How to build a positive and sustainable personal brand

What is personal branding?

To say it simply, our personal brand is what people say when we leave the room, our reputation: in a nutshell, our personal brand is what we are known for.

Can we control how others perceive us, 100%? As you might guess…not really.

Can we influence our personal brand though? Absolutely yes…and this is what we are going to focus on. We form an opinion about people we interact with, consciously or unconsciously.  Think about a colleague at work, or think about a person you deal with quite often in any other context: what opinion have you formed? What do you expect of them? Would you trust them with something important to you? And most importantly, how do you know it? 

Our actions and behaviours determine our personal brand

Some self-reflection is needed here:

How would you like to be seen?

What do people say about you?

How do you know it?

Most workplaces have a set of processes in place to assess how employees perform and behave: feedback, performance reviews, informal meetings, coaching sessions, customer surveys, clients’ feedback… By actively participating in the process and by actively listening to what we are told we can actually start to understand how we are seen by people we work with. Only at times we don’t agree with the feedback we receive…why is that? At times there seem to be a mismatch between how we see ourselves and how others see us.

We’d like to think others like us, maybe even trust us…but being likeable and being trustworthy are two very different things. Trust is built over time through a series of consistent positive actions, and being considered as trustworthy is essential especially if we want to progress in our career. 

We all have a personal brand, whether we want it or not: we can hope our colleagues, clients, people we interact with on a daily basis… see us as we would like to be seen, or we can choose to influence our personal brand. The latter is far more effective: it forces us to think about how we position ourselves, about the impact of our behaviour on the people we interact with, and it allows us to develop self-awareness in order to become intentional about our actions, day in, day out.

How can we influence our personal brand?

We are often told ‘just be yourself’, and even more often we wonder what it means.

Think about the job interview process for example: in order to communicate a positive personal brand that supports our career objectives we need to understand the main elements of effective positioning.

Sustainable positive personal brand = Clarity + Consistency

Being ourselves in this context means sharing our professional story clearly and consistently across our professional documents (CV, Cover Letter, LinkedIn About section), and positioning ourselves accordingly during the interview process: share your story, include relevant details, provide specific examples. Create a consistent message choosing how to prioritise content based on the objective of your communication and on the audience your message is directed to.

Appeal to logic by structuring your content clearly, appeal to emotions by sharing your professional story, demonstrate your credibility by identifying the thread that ties your diverse experiences together. 

Effective positioning = Consistency + Credibility

Demonstrate your authenticity by owning your unique professional story: identify the progression of events – plot – that has led to where you are now and informs where you want to go from here.

Plant the seed of trust

Ask yourself: ‘Can my professional and academic history be verified?’, ‘Can I demonstrate my competencies with relevant and specific examples during interviews?’.

You can't build a reputation on what you intend to do

What's next?

Review your professional documents and e-platforms’ content and reflect on your recent business communications: do you share your story consistently? Are your milestones and related actions clear? Do you tailor your content based on the objective of your message an on the audience your message is directed to?

Reality check

Please reflect on your daily actions and ask yourself:

  • What does ‘effective positioning’ mean for you in your current work environment? 
  • Is your behaviour consistent and in line with the personal brand you identify with?
  • What three sustainable actions will you consistently take going forward to support and influence your personal brand?

Become intentional in your daily actions.

Look for the milestones in your academic and professional journey so far.

What actions have you taken as a result of your decisions? Make it easy for your audience to understand the thread that ties your experiences together. Build your story.

Simplify complexity: less is more.