Building your personal brand

Many people fall short of effectively marketing themselves to prospective employers. We explore what it means to build a personal brand and how to use it to elevate your job prospects. 

Personal branding is the process of seeing yourself as a brand and thinking about how you want others to perceive you – which means establishing what you stand for and intentionally promoting yourself in a certain way. Ultimately, it’s about giving you a competitive edge over the next candidate by showcasing yourself in the best possible light to potential employers. It can also help you understand and articulate the values you seek from prospective employers and what you want in a job. 

Personal Branding Expert Deborah Ogden, who helps people to “step up and stand out”, has noticed a change in people’s focus on their personal brand over the past couple of years. She attributes this, in part, to the pandemic and the “hybrid world we find ourselves in”. According to a McKinsey & Company survey, more than 90% of companies are adopting a hybrid working model, which is also affecting the way candidates interview for roles – with nearly two-thirds of McKinsey respondents now favouring remote interviews and recruiting activities. For William Arruda, a Personal Branding Pioneer, “mastering” today’s flexible working models, and successfully building your brand in “these two very different worlds simultaneously” is the  latest major shift in personal branding and one of the biggest challenges.

The heart of the matter

Amazon Founder and CEO Jess Bezos describes your brand as “what people say about you when you’re not in the room”. Ogden agrees: “Your personal brand is people's experience of you. So, it's not just your photographs, it's not just your LinkedIn profile, it's not just how you dress, but it is all of the above and more – it’s how you walk in the door, your energy, attitude, eye contact and nonverbal communication.”

The same principles apply to virtual meetings, says Ogden. She advises: “Take a minute to consider how you are showing up.  Always take a break between online calls, preferably with some fresh air, and dress and prepare as if meeting in person.  How you dress impacts on your performance (enclothed cognition) as well as communicating your brand. Take a moment to scan your environment and background, clearing any clutter, so you appear professional with no distractions.”

Arruda’s advice in Forbes is to remember that your personal brand “is your most valuable career asset”, adding: “As with most assets, investing in it is essential if you want it to continue delivering value for you.” Because of the hyper visible world we live in, personal branding has become ever more important. With so many of us having multiple social media accounts and links to ourselves online, it is essential to make sure they form one cohesive personal brand that potential employers can look at.

Aligning your values

Values are key to personal branding success. They help candidates express much more clearly who they are and what they want from a role, helping them to align themselves with the company they are recruiting with from the outset, says Ogden, who adds: “Many more businesses are now values-led when looking at their recruitment,” which means knowing your personal values and seeing if they’re in tune with a potential employer is a brilliant way for both parties to find the right fit.

Ogden urges people to step back and think: “What is it that you want to communicate here? Do you want to be seen as a leader? Do you want to be seen as a team player? An ideas person? Or do you want to be viewed as someone who is detail orientated? What are your strengths and what are you not so good at?” Being able to answer these questions will enable you to communicate who you are much more effectively. Harvard Business Review also rates the importance of values, urging us to think about “global, domestic and community” issues that we care about. Taking time to focus on these factors can define your deeper purpose at work, which can then be communicated to prospective employers.

When it comes to personality types, while personal branding can help all candidates with their confidence, it particularly benefits anyone who is slightly introverted – enabling them to “have the clarity of who they are, and then find ways of articulating the value they bring to an organisation”, says Ogden.

What to remember

  • Learn how to articulate your value – being able to communicate your value in a concise way to companies is very important
  • Think about what your audience wants – Ogden suggests thinking about how you can best serve your audience or prospective employer, as “this shifts the onus away from you and allows your approach to be more tailored to the role, rather than just listing off your talents”
  • Have a place you can write good things about yourself – this helps to remove what Ogden calls “negative bias” and enables more positivity about your personal brand
  • Incorporate personal branding into daily activitiesArruda suggests taking a look at your calendar and asking yourself, how can I add my brand to these activities in order to make my mark?”

Common mistakes to avoid

While everyone can learn from their mistakes, avoiding a few common pitfalls during any interview stages will instantly improve your prospects. For Ogden, common mistakes she witnesses among her clients include:

  • Forgetting personality – too often people try so hard to be professional they forget to turn up as themselves; remember “your differences are your superpowers
  • Not being honest – it’s always best to be open from the outset, rather than give a false impression of your capabilities and skills
  • Avoiding physical communication – a little can go a long way here, so ensure you shake hands and greet people properly when in an interview setting.

If you can take all these personal branding tips on board, you will be well on your way to standing out in the candidate crowd and finding a role within a work environment where you can truly thrive.


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