personal brandingWhen we hear the term “brand,” most of us automatically think about marketing and company brands which distinguish one business from another. However, today the term is increasingly being used on an individual or personal level to encourage us to think about the brand that identifies each and every one of us – your personal brand. To achieve the career we aspire to requires us to market ourselves, as we would a product or service. Just like a company brand influences whether customers will trust, purchase from and remain loyal to a business, personal brand has an impact on how we are perceived and influences whether or not leaders will trust in our abilities enough to “buy” our services.

At SAP, personal brand is a topic that we talk about often, one of the many investments SAP makes into the professional and personal development of its employees. Just recently, I attended a workshop on building your personal brand as part of SAP’s Leadership Excellence Acceleration Program (LEAP), which is focused on accelerating the development of female leaders. The personal brand session was led by Global VP of Human Resources and personal branding enthusiast, Brigette McInnis Day, who shared some insightful advice on how to build a brand that will help you advance your career.

In my last blog Personal Brand and Its Impact on Your Career, I defined personal brand and described the influence that it has on your career. Here I will focus on sharing how to cultivate a powerful brand.

Your personal brand is not something that you work on once and you’re done, you must actively manage, promote and strengthen your brand or reputation every day. Here are the steps you should take to build your brand and live it:

1. Reflect. This is the hardest and one of the most important steps. To understand your personal brand ask yourself these seven key questions:

1. What do I do that adds remarkable, measurable, distinctive value?
2. Where have I dared to be different?
3. What are my values?
4. What attributes describe me?
5. What are my strengths and weaknesses?
6. What makes me tick or thrive? What challenges me?
7. What have I accomplished that I can unabashedly brag about? What have I done that has a long-lasting impact?

Forget your job title and forget about imitating your leader and the latest leadership fad. Think really deeply about who you are and write it all down.

2. Pull it all together into a brand statement. Being able articulate the brand that you have discovered in the step above is essential. Merge your values, strengths and accomplishments into one sentence that says who you are and how you would like to be seen. For example, Brigette shared her brand statement as: “Edgy HR Leader who helps people run at their best through building relationships and trust.” Just remember that your brand must be clear, consistent and authentic. Make it real and make it powerful.

3. Ask for honest feedback. To ensure that you have a positive brand, it’s important to really understand others’ perceptions of you. The only way that you will know how others perceive you is by asking. Ask people who will give you real feedback on your strengths, weaknesses and attributes. Does your personal brand match others’ perceptions? Try not to get defensive with the feedback shared and take it in as constructive criticism that will help you improve your personal brand.

However, be cautious when you open yourself to feedback because you will get a flood of it. When it comes to feedback, it’s not about changing who you are, but managing how you come off to others. Filter the feedback you receive and figure out how it works for you.

4. Be confident and authentic. You run at your best when you are confident, so truly believe in your abilities and show others that you do. Being authentic or the “true you” helps you feel more confident and drives success. Know your weaknesses and overcompensate with your strengths. Believe that you are supposed to be at the top and you will get there. If you don’t feel accepted, you’re not going to be accepted. Don’t be afraid to be bold and be brutally honest with your opinions. Know who you are and sell it.

5. Live your brand. So you’ve built your brand, now make it known. In this step, networking is key. Make sure you are meeting people outside of your team and company. Strive for a large ecosystem because the bigger your ecosystem the more visibility for your brand. Think about what would happen if your boss left – would others know you and your accomplishments? Job shadowing is another great way to expand your network, as well as your knowledge and experiences.

Having a mentor and/or sponsor is also very important in promoting your personal brand. Not only does mentoring allow you to network, but your mentors and sponsors will act as advocates for your personal brand. In addition, managing your brand in time of challenge and change isn’t always easy. Mentors and peers can help you handle tough situations in a positive way, so that you are not hurting your reputation. They can also help you recover if you do make a mistake.

In addition, do not forget that your personal brand extends into the online world as well. Maintain a professional presence on social media by:

  • Creating a (complete) professional LinkedIn profile page
  • Using your Facebook profile to further establish your personal “brand”
  • Being mindful of anything you publish on social networks to ensure that it is consistent with your brand
  • Try “googling” your name

Finally, always be thinking about your personal brand in everything you do. Make note of your accomplishments so that you are always prepared to discuss your impact and how you add value. Stick to your core values and just be you!

I hope that you have found this helpful and that you will make an effort to build your personal brand because you understand its importance to your career. I’ll leave you with this final quote from a colleague at SAP, Bianca McCann:

“To truly leverage the remarkable power of your personal brand, you must see yourself as others see you, and you must actively participate in promoting and reinforcing the qualities you want others to associate when they think of you. You can let your brand happen or you can manage it with intention and focus.”

Read more: Personal Brand Attributes that Transcend Cultures