Build A Personal Brand, Not Just A Career

November 21, 2012

Companies spend a lot of money and effort to build their brands. Why is building a brand name important? As brand strategist and author Laura Ries notes, a brand is “a name that stands for something in prospects’ minds. Nordstrom stands for ‘shoes.’ Zappos stands for ‘internet shoes.’ Google stands for ‘search.’” But what about building a personal brand? Can taking the time to build a personal brand help women achieve their career aspirations? Marissa Mayer, Yahoo’s new CEO, is an example of how personal brand building can positively impact your career.

How did Marissa Mayer score the position of CEO at Yahoo? According to Laura Ries, it was because she has what most people don’t – she has a brand. “As Google’s 20th employee and first woman engineer, she is a ‘brand.’ Marissa Mayer is the woman that made Google successful.” Ms. Ries knows a thing or two about branding – her father is Al Ries, author of Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind, the book considered by many to be the marketing bible when it comes to branding. Laura has spent the last 18 years as partners with her father in their company, Ries & Ries, and consults with companies around the world on brand strategy.

Laura believes it’s important to not just build a career, but to build a brand. How can you do this?

  • Define who you are and your unique abilities: Try to define yourself in a single word or concept. Lisa’s example: I have a friend who defined herself as the “process improvement expert” who “always completed projects on time and under budget.”
  • Understand other people’s perceptions of you: “Think about other people. Think about the impressions you are making on friends, neighbors, business associates. Think about your brand.” Lisa’s comment: Take the time to speak with many different people to understand how they perceive your strengths and then use this information as you create your personal brand.

An excellent article with advice on how to build a personal brand was written by Dan Schawbel, author of Me 2.0: Build a Powerful Brand to Achieve Career Success. Even though the article was written back in 2009, it’s information is still pertinent today, especially Dan’s focus on helping people use social media in their personal branding efforts. As Dan stated, “The difference between today and over ten years ago when it [personal branding] was first mentioned by Tom Peters, is the rise of social technologies that have made branding not only more personal, but within reach.”

After discovering and creating your personal brand, Dan recommends using the following tools “to highlight your brand and allow people to easily view what you’re about”:

  • Business cards
  • Resume/cover letter/reference documents
  • Portfolio showcasing your work
  • Blog or website
  • LinkedIn profile
  • Facebook profile
  • Twitter profile
  • Video résumé (Note from Lisa: I have yet to come across hiring managers who actually view these so I admit I’m still skeptical as to the advantages of video résumés)
  • Wardrobe
  • Email address

Personal branding isn’t easy, but thinking through your unique strengths, your career goals and aspirations, and how you want others to perceive you can have dramatically positive results – just look at how it helped Marissa Mayer, the CEO of Yahoo. Sometimes the most difficult things in life are those that help us the most.

Have you used personal branding to help you achieve your career dreams? Share your story in the “Comments” section below.

~ Lisa Quast

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Photo credit: Microsoft Free Clip Art

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