What Do You Bring To The Table?

What Do You Bring To The Table?

This autumn I’ve been asked to hold a presentation about Personal Branding at one of  Stavanger Chambers’ Job Training Seminars. Preparing for that I thought I’d share some ideas about the topic. I’m a big fan of To Do Lists and I believe that a similar sort of list can be applied to managing your personal brand.  Your personal brand might also be referred to as your individual professional reputation.  Whether you are just starting out in your career, being an entrepreneur, a rising star in the corporate world, or a high-level business executive or business owner, everyone has some level of personal brand or reputation.

You have probably already heard that ‘how you present yourself is integral to how people perceive you’. The key is to be in charge of your personal brand so that others in your industry (potential employers, clients, peers) view you in the most positive light.  Whether your goal is to land a new job or promotion, expand your entrepreneurial ventures or enhance the visibility of your company brand, personal branding is vital.

But what makes up one’s personal brand?  Your personal brand consists of your individual assets as well as the vehicles you use to communicate, position and present it. There can be a number of assets that are considered valuable and marketable.  Your professional experiences, skills sets, education, and background are only a few of the factors.  Others might include additional training seminars, your online resume and cover letter, your social media profiles on LinkedIn and Facebook, and your communication and participation in online forums and networking sites. Even the different languages that you speak can be considered part of your personal brand.  A good way to start is to make an inventory list of your many individual assets, even those that you might initially think of as non-marketable or trivial.  Then tie them together into a brand message that communicates your value and essense. Here is a basic checklist of some of the areas of both your professional and personal life that may help you to build your personal brand.

Your Professional Brand

Most of us will automatically begin with updating our resume and cover letter.  But in today’s world of rapidly advancing digital technology and social media, we should now consider other vehicles as well.

  • Resume and Cover Letter: Make sure that these are always up to date.  Take it out and polish it up every 6 months just to be sure.  You never know when the next big opportunity is going to pass in front of you, and you don’t want to miss out because you have to rewrite your resume.
  • LinkedIn Profile and Networking:  Keep your LinkedIn account active.  Post to it regularly.  And keep in contact with previous professional clients and colleagues.  Equally important is to respond to other’s posts and comments as well.  Social media is a two-way street.  Use LinkedIn to boost your network of reputable contacts in your industry.
  • Online Portfolios:  It has never been easier to create a free website for an online portfolio of past and current projects.  Whether you are an architect, a website designer, a photographer, or a widget manufacturer, there is always a way to market yourself online with pictures and images.  Remember, a picture speaks a thousand words.  And this has never been truer than in the fast-paced world of the Internet and smartphone.

Your Educational Brand

For each of the above-mention areas of your professional brand, the level and types of educational background are going to come into play.  This can be much more than simply “where you went to college”.  In fact, as you delve further into your professional career, your other skills-based training and education will become increasingly more important.

  • Educational Background:  Include all college degrees and areas of concentration.  Did you get any awards? That might be worth mentioning. 
  • Additional Training and Coursework:  Are you a member of some professional organization?  Do you attend regular seminars to stay current on the latest advancements in your field?  Do you have additional professional certifications?  Have you attended other college courses, even if they did not apply towards a specific degree?
  • Special skills and talents:  What are your core strengths?  What do you bring to the table?  What sets you apart from all the rest?  Perhaps you are a highly detailed organizer who is diligent about meeting deadlines.  What areas of work and in life are you considered a leader? These special skills and talents can be ones that are self-taught or those learned through valuable job or life experiences.

Your Entrepreneurial Background

Thanks to social media, more and more professionals are connecting online based on their outside interests rather than on their professional accomplishments.  Hiring managers and others in your field are now looking to partner with others who are well-rounded and accomplished individuals in a variety of different life areas.

  • Outside Ventures:  Perhaps you are a regular contributor to a blog or forum.  Or maybe you participate in outside creative pursuits that involve a certain unique skill or area of expertise.   This can also include freelance work in other fields not related to your profession.   All of these types of activities can speak to your level of commitment, dedication and work ethic.
  • Organizations and Volunteer Work: Be sure to include any membership in advocacy groups or charities.  Don’t be afraid to confess some of the many causes that you happen to support.

The tactics applied to building and managing your personal brand is about finding the essence in who you are and what you’re great at and making sure that all the components supports your overall brand message.