The rise of the personal brand
The rise of the personal brand. What's your story?
It’s the wise adage that has stood the test of time: “You never get a second chance to make a good first impression.”
But it is not your shiny shoes or suit that will leave a lasting impression when you next interview for a role. As anyone in recruitment will tell you, it’s your personal brand, how you tell it and the insights it offers into how you operate, that will linger long after your interview is over.
Every person has a unique story. Call it what you will – an elevator pitch, personal brand, what makes you stand out – it offers insights into your core skills, values and workplace behaviours. Your story is your personal brand, and needs to be the hook that people remember long after you’ve left a room.
How to begin defining your personal brand story
The secret to getting personal branding right is to start with the truth. You don’t need the most impressive story (this is not about mimicking anyone else, putting up a facade or delivering a performance – that’s a disaster waiting to happen). What you need is the truth, and the most powerful elements within that truth.
Getting your story into winning shape is about being authentic around what makes you tick, and how that plays out in what you offer. You need to think about your talents, strengths and achievements in a way that best defines who you are, and then work on expressing those.
Were you the kid who flipped burgers at McDonald’s while finishing an MBA, and have since used those lessons to build high-performance teams? Or the nurse who moved into corporate, maintaining a passion for people that helped her turn visions into reality?
Sadly, few people take the time to define their story, let alone tell it. Most are not very comfortable talking about their capabilities and strengths – and in a job interview, that’s a serious issue. I’d estimate 80 per cent of people struggle with being upfront about their story or stating, “This is what I am good at and what I bring to the table – hear me roar!”
How to build your personal brand story
- Seek feedback to solidify your brand
Once you’ve started identifying your story or brand, the best way to continually hone, build and articulate it is to constantly ask for feedback.
If you have completed a big project, request explicit feedback from your managers, peers and business partners on how you went, what you contributed and what made a difference. People who are thirsty for feedback accelerate their self-awareness and sense of worth, and are in a better position to offer compelling statements and telling insights when someone asks, “Why should I hire you and what would you bring to our team?”
A smart tactic is to align yourself with a good recruitment consultant who has a deep understanding of your career path. They should be able to advise what traits or capabilities are currently in demand, or provide feedback as to where you should build your experience to strengthen your story. And if you ask for honest feedback, listen carefully to what the recruiter has to say. It might just be the best advice and direction to get your story into shape.
- Ensure consistency in your story
Once you’re really clear about the key elements of your story, there needs to be consistency in all the ‘branding channels’ you have working for you, with the key words and phrases in your covering letter, CV and LinkedIn profile marrying up with the words you use in any discussion.
All the decisions you discuss should demonstrate your core message, and personal brand. It is incredibly compelling when you meet someone who embodies how they present on their CV or in social media or over the phone, each touch point building on each other to create a picture of a highly successful individual who knows what he or she stands for and is comfortable in that skin.
In a job interview, be alert for opportunities to put your story forward. If questions are not directly posed, weave your personal brand story into your responses to help direct where the interview goes. Interviews should never be a one-way process, and there are always opportunities for job seekers to make them a dynamic exchange by bringing their story into the discussion.
Always remember your online presence is an extension of your personal brand. So if you make a claim on your CV, and yet there are social media postings that contradict that, that could be the beginning of the end. Your story should be aligned so that at every stage your branding is putting your best face forward.
- Bring your skills to the fore
If you can show through your story how your skills have been used to bring about a benefit in a workplace scenario, then you make it so much easier for the person hiring to understand how you can work within a team. Never underestimate the power of personal brand to place you head and shoulders above the competition; just make it your story, and your best story.