Note: This article was originally published on Tacitkey. Read the original article here: professional branding
A professional brand matters so much for your career because it helps you distinguish and position yourself distinctly from the sea of professionals in your industry. It is not just about building a powerful resume, portfolio, or a LinkedIn profile though those steps can kick-start your brand’s journey. Though it is necessary to garner a good reputation and stay out bad press, you cannot guarantee yourself a professional brand by performing those steps alone.
You need to put in efforts at multiple levels to create a professional brand and nurture it. You start with a proper vision for yourself, a purpose for your career, and finally, identify your ambitions, strengths, weaknesses, passions and interests. Once you get a clear understanding of those elements, you build yourself a unique value proposition (UVP) which will be foundation of your brand.
Thus, your brand will represent your image and reputation, genuinely reflect who you are as a professional, strengthen your identity, and represent the passion you have towards your career. One thing to note is that your professional brand is not tied to your current job or company rather; it is tied to your career. Hence, it is critical to build a strong professional brand (online and offline) that speaks of your job goals within and outside your workplace.
Just as organizations brand themselves to nurture their image and influence buyer behavior, they hire employees who have a brand of their own as well. Hiring managers look for resourceful employees who can be good advocates of an organization’s brand as well. That is why it is important for every individual to have a professional brand in order to be hired, or sell his or her business. Whether you are employed or in between jobs, now is the time to look back, analyze, consolidate your experiences and skills to build yourself a professional brand.
Here are some of the tips to help boost and nurture your professional brand and its value:
Tip 1: Work on your brand statement
You can define yourself instead of letting others assume things about you. You can influence your audience’s perceptions by gauging their opinions and then define your brand to change misconceptions. Since your brand is tied to your reputation, it has to depict you and your identity accurately to your professional circles.
To identify and define your brand, you can do the simple exercise of creating a brand statement. You just have to list out all your unique qualities, talents, skills, values, principles, strengths, weaknesses, interests and passions. The list should also include descriptors of your personality, areas of expertise, your ultimate professional goals and how you are going to attain them, how you want to be known in the future, how you execute your work, and how you put all your personal attributes to practice professionally in order to make an impact in your industry.
While making this list think about what people expect from you and if your brand statement answers their expectations. What guidance do peers and subordinates seek from you? Do your superiors consult you on projects or for professional decisions? If yes, how should they do it? Write down such specific information as well. The brand statement should also reflect information on how you want to be viewed in the future and for what you want to be famous. Write down adjectives with which you want people to describe you once you establish thought leadership in your professional circles. This will make your audience understand your caliber and your potential for growth. Once you create the list, take the essential points and create your unique brand statement.
Before you put your brand statement out to the public, consult with your close associates at work. Get their honest reviews and first impressions about your branding exercise and ask them for suggestions and guidance. Based on their feedback, improve your brand statement. This way, you get various perspectives of yourself and you can tweak your professional brand statement to influence their brand perception after gaining proper clarity.
The process of accepting assessments, suggestions, criticism, and advice in itself is a healthy step, as it adds value to the branding process and improves your professional brand value. It is also crucial for you to continuously review and improve your brand statement based on the additional skills and experiences you have gained, or your brand may become stagnant.
Tip 2: Bring your personal strengths to the forefront
There is a thin difference between a personal brand and professional brand; they are well integrated. No matter how hard you try to separate your personal and professional brands, it is difficult to maintain both exclusively. It becomes easier if you combine your personal and professional brands to make them more authentic. However, in cases where your personal thoughts, opinions, principles, and ideologies may come in the way of professional work, you should err on the side of caution.
On the bright side, you can also leverage your personal strengths and talents to make your professional brand stronger. Your personality, soft skills, and other talents are unique and equally important as the aptitude and experience you carry for your line of work. Organizations are looking for candidates who can represent their work culture and brand accurately. Moreover, they prefer genuine and authentic employees to be their brand advocates.
It is equally important to participate in extracurricular activities and corporate social responsibility programs and display your talents. This not only improves your professional brand but also gives you a chance to informally network with superiors and peers outside of company’s hierarchy.
Tip 3: Use storytelling techniques to propagate your brand
Once you have a winning brand statement highlighting your UVP, complement it with a well-written story. Tell people stories of your career and professional experiences. These stories should reflect your brand influence brand perception. Case studies, white papers, documentaries, portfolios, etc., are effective stories that can demonstrate your professional worth to potential employers, clients, and peers. They will also help you establish thought leadership among your professional circles.
The brand statement and the story have to be consistent across online and offline channels whenever you communicate them to the public. Be it your resume, social media, professional platforms, conferences, website, etc., the brand’s spoken and written communication has to be consistent. Some standard brand elements taglines, headshots, UVPs, career summaries, etc., that help you design your unique professional brand.
Tip 4: Demonstrate Your Value
A key to becoming a great thought leader and boosting your professional brand is being confident about who you are and your brand. Now that you have your brand statement and story, be confident in sharing those with others. You should fully believe and be comfortable with your professional brand. This becomes important when you are presenting to an audience, or selling your company’s products and services to a potential client, negotiating a deal, resolving organizational conflicts, or managing a critical project.
If you lack confidence, your audience is not going to be convinced about you. If you want your clients, peers, subordinates, and employers to rely on you then get comfortable with your brand.
Rework on your brand statement frequently so you align your professional and personal attributes to your brand.
If you have the tendency to frequently apologetic, do not be unless you have made mistakes. Do not destroy your brand’s image at the cost of being polite. When you attend conferences and seminars, be sure to ask questions, voice out your opinions and contribute to discussions proactively. Document your accomplishments at work and find avenues to display them to your superiors and peers to get recognition. Make sure that your organization knows that you drive home profits and results and are a key valuable player as well. This should be done not just during annual reviews or performance appraisals but also when you seek a raise or an out-of-turn promotion.
Tip 5: Work on your online reputation
While you are demonstrating your value to your company, you can showcase it outside your organization as well. The best way to do that is to share your professional insights, expertise, and knowledge publicly. Digital, especially, social media platforms help showcase your professional skills. Numerous employees undergo social media scrutiny these days before they are hired because companies do not want disruptive employees. They want resourceful, knowledgeable and enterprising ones. They gauge your ability to mentor, advise, guide others on your area of expertise. A professional with a robust LinkedIn profile and blog, a list of courses to add to his kitty, and has a set of instruction videos on particular skill or concept is more likely to get hired than a person who has not demonstrated any kind of thought leadership or expertise in his domain.
Keep a consistent profile across various platforms. Use socially approved and inclusive language that does not have profanity or racial slurs. You have to use the best possible version of your content (graphics, videos, text) that accurately reflects your brand and use it for taglines, headlines, short introductions, resume, portfolio, job applications, and other professional communications.
Revamp your online presence periodically by finding out how your name and brand rank on various search engines. Set up Google Alerts for your name and brand to keep track of your brand continually. Work on your brand image if there are any unfavorable reviews, negative feedback, or criticisms about you and your work. Acquire the necessary skills and take up more projects to fix your reputation. If you put out credible content frequently, your name is likely to appear on the first few results of the search engines.
Tip 6: Learn Constantly and Get Mentorship
To boost your professional brand value successfully and progress in your career, you have to invest in yourself. Continually update yourself about industry trends, tools, methods, and futuristic concepts. Enroll for training, certifications, personality development, and professional development classes. Keep looking out for fresh ideas and innovative approaches to do your existing work.
Participate in networking events, meetups, webinars, and become a member of professional associations and clubs. If you upgrade yourself consistently, new opportunities will come your way to give you a competitive edge in the market. Create learning goals for you and fulfill them relentlessly. This would prove that you are a valuable player in your company who constantly updates his/her skill sets.
Establishing and sustaining a professional brand can be quite difficult in the corporate world. The process becomes smoother when you have someone to guide you through it. It is best to get mentorship and guidance within your industry. A mentor can help you through obstacles, train you in various professional skills, and help you tackle corporate politics. With the help of your mentor, you can learn to use discretion while talking to superiors, clients, and important people. Your mentor can give you critical feedback from time to time, on where you need improvement to achieve your goals. He or she can help you with the right professional connections to fast-track your career.
Tip 7: Publish Your Knowledge and Expertise Online
When you exhibit your knowledge online for the public, you slowly start establishing thought leadership in your particular area of expertise. This improves your professional brand multifold. You have to do this strategically; one way is to syndicate your content with online publications and top companies in the industry. With content syndications, the public recognizes you as an expert in your field. It also becomes easy for journalists and established writers to quote your content or brand in their articles.
TacitKey is one such platform that enables professionals to publish and monetize their knowledge. Publish your insights and research on industry trends and best practices, guide, and mentor other professionals, solve your industry’s problems, highlight your areas of expertise etc., and gain recognition as well as increase your earnings through brand endorsements.
When people increasingly share your content and talk about your brand, you get more social credibility and authority. This boosts your professional brand value and career exponentially.
Creating a professional brand cannot happen in a day; it takes time. The earlier you start with your UVPs, the better your professional brand gets. Use the above-mentioned tips to influence brand perception and improve your reputation. Your professional brand will slowly undergo an overhaul and increase in its value.