Nike. Apple. Starbucks. What flashes across your mind when you think of these big brands? You might picture hardworking athletes when you think of Nike, or words like sleek, modern and cutting edge when hear Apple. Guess what? The same idea applies to your personal brand. What comes to mind when people hear your name or see you at work? This is your personal brand.
Creating a personal brand takes self-awareness and intentionality. But how do you create a winning personal brand—a reputation that’s positive, reliable and recognizable? You need to understand your values and how people see and experience you right now. And I’m here to tell you that you have more control over that picture than you might think.
What Is a Personal Brand?
Simply put, your personal brand is how other people perceive you—for better or worse. It’s an outside snapshot of what you value on the inside, and it creates meaning, trust, opportunity and reliable experiences for you and the people you interact with.
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A personal brand isn’t created overnight. It takes time and consistency to make this image stick at work and in the world. But the good news is you can change your personal brand as you grow and get to know yourself better over time. So, how do you create a winning personal brand?
Get to Know Yourself Right Now
There are a few steps to creating a winning personal brand. We’re going to start by looking at where you stand—and who you are—right now. Here are a few questions to ask yourself to understand your current personal brand.
1. What does my personal brand look like today?
The first step to creating your personal brand is to take note of what’s working for you—or not working for you—right now. Don’t overthink this. Ask yourself:
- How do people experience me? Maybe you’re known as a happy helper or someone who’s more standoffish. How would people describe your personality and behavior on a normal day?
- What traits do I need to keep and elevate? When you think of your best qualities, what comes to mind? List out your strongest positive traits—ones that would make a big impact on your life with just a little more oomph. Maybe you love to teach, are a great communicator, or are the most reliable person you know. Keep track of the natural qualities that create a positive impact on the world around you.
- What behaviors do I need to get rid of? Think of any behaviors that are holding you back or have a negative effect on your day-to-day life. Maybe you’re always skidding into the office five minutes late or have a hard time accepting compliments. Making simple tweaks here could really improve your personal brand. But for now, just think about those pesky behaviors holding you back and write them down.
2. What are my talents and values?
Now that you’ve looked at your daily behaviors, it’s time to dig a bit deeper and think about how you’re built and what matters most to you. Here are a few questions to start asking:
- How has God wired me? Some people are built to create, others thrive doing tough physical work, and some find fulfillment as a coach or humanitarian. Jot down those activities that make you come alive.
- What do I want to be known for? Dig deep, folks! This question is not meant to create a lofty and impossible goal—it’s supposed to reveal the core of who you really are. If you love business, maybe you want to be known as an incredible team builder. If you’re a hairstylist, you might want recognition for bringing out someone’s unique features. What’s the one thing you want to be remembered for?
- If _______ is what matters, how do I want to be perceived? What actions do I need to take to cause that perception? If leadership matters most to you, you might want to be perceived as a team player. To be perceived as a team player, you need to take actions that support and serve your team. It sounds simple, but consistent action over time backs up your personal brand.
- How do I express myself in other ways? The way you dress, walk and talk are all ways you express your values. Do you smile? Do your clothes fit well and represent your industry? (Side note: You don’t need to blow your budget trying to look the part, but a little bit of attention to your appearance can make a big difference for your personal brand.) Do you speak with confidence and kindness? These are all cues helping—or hurting—your personal brand.
Get Feedback on Your Current Personal Brand
Invite your leader, trusted peers and anyone else who knows you closely to speak into your current personal brand. (Now, brace yourself, because this process is a little uncomfortable.) You’re going to have blind spots pointed out, but this is good. You’re also going to learn what people appreciate about you that you didn’t know.
The point here is to get an idea of how people experience you—not for them to judge your character. To do this, send a brief email that goes something like this:
“I’d like to know where I stand with my personal brand so I can make some changes. I value your input and would like to get your feedback on my personal strengths and blind spots. I want to understand how you experience me so I can learn where and how to improve.”
Here are a few great questions to ask other people so you can start understanding your current personal brand at work. (You can see more questions in my Personal Brand Survey.)
- In your opinion, am I well-liked in the office?
- Do I receive coaching well in the areas I need to improve?
- Can you count on me to finish the work I’m responsible for?
- Do I adapt well with unexpected changes at work?
- Do you trust me to make the right decisions, even when no one is looking?
And when you get feedback, say, “Thank you so much,” and that’s it. Don’t defend yourself or explain why you do what you do. This is for you to learn how other people experience you, not to defend your behavior. (It’s your job to create a safe conversation where people can answer honestly. Because let’s face it, asking someone what they REALLY think can be awkward for everyone involved.)
How to Create a Winning Personal Brand
Now that you have an idea of how others perceive you, it’s time to create a new vision for your winning personal brand. With a little more curiosity, you can discover core character traits to show off in your new personal brand. Ask yourself:
- What do I do best?
- What are my beliefs? What do I stand for?
- What are the results I want to produce?
- What does my personality bring out in my relationships and work?
These questions go one layer deeper to help you discover what really motivates you and what you want to express to the world. (Remember, this is your personal brand, so answer what’s most true for you—not your parents, coworkers or spouse.)
How to Share Your Personal Brand With the World
All this work to create a personal brand won’t matter if you don’t share it with the world. Here’s how to communicate what you’ve learned about your values, beliefs, strengths and character with the people around you.
- Be authentic. Whoever you are, be that. Don’t try to be something or someone you’re not. If you try to be a knock-off of somebody else, you rob the world (and yourself) of your unique talents, mission and purpose.
- Take action. Put your values into practice. Start taking steps that line up with who you want to be. Come to work a few minutes earlier (and don’t complain about it). Thank Jenny in accounting when she compliments your new haircut. Flash the barista a big grin when she hands you a steaming double espresso. It’s these little interactions that add up over time.
- Show (and tell) your brand. Now, don’t be obnoxious with it, but you want people to know what you’re all about. Naturally introduce those facts about yourself, your values, and your skills in conversations over time. Live them out. Walk your talk. Do this and you’ll grow your brand in a positive way.
- Keep maintaining and growing your brand. Do as much as you can to live and work in excellence. Continue learning through books, classes and podcasts. Invest in your relationships with peers and mentors. Take care of your health so you have the energy and excitement to apply yourself in new ways. Developing your character and personal brand is a lifelong journey, and this is just the beginning.
Change Your Impact and Income With a Trustworthy Personal Brand
Making more money and having more meaning at work comes down to creating a personal brand that people trust. Curious about how you’re perceived both personally and professionally? The questions in my Personal Brand Survey will help you get some valuable input on what you’re doing well and how you can improve your personal brand.Remember, it’s good to be open to honest and genuine feedback—you never know how much it could help you move forward in your career!