs love, attention and maintenance – update your online presence, prune it if necessary, stay motivated and positive – your personal brand will bear fruit in time.

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