Personal Brand: Building and Maintaining It

Updated: May 29, 2020

Published on January 11, 2020 on LinkedIn

Personal Brand is important to me, so I want to spend some time sharing why it should be important to you too, how you can begin building your own Brand, and most importantly, how to continue fostering it, because we can build a Brand and destroy it…..just like that. Within this article, you can expect honesty. I believe in paying forward the wisdom and lessons I’ve learned along the way in life and career. As the proverb goes, "Honesty is the best policy", and I practice this. In fact, honesty is an important quality in anyone's Personal Brand. I will provide a framework for what Personal Brand is and some best practices to managing your Brand. One thing Brand is, is personal and unique to each of us. We, quite frankly, chart the course to our own individual Brand. You can expect insights here on a starting, middle, and continuous point to establishing and maintaining your Personal Brand. The ultimate goal is that you know how your Personal Brand can help or hinder you along the way. We can either project a positive or a negative Brand, and my goal is to give you the tools to build and maintain a positive Brand. These tools will prove helpful as you go in search of a career, begin/continue building your career, and potentially move to a Mentor of others in your career.

By Definition: According to Merriam-Webster Dictionary, 2019, brand is “a public image, reputation, or identity conceived of as something to be marketed or promoted”. Just as any organization, product, or service has a Brand it wants to uphold, so should we want to uphold our individual Brands.

What does managing your Personal Brand look like in practice?

  • Relationships- It starts with good relationships. If you don’t have them, it’s o.k. because there is always time to build them. Once you have them, maintain them! Some suggestions of how to do so: Coffee conversations, lunch meetings, collaborating on projects, stopping by just to say hello, frequent check-ins to remain visible and top-of-mind, networking at events. These, too, will be tailored to your personal style and what you are comfortable with.

  • Strengths- Evaluate and embrace your strengths so that you can easily speak to them. Create your personal Elevator Pitch and practice it often! For me, building and maintaining relationships is a top strength, along with having Positivity as number one in my (Clifton Strengths). I identified these strengths long ago, and since I have identified them as strengths, I’m always sure to weave them into every interview and new project team I’m on. I can lean into and leverage them as I build and foster new and existing relationships. This is part of my Personal Brand and how I interact with others (or, the experience I want others to have after an interaction with me).

  • Keep an open mind- Be open to where your career and relationships take you. This one is probably my favorite. Full disclosure that I'm a bit biased on this one, (I did promise honesty) because I’ve found the greatest success in my career through letting opportunities find me instead of forcing them. You don't have to fit your career, aspirations, or even projects you're working into a box. You’ll find more opportunities (and more diversity in opportunities that come your way) by exercising this method. Additionally, as has been the case with my career, this more quickly allows you to be seen as a trusted resource on many topics, which could lead to your next opportunity, promotion, or relationship! If you're a student, it’s o.k. to change Majors, to be uncertain of what you want to do long-term, and even if you get that as an interview question, do what I have done and has worked well: Say that you’ve always let your career lead you to the best-suited path. Employers are typically fairly curious about this response, and for me, it was simply the truth and has been the pride in building a diverse career. You can speak to the experience you have and wow your interview, while also demonstrating that you are open-minded.

  • Get a Mentor! This could be someone inside or outside of your organization or school. It could also be at church, in your neighborhood, in your chosen career field, at a volunteer site, and really wherever the opportunity presents itself! It could be formal or informal, and back to being open to opportunities presenting themselves: My Mentors have been anyone from a Boss, a friend, or someone new I met in person or through a new Social Media interaction. Did you know that LinkedIn has a Career Advice Hub? I referenced it in my "Let's Get To Business post, and have been fortunate enough to Mentor others through this forum and to meet new people. You never know who’s waiting to Mentor you, or who may eventually become your next Mentee! I met one of my recent Mentors (and now friend) at a work training!

  • Body Language- (eye contact, facial expressions, open or closed arms, head up or down, are examples of how our Brand is perceived from initial interaction).

  • Tone of Voice- Are you sharp-tongued with individuals? What emotions and inflection are displayed in your voice? Word choice matters too!

  • Integrity- Do you follow through on promises? Do you overpromise and underdeliver? The latter is one of the fastest ways to sink your Personal Brand. Only commit to what you feel is a realistic expectation, even if it means you later must follow up to ask for more time. Follow-up is key and will help build and preserve your Brand, even if you don't quite have the answer or work product just yet. You can probably guess what comes next then......

  • Communication- It is key. Communicate expectations up front, ask for timelines to manage expectations/deliverables, and don't be afraid to say "no" if you know that you cannot commit more to a project or if it doesn’t align with the strategy/direction of the organization, of your Manager, if it is unethical, or if it doesn’t match your personal values.

When it comes to the workplace, something else to remember is that you are a representative of the organization’s Brand as well as your own Personal Brand. Therefore, you always want to bring your whole self to positively promote both Brands. One negative interaction can impact you and your employer long-term, so you want to try to avoid negative interactions to the best of your abilities. While we cannot control all external forces or the actions of others, we can create and nourish the Brand that we want to project. Your Brand is essentially how people leave feeling after an experience with you. One of my many favorite quotes is by Jay Danzie: “Your smile is your logo, your personality is your business card, how you leave others feeling after having an experience with you becomes your trademark.” What a succinct, yet poetic way to actually describe Personal Brand. Our Brand is what we make it and what we put out there for consumption by others. In a future #LetsGetToBusiness” article, I will discuss what happens when, through no fault of our own, our Brand is tampered with, watered down, or destroyed, how we recover, and what choices we have. 

Your Call To Action:

  • Consider what you will do to create and maintain your positive Personal Brand from today forward, and how you want it to guide/impact your career and other relationships.

  • Continue practicing your Elevator Pitch and nourishing your Personal Brand. The best part: You don't need to do this alone. There are many #Coaches, #HR professionals, and #Mentors just waiting to support you! All you have to do is reach out.

  • Practice, practice, practice! Since I love sinking into proverbs, "Practice makes perfect." Honing in on your Personal Brand is an Art and requires continuous, consistent maintenance. It doesn’t always need to be perfect. That’s the beauty of it. You can reinvent yourself as many times as needed around the circumstances. Above all, remember: You are your Brand!

  • Own it and make it stick!

What would you add? Drop your comments/questions below!

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