Your personal brand already exists. Are you aware of it?

When I ask the members of our Step Up Plus program “what is your personal brand?” most of them stay quiet. They are not sure if I mean the 30-second elevator pitch or something else entirely.

The difference between a 30-second elevator pitch and your personal brand

Your 30-second elevator pitch is more like the ad you can thoughtfully put together to explain who you are, how you impact others, what you are good at, what your goals are, etc. The main difference between your elevator pitch and your personal brand is that you control 100% your pitch. You can’t control 100% of your personal brand because it’s lives in people’s heads.

Your personal brand is quite different from your 30-second elevator pitch.

Your personal brand is quite different from your 30-second elevator pitch.

What is your personal brand?

Simply put, your personal brand is how others perceive you. It’s the image other people have of you. Their experience of you. What makes up your reputation. A collage, if you will, of aspects including your:

  • Presence
  • Behavior
  • Personality
  • Values
  • Sense of humor
  • Speech patterns
  • Relationships
  • Ideas
  • Appearance

And a lot more. So, sure, there is certain amount of control you can exercise over people’s perception of you. You can adjust things like your behavior, the way in which you present your ideas, the kind of relationships you keep, and how you dress. But what about your personality, your sense of humor, or your deeply held values? Those are much harder to change.

Live by your word and you'll build a powerful reputation and memorable brand.

Live by your word and you’ll build a powerful reputation and memorable brand.

Here's a great video on personal branding.

Whether you want it or not, your personal brand already exists

So, why not finding out what it is. A simple, yet effective exercise to get a clear picture of how others perceive you is to conduct your own market research. Send a brief note to a group of 5-10 trusted colleagues, bosses, and even friends. The message should go something like this:

“I’m evaluating my personal brand and would appreciate your insights. Would you share with me the first few sentences or adjectives that come to mind when you think of me? For example: You are hardworking. You are punctual. You seldom join your colleagues for social events. You like to stick to what you know.”

By giving people clear examples of characteristics that are frequently considered positive and others that are not so positive, you show that you want honest answers. It makes people more likely to be open with you. Review the answers you receive and try not to take them to heart. Use them to inform you about your personal brand. Then ask yourself:

Figure out what makes you unique and sharpen your personal brand. You bring it everywhere with you whether you want it or not.

Figure out what makes you unique and sharpen your personal brand. You bring it everywhere with you whether you want it or not.

Do these answers fit with what I think of myself? And also, is this the type of personal brand I need to fulfill my current and future career goals?

If your thoughts about yourself are quite different from the perception of you out there, you may need to work with someone to help you figure out why. This is a good time to consult your mentors.

Here’s the story of a woman who built an amazing brand for her business. Mariebelle. Don’t miss it!

If the perception out there doesn’t support your career objectives, you have to look at the areas where you can make adjustments.

The following suggestions can help you make the largest impact on your personal brand in the shortest time.

1Make your word sacred. When you promise something, deliver. If you know you can’t, don’t commit to it or negotiate a more reasonable deadline. Every time you break your word you affect negatively your personal brand. So avoid putting yourself in this situation at all costs.

2Evaluate the people in your inner circle and aim for top quality relationships. Are they helping you with your brand or imprinting a negative vibe to it? Remember the idea of “guilty by association.” If you hang out with people others respect, they will respect you. I don’t need to tell you that the opposite is true too.

3Be aware of your behavior at all times. A big part of your brand is people’s experience of you and with you. So ask yourself: Do you take advantage of others? Do you criticize others? Laugh at them? Are you ready to lend a hand? Do you volunteer in company projects? Are you dependable? Do you brighten people’s days? Do you think of about what makes others happy? There are a million questions along these lines that can help you figure out how your behavior might be impacting your personal brand.

4Work on your appearance. Whatever your personal style, looking well put together and clean go a long way. Check out our Business Attire Guide for valuable posts on how to use accessories, how to dress for casual Fridays, and so on.

If you are happy with the results of your personal brand research, the only thing left to do is to reinforce it. And using your brand to your advantage.

Here are a few suggestions:

1Leverage your uniqueness. Bring that which makes you different to every role and every position you apply to. Consider this: When you think of your favorite product or person, a salient characteristic comes to mind. That’s how people should think of you. The inspired leader. The change maker. The woman who helps others soar.

2Find initiatives where your personal brand ads value. Where can you make a difference? For example if your brand is: “the multicultural, consensus-building leader,” you can approach a team in need of exactly that.

3Constantly build your brand. If Starbucks stopped offering comfortable chairs, wi-fi and coffee, you’d probably stop going there for meetings, right? They’ve established themselves not only as a coffee house, but as the “third space.” Neither the office nor home. Well, your brand is who you are. If you hurt it, people will stop thinking of you as their first choice when an opportunity comes along.

First Lady Michelle Obama is known for her generosity, her inspirational style and an ability to get things done at a large and small scale. How well is your brand known?

First Lady Michelle Obama is known for her generosity, her inspirational style and an ability to get things done at a large and small scale. How well is your brand known?

As you see, you are inseparable from your personal brand. There are things you can adjust and others you can’t. By tweaking those you can, you will strengthen others’ positive perception of you. In the end, that’s what will always open doors.

Consider signing up for our Step Up (individual) or Step Up Plus (corporations) Programs to further develop your personal brand and many other key soft skills critical for career growth. That’s what we do best.

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Award-winning, best-selling author, corporate consultant and international speaker on career success and women empowerment. Frequent media contributor on CNN, Univision, Telemundo and others. Her latest book "Find Your Inner Red Shoes" is the backbone of the Red Shoe Movement.
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