For many professionals, the idea of “personal branding” sounds a bit gratuitous. From an older generations’ perspective, much of what the world now focuses their attention on – self-promotion through social media channels, for one – is an exorbitant and silly exercise in narcissism.
For the younger generation that has grown up on Facebook posts and Twitter feeds, it seems more natural to consider the value of assessing a personal identity through the eyes of an online, anonymous audience. The reality of knowing you can be “Googled” by invisible onlookers is part of our contemporary world view. Facebook rants aside, social media provides an opportunity to express one’s story, and in doing so, craft a compelling protagonist in which others can relate, learn from, and collaborate with, should their interests and values match up with our own.
From a career standpoint, crafting a professional story is part of a “branding process” that has the potential of manifesting opportunities for networking, professional development, and building credibility and career value. Your “professional brand”, or the message you deliver to an audience about the unique value you bring to the world (of work, in particular), can catapult you into new directions and levels of success with minimal effort and maximum gain.
Developing a personal brand is a process, and one that shouldn’t be taken lightly. It involves personal assessment, evaluating others’ perspectives of us, identifying career milestones and accomplishments, and acknowledging where our true values and passions lie. However, once we have a solid understanding of who we are and what be bring to the table, this wisdom can help guide us through our careers, both in our own decision-making, and in the way others respond to us and our brand message.
Communicating our brand message is done through various channels – from our elevator pitch at networking engagements, to our resume profile summaries and executive bios. The way we express who we are varies, and includes our body language, our tone, our language, and our attitude. But when we know what we want to present to the world, and tell this story in a consistent way, we develop a reputation. That reputation can draw others to us.
This is the idea behind LinkedIn, the world’s largest social media platform for professionals. It is primarily a networking site focused on connecting professionals through common interests, experience, and associations. You can easily search for colleagues or companies that you would like to follow, building your own expertise through conversations and connections. You can gain insight into your industry by following news feeds of key thought leaders, or find work by reaching out to others in positions of interest to you.
In relation to branding, LinkedIn also provides a golden opportunity to build your brand, establish yourselfas a thought leader, and gain visibility by sharing wisdom and insight in a community of like-minded professionals. When you understand your own brand, you can easily promote this message through this platform.
Let’s say you are Marketing Strategist with a background in Tourism and Hospitality, with experience traveling and working in remote regions of the world where Destination Tourism is just developing, and you want to build a career brand around this niche market. You can quickly gain credibility in the industry by sharing personal insights from your travels, or acknowledging successes you have had in marketing unique destinations in the past, or participating in conversations with other professionals in a similar feed and offering your own perspective on key topics.
The more involved you are in this sphere of influence, the more influential you become yourself, and if you are able to align your contributions to the essential core message of your brand, the more powerful those contributions are in defining and promoting the value you have to offer the workforce.
As your brand message is shared with others, the power of that message grows, and with it, opportunities for career growth that are created passively with little to no effort.
Who you are is a story, and that story is always being told, whether you are aware of it or not. In a world where so much of our identity is shaped without our awareness, having an intention in how it is being presented and using that to our advantage is how we can make social media work for us. And in a contemporary world where careers are in constant flux, having a handle on who we are and how we are being perceived within that changing landscape is an invaluable tool for promoting our own career success.