Crafting Your Personal Brand

By Scott Westerman
We all work for ourselves. You may align your personal brand with an organization for a time, but never forget that you are your most important shareholder.

There’s no way around it. We create our professional persona everywhere we are, in everything we say and do.

From the moment you post something on Twitter or Facebook, comment on a blog entry or send an email, you are cementing perceptions that will impact your career. This is a lesson that needs to be taught early on. The Internet has a long memory and your future employers will likely tap that memory to determine your employability.

So watch your language.

With that in mind, how do we craft a Personal Brand? It begins with a little introspection. What do you want to be when you grow up?

Imagine yourself as working for a top tier talent agent, someone who is giving you 100% of her time to help you define and seek happiness. You’re about to go into a meeting with her and she’s asked you to answer the following questions:

1. What is your purpose? What would you do if you were working for love and not for money?
2. What strengths do you bring to your passion?
3. What skills, experience and relationships do you need to develop?
4. If any company would hire you and let you write your own job description, where would you like to work and what would you do?

The answers to these four questions can give you a foundation to build on and the beginnings of a clearer career path. Whatever your passion, make it your life’s work to become a recognized expert in that space. Even if you decide to continue to stay with your current company or on your current career trajectory for now, spend 10% of your day working on filling any holes in your personal brand toolbox that may have been generated by how you answered these four questions.

The definition of success has been perverted by our culture of consumption into a continuous acquisition of material possessions, increasing responsibility beyond our level of enjoyment, and a press for better and better results, even as the environment may indicate a time for re-evaluation.

In my dictionary, Success = Happiness. We should constantly be bracketing the things that keep us happy and healthy so that our life is one of both quality and quantity.

Of course, it’s impossible to avoid unhappiness. As you express your Personal Brand you will stumble. Get back up and keep moving. There is just as much pain and inconvenience associated with a fulfilling life as there is with an unfulfilling life. The problem of suffering arises when we don’t allow ourselves to fully feel the pain and understand its root causes.

A surprising amount of our suffering is self-created. Living life by looking back in the rear view mirror, holding onto grudges, sustaining un-productive relationships and staying in unacceptable situations; these are the behaviors that fuel unhappiness. And all of these are things we can largely control.

So Happiness, it turns out, is a state of mind. Seek it out. Understand and keep refining your own personal definition. Never give up your quest.

And incorporate all of this into your Personal Brand. A Personal Brand is the strategy you deploy to express your professional image. It drives the value proposition you offer to potential employers and can either expedite or derail your career progress.

The tactical aspects of Personal Branding involve how you utilize the many communications media out there to reinforce your Brand. Once upon a tome,this consisted chiefly of how you wrote your resume. But now, it’s much more involved. You will need a well-crafted profile at LinkedIn, which is quickly supplanting the resume is your vita of record. You will need to put thought into how you build your presence on the Internet. Will you create your own blog? What audiences and messages will you send out via Google+, Facebook, Twitter and the like? What face to face activities will you undertake to polish and promote your Brand? And how will you know if you are succeeding with all of this?

There are a ton of resources to help you answer these questions. Google Personal Branding for a starting point.

As you review what you find, not all of it may apply to your situation. Not every idea may resonate with you. That’s ok. Continuous learning, like feedback, is the breakfast of champions. Keep what helps you and let go of the rest.

Be open, and the teachers you seek will find you, just as you look for them.

An effective Personal Brand reflects the true essence of the person behind it.

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