Illustration: Ashley Siebels
We know an internationally successful DJ who’s also a radiologist in his day job. Having a nine-to-five job doesn’t mean you can’t get involved in your personal interests. In fact, making your passions part of your personal brand is not only great for keeping your skills sharp and your knowledge base current, it’s a great way to market yourself for engagements and future positions.
Burnishing your personal brand is also a huge opportunity to express yourself in ways you don’t always get to when you’re at the office. Here’s how to create a rock-solid personal brand that speaks to you.
Keep tabs on what inspires you
Don’t you love reading about something or attending an event— related to your industry or not— that lights a fire in you that’s so bright you can’t look away? There’s nothing like the pull of things that move you to find out more as quickly as possible because you suddenly find them fascinating.
Note to self: when this happens, chase that burning feeling of curiosity, make a mental note and see if you can incorporate it or something related to the topic into how you communicate and what you say.
Part of building a brand is building an identity, so you have to know what you love.
Share what you’ve learned with others
Half the fun in learning about topics that interest you as your brand evolves is giving others inspiration by spreading the word.
An article on The Balance makes a good point: if you have a passion that you want to pursue, it’s not enough to keep it to yourself. It’s your duty to let others in on what you know. Possible ways to do that: using social media platforms, writing text on and off the web and videos to show people how much you know and “gain exposure” by doing it.
It makes sense— sharing your wealth of knowledge both educates your audience and keeps others coming back to you as an expert on topics you’re passionate about.
Telling others what you know on a variety of platforms can help keep you up to speed on how people communicate with their audience these days, and your interactions with them will show you what they want to learn from you.
Do your homework
Knowing who else is out there and how they work is a strategic way to work toward getting more eyeballs on your brand.
A Forbes article tells you how to do your research, asking you to think about how those who’ve achieved what you want have branded themselves, what you can take away from how others are operating (whether they’re effective or not), and identifying “your biggest competitors” and how they’re approaching this.
Think about it: isn’t knowing what you’re up against half the battle? What you choose to do with this information is up to you, but if you want to grow your brand, it’s wise to pay attention to others who are also in your position.
Even if you start off slowly, by building it out one platform at a time and focusing your efforts on how to reach people best on each, at least you’ll know what those who inspire you are doing.
Put yourself out there
People won’t be able to share in your personal brand if they’ve never heard of you. Make a point to strive for as much exposure as you can, in amounts you can tolerate.
Getting out there also won’t waste your time because you can always gain something from networking. So if you don’t walk away with an invitation to collaborate with someone new, don’t consider it a loss— leaving events with the contact information of a few new peers can still come in handy down the line.
Entrepreneur offers insight about being being “visible and accessible,” saying that staying at your computer at work won’t help you develop your own brand. The piece later says to go to conferences in your field, to answer questions live during video sessions and “interact with” audience members, and to have open social media profiles where people can communicate with you directly because this will fortify your brand.
Just don’t forget to set boundaries and stick to them when it comes to branding. Yes, this is a new outlet for you to have fun showing the world what you care about the most, but remember that offline, you are still a human being with commitments, concerns and hobbies that don’t have to involve your audience.
How managers can play a role
You may not have to go this alone.
After talking about how it’s really up to people to develop “self-brands” (among other insight), Blaise James, Gallup global brand strategist and senior practice consultant, elaborates on how managers can help employees work on theirs in a Gallup interview that’s part of a series.
“But managers can encourage employees to develop their brands, and they can focus on their own brands and chart their own way through their companies. Your personal brand is more than just words —it’s actions. Live out your principles. Don’t pay them lip service. That’s something managers can do: lead by example,” he told Gallup.
Just keep in mind that while managers have the opportunity to play a role in helping you build your brand, if yours focuses more on topics well outside the realm of your employer, your supervisor may not necessarily be involved.
Separate what’s personal from your brand…so you still have a life
Unless you don’t mind people learning more about what you do privately, be sure to keep your personal social media accounts under wraps, and lead your brand with your public ones.
It’s important to seem approachable so people seek you out, but don’t be so tied down to your personal brand outside of work that you have no breathing room, like time spent with loved ones and on self-care.